The Bulldogs finished on top of the table to claim the Minor Premiership. Picture: Mark Evans/dailytelegraph.com.au
: - opened $17, top price $19
Finished the regular season atop the ladder with 18 wins, largely thanks to twelve match winning streak that saw them go undefeated from round 11 to round 24. Des Hasler tasted premiership success with Manly last year and has the Dogs playing well enough to suggest that they can go all the way in their first year under his tutelage. Ben Barba has been the best player in the competition this season and is the side’s ‘X Factor’ but it is their forward pack that can carry them to glory.
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Were unbeaten through the opening nine rounds of the season before State Of Origin commitments disrupted their campaign. In Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith, the Storm has three of the best players in the world and all are capable of producing match-changing moments of brilliance. Five straight wins see them entering the finals full of confidence. Have beaten every other top eight side this season.
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Finished the home-and-away season third on the ladder courtesy of a strong finish which saw them win eight of their final ten matches. Rookie halfback Adam Reynolds has had a great year in the top grade and is key to his side’s chances, but there is no doubt Greg Inglis is the main man for the Bunnies. With three games under his belt following a five game ban, he will be primed for action in the finals series. First year coach Michael Maguire won the 2010 Super League grand final with Wigan in his first year in charge.
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Defending premiers whose experience is sure to come in handy in the pressure cooker of finals football. As was the case last season, the Sea Eagles appear to be peaking at the right time of the year and they take a six game winning streak into Friday’s qualifying final against the Bulldogs. 2011 Rookie of the Year Daly Cherry-Evans continues to pull the strings behind his side’s pack, which is led by the dynamic backrow of Anthony Watmough, Tony Williams and Glenn Stewart.
North Queensland Premiership
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Four straights wins see the Cowboys go into the finals series full of confidence but finishing outside the top four doesn’t help their chances of winning the competition for the first time. Their poor record in Sydney doesn’t make things easy, but Jonathan Thurston and Matt Bowen have been irresistible at times this year and that pair will have to be at their best if North Queensland is going to give the competition a shake.
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Coach David Furner was under pressure in the nation’s capital from early on in the season but answered his back at his critics by taking his team to the finals against all odds. Five straight wins see the Green Machine take good momentum into the finals but they will need Josh Dugan fit and firing after he missed the round 26 game against the Warriors with an ankle injury. Having finished sixth, winning four games in a row will be a tough task for the Jekyll and Hyde Raiders.
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Sat comfortably in the top four for much of the year before fading in the second half of the season to finish seventh. The Sharks have won just two of their final nine matches and were comprehensively outplayed by the Cowboys in the final round when a home final was on the line. Paul Gallen and Todd Carney are two of the most influential players in the competition but it is hard to see the Sharks making a big run at the premiership.
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Like the Sharks, Brisbane limped into the finals, with a seven point win over Penrith in the final round ending a six match losing streak. The Broncos halves have gone off the boil after making a strong start to the season and their side lacks creativity in attack. They have scored more than 20 points in a game just once in their past eight fixtures and won’t be winning finals if they can’t score points.
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