This article was written by Mel Muscat.
I love September. Not for the reason many love September though, the weather. Spring just means allergies for me. I love it for the footy finals. Rugby league is known for its toughness, but it is also an exciting game to watch. If you have been following the finals series for the last two weeks you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, it’s time to watch a game. If you’re someone who doesn’t watch the footy generally, you have the next two weeks to witness a match and see for yourself what all the hype is about with your partner, mates, amongst your work colleagues and your friend whose team is still in the finals race.
Even as a Parramatta Eels fan, I love finals footy. In nine years, my beloved Eels have only made the semifinals once, and we lost both games. It is tough, very tough being a Parra supporter which is why I have made the unofficial rule that if you are an Eels fan, you can have a second team. Even a third. I’m pleased that my second team the Cronulla Sharks are still in the finals race as are my third team the Sydney Roosters. And even if they weren’t, I’d get behind another Sydney team to barrack for during these four weeks of the month.
The thing that makes this years finals series so exciting is that three Sydney teams are still in contention to make the grand final. There’s only one outsider, the Melbourne Storm, who threaten to crash the party. This weekend saw four Sydney teams in the semifinals with the Sharks and South Sydney Rabbitohs left standing for next week’s preliminary finals. Both will play the Storm and Roosters respectively for a spot in the final dance in two weeks time. This means at least one Sydney team is guaranteed a spot in the grand final on September 30th. I have to admit, for me, there’s a sense of disappointment if the grand final consists of two interstate teams.
NRL grand final day is possibly my favourite day of the year. It’s like Christmas Day for adults. It doesn’t matter who is playing, I’ll have a team that I’m going for on that day. It’s un Australian not to! I go as far as wearing the colours of the team I am barracking for. I’ll stop short of wearing the merchandise, that’s reserved for Eels only, but the excitement in Sydney that weekend is contagious. The standard of the game is taken up a level in that last match of the season and there are parties aplenty, all eyes on who will be crowned NRL champions after a gruelling six month season. I can’t understand those who plan to go to the theatre that day or even more shocking, organise a wedding on grand final day. Thankfully I’ve never been in that predicament but if I am, there’s a good chance my friends would lose out. Sorry friends.
With one point the difference between three of the finals results so far, and two points separating the top eight teams on the ladder, this has been one of the closest finals series in the history of the NRL. Next weekends match ups compliment the excitement with two of the biggest rivalries in the competition. Friday night sees the Storm take on the Sharks in Melbourne. Their recent rivalry has been explosive. If there is one team who can beat Melbourne in their own backyard, it’s the Sharks. For me the difference will be whether Paul Gallen takes the field. His toughness on his day is unmatched. This will be a game to watch. Then on Saturday, a more traditional rivalry. Possibly the biggest and oldest in the NRL, the Roosters take on the Rabbitohs. Both are in hot form and both will be looking for bragging rights. I’ll be buying my tickets to that one as soon I’ve completed this article.
So get ready for what I am anticipating to be one of the most exciting NRL grand finals in recent history. I’d obviously be happy for the team of where I reside, Cronulla, to win the series from here as I’d love a repeat of the party that I witnessed in the grand final week of 2016. I also won’t be disappointed if the Roosters win the premiership. I placed $20 on them to win the comp a week before the season started and I also believe James Tedesco is currently the best player in the NRL. The Rabbitohs? Well they’re my dad’s team. They for me, are all good enough reasons to adopt a team for the finals series. Who will you be making your team for the next two weeks?