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Who the Warriors will fancy and fear in the NRL playoffs

Author
Chris Rattue,
Section
League,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 7 August 2018, 10:40AM
Shaun Johnson escaping the Broncos this year...this would be a great finals match up. Photo / Photosport
Shaun Johnson escaping the Broncos this year...this would be a great finals match up. Photo / Photosport

They are not quite there yet, but the Warriors are oh so close to making the NRL playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. Hallelujah.

With four games remaining, the points are.- Rabbitohs 32, Storm 30, Roosters 30, Dragons 28, Panthers 28, Sharks 26, Broncos 26, Warriors 26...Tigers 22.

The initial playoff games are: 1 v 4, 2 v 3 (losers get second chance); 5 v 8, 4 v 5 (sudden death).

A win at home over the Knights and a Tigers defeat to the Raiders this weekend will just about seal the deal.

A return to the playoffs will be a great moment for the club and a feather in the cap for coach Steve Kearney, but they will not want to stop there.

So who do the Warriors match up against best among the current top seven?

1) Dragons
Who would have thought it? The Warriors have rolled up their sleeves twice against the Dragons this season, and recorded victories over the team which has such a great record against them.

An inconsistent attitude is the Auckland side's Achilles heel but Steve Kearney's men know that at their desperate best, they have the Dragons' measure.

2) Broncos
The Broncos have had backroom issues amid constant speculation over coach Wayne Bennett's future.

I would fancy the Warriors against the Broncos. The Warriors' worst performances are against teams with aggressive, powerful middle forwards. The Broncos aren't all that scary in this area although Josh McGuire is a mean hombre.

The Broncos playmakers have not consistently driven their team well this year but the expected return of Darius Boyd to fullback, after a stint at centre, will make them a tougher proposition.

3) Roosters

Cooper Cronk...the Warriors have had some success against the Roosters and their former Storm playmaker. Photo / Photosport
Cooper Cronk...the Warriors have had some success against the Roosters and their former Storm playmaker. Photo / Photosport

The Roosters are on a good roll as the club absorbs the Cooper Cronk Method. The obsessive former Melbourne Storm playmaker is not one who leaves anything to chance, which has taken the Roosters time to get used to.

But despite the form book, the Warriors might fancy this game. They have a good record against the glamour Sydney side in recent years.

4) Sharks
The Cronulla forwards are packed with tough veterans led by Paul Gallen who never take a backward step — this is not a good match up for the Warriors in a cut-throat game. A playoff clash would have a close win to the Sharks written all over it.

5) Panthers
Call it a hunch, but the Panthers DNA will be too much for a Warriors team which can go MIA, as in missing in action.

The athletic Panthers stay in the contest, and have done so in recent weeks despite tensions in the camp. This combative quality has much to do with James Maloney, the five-eighth with match-turning instincts who inspires success wherever he goes despite barbs about his defence.

The Panthers' unprecedented late-season sacking of coach Anthony Griffin makes them even more dangerous - teams often initially respond well to a fresh environment.

6) Storm
If Storm ringmaster Cameron Smith is fit, these Warriors aren't good enough to win a finals clash against the game's standard setters.

With Smith pulling the strings, middle forwards Jesse Bromwich, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and co. are too fit and strong and would set the winning platform for a team which demands and often obtains perfection.

The Warriors have had some success against highly structured Storm teams in the past. But thanks to Cameron Munster's growing influence, the champions now play with more flair.

But if Smith remains sidelined with a leg injury, the Warriors would have a 20 per cent chance on one of their good days.

7) Rabbitohs

Sam Burgess...South Sydney talisman. Photo / Photosport
Sam Burgess...South Sydney talisman. Photo / Photosport

A first-round victory over the Rabbitohs in Perth kicked the season into life for the Warriors, but Souths are a very different proposition now.

No one will forget the way Souths humiliated the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium, and least of all Souths.

The Burgess boys are causing havoc right now — the Warriors couldn't handle them. Any meeting with Souths would mean it is all-over-rover for the Warriors, whose middle defence would be dog tucker against mighty Sam Burgess and co.

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