Can I Get A Ruling: Will The Rabbitohs Or Raiders Go Deeper Into Finals?
WRITTEN BY SPORTING NEWS
Two weeks remain of the regular season, and though the top eight has been set in stone, many believe only Penrith, Melbourne and the Roosters have a genuine shot at the premiership.
However, the form of the Raiders and Rabbitohs, currently sitting fifth and sixth respectively, can’t be denied.
Both outfits have won seven from their past 10 games and are peaking at the right time, while in the coach’s box they’re lead by men who know how to get the job done come finals.
As the pressure builds towards October, Sporting News’ Ed Chisholm and Chris Danks examine the Rabbitohs and Raiders and make arguments for which side will go deeper into this year’s finals series.
Let’s get on with the debate.
Will the Raiders or Rabbitohs go further in this year’s finals series?
Chris Danks on why the Rabbitohs will go further in the finals
The Rabbitohs likely won’t win the 2020 premiership but they should make it, as a minimum, to the second week of the finals.
Assuming all remaining games are won by the team higher on the ladder, with a 12-point margin, the Rabbitohs will finish seventh, facing the Newcastle Knights in the second elimination final.
If the Raiders also dispatch the Sharks in week 1 and then the Eels in week 2, South Sydney will have to deal with either the Roosters or Storm to make it to a preliminary final.
The Rabbitohs have the attacking flair to pull off the upset, which is what they’ll need to make a preliminary final. The utter pantsing of the Sea Eagles in round 15 and then the first 20 minutes of the Wests Tigers game prove they have can score points at will.
The Rabbitohs, with Latrell at fullback, were finding their way back into premiership contention. Without him, their high-water mark is likely just ruining another team’s night.
However, while not of the ball-playing standard that Mitchell is, Alex Johnston at the back, if Wayne Bennett names him there again, allows the Rabbitohs to retain much of the same shape that was giving them space on the outside.
Johnston doesn’t have the hands but he does have the speed to get on the outside of his man.
A spine of Damien Cook, Adam Reynolds, Cody Walker and Alex Johnston can do damage.
When Cameron Murray is given free reign to slot in at first receiver he’s electric. Keaon Koloamatangi is trailing only Toby Rudolf in effectiveness off the bench.
After the 18-12 loss to Canberra where the kicking and defence let the Rabbitohs down, the team strung together five wins and had top four teams second guessing what Souths are capable of.
Souths are capable. Souths – and the incredible ball-playing abilities of Mark Nicholls (he has them, just watch) – can go further than the Raiders.
Ed Chisholm on why the Raiders will go further in the finals
Don’t sleep on the Raiders - they’re still a genuine chance at this years’ premiership, even from outside the top four.
There’s a certain bullishness you need to win the premiership and the Green Machine have had it all year. Ricky Stuart said as much on Sunday when he declared the only team that can beat the Raiders this year is themselves.
Everyone was writing Canberra off when Josh Hodgson went down with a season-ending ACL injury, particularly when it was compounded by the injuries to Corey Horsburgh, Emre Guler, Sia Soliola.
However, they’ve continued to turn up and defy the non-believers, winning seven of their last 10 games.
We always knew Canberra’s steely defence and resilience would keep them in games despite the experience they had on the sidelines this season, however, early criticism of Canberra centred around their at times stagnant attack.
Yet in four of their previous fives games Ricky Stuart’s side has scored 32 or more points, with halves Jack Wighton and George Williams steering their side to the try line with ease at the moment.
While they’ll be without some serious punch in their forward pack, Josh Papalii is playing as well as three people at the moment, and the form of Hudson Young, John Bateman and Joseph Tapine in recent weeks has been electric.
It’s more than answered the biggest question around the Raiders when the likes of Hodgson and co went down: did they have the depth to remain alive in the premiership race? I don’t think there’s any doubting they do.
This is where I believe they’ll excel over South Sydney in the finals.
While Wayne Bennett’s side score more points and concede a similar amount on average to the Raiders, their depth and inexperienced forward pack will be hard to overcome. They’ve also lost one of their biggest attacking weapons in Latrell Mitchell.
The race for this year’s title is effectively down to three - Panthers, Roosters, Storm - but if any team is capable of winning it from outside the top four, it’s Canberra.
NRL images/Gregg Porteous
WHAT THE READERS SAY
Of the 279 who voted, 180 believe Canberra will go deeper in this year’s finals than the Rabbitohs.
THE RULING (Liam O’Loughlin)
They are the two sides outside the top four who could give the competition a shake come finals time.
But the reality is, only one of them can and that is more than likely going to be the Canberra Raiders.
After the injury to Josh Hodgson as well as some key forwards, I was ready to write off the Green Machine and had them planning for 2021.
But they have been in some strong form lately, and the return of John Bateman has been huge for their confidence.
Canberra are sitting in 5th spot, which will give them a home final in the first week. Nobody wants to go to Canberra, especially not for a final.
The likelihood is if they get through that game, they will face Parramatta who have been in all sorts recently. Can chalk that up as another potential victory, and it would book them a prelim final spot.
South Sydney on the other hand will be without Latrell Mitchell, and also have a tougher run. Newcastle away in week one of the finals is tough enough - and after that, Melbourne or the Roosters await.
Finals footy is a different game, but this Raiders outfit have been deep before and almost tasted victory in the decider last year. They will be up for the challenge of coming from outside the top four.
If either of these sides are to go deep into the finals or even go all the way, it’s 100 per cent the Raiders.
Ruling: Raiders can go deep in the finals, but the Rabbitohs can’t.