I believe that it is fair to say that the current top 4 teams have dominated the competition thus far. The Rabbitohs, Eagles, Storm and Roosters have been a cut above the rest. However the season is long, and as we all know, the finals are a different story. Below are 3 teams who the top 4 sides will be keeping a close eye on as the season rolls on and the finals approach.
The Bulldogs – An obvious choice I know, however I was beginning to wonder when/if it was going to come together. But it now appears that the halves are finding their confidence again. Ben Barba is slowly winding up, and not much needs to be said about that forward pack; just read their team sheet. As we look at the team, they match up pretty well with the big guns. Big Frankie Pritchard and T-Rex against the Burgess brothers. Hodkinson and Reynolds made it work last year. Ennis does what he does (which is annoy Cameron Smith), and Benny Barba may not have the size of GI, or the experience of Mini, but I think we’ve all seen his highlights from the 2012 season.
The Raiders – Always slow starters. David Furner seems to have his job questioned every year. But when we hit the pointy end of the season they seem find a way into the finals. Additionally the Raiders have an incredible record of claiming the big scalps and causing problems. They’ve made it into the 8, and I don’t see them slipping out. Canberra’s relatively small representative contingent should allow them to stay strong during the origin period, but it’s a Raiders team with nothing to lose that sides don’t want to face in the finals.
Shaun Fensom is a machine; players cannot get past him. Terry Campese is on his way back and has the skills, experience and football IQ that will worry his opponents. Finally the X-factor of Blake Ferguson. His origin call up has only added to his confidence, if that was possible. If his hot streak continues, Blake might be too slick for even wiliest of veterans in Steve Matai or Jamie Lyon.
The Warriors – They should really be higher on the table after letting some ridiculous leads go early in the year. NZ have now looped a few wins together, the latest over Manly. Maybe Matthew Elliot has finally got their head around the 2013 campaign. Finals specialists, the Melbourne Storm would certainly prefer to see them exit the competition before September. Now that they have found their feet, I sense a charge.
They have X, Y and Z factors in Konrad Hurrell, Feliti Mateo and Shaun Johnson. This weekend’s match up between Hurrell and Mateo vs. Michael Jennings and Sonny Bill Williams, shapes up to be an entertaining spectacle. The individual skill of Shaun Johnson is tremendous; he could run rings around most number 7’s in the competition. Lets not forget the Beast, Manu Vatuvei. The unpredictability of the Beast sums up the Warriors style of play. The Storm at AAMI doesn’t faze them. Either does Manly at Brooky.
The Warriors line up against a Roosters side this Sunday; a side that haven’t experience a significant finals game with this specific team. Would you bet against them?