Sport

Durko's Dissections for the preliminary finals

Can a bruised and battered Johnathan Thurston lead the Cowboys to a second straight grand final?
Can a bruised and battered Johnathan Thurston lead the Cowboys to a second straight grand final? JULIAN SMITH

TOMORROW

SHARKS V COWBOYS

First preliminary final

Allianz Stadium, 7.55pm

History: Played 40, Sharks 24, Cowboys 16

At Allianz: Played 1, Sharks 1, Cowboys 0

Last met: Sharks 13-10, at Southern Cross Group Stadium,

round14, 2016

UNDER normal circumstances most good judges would be supremely confident of the Cowboys progressing to their second successive grand final, despite a surprisingly poor record against the Sharks. But the circumstances surrounding this match are by no means normal. Battered, bruised and bleating after two of the toughest games they have played all season, the premiers will need to call on every ounce of skill and desire to beat a confident Sharks outfit coming off a terrific win, plus 13 days of R&R. Many Cowboys, including big guns Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, are carrying injuries and the club has gone on a full-scale offensive over the season-ending injury to second-rower Ethan Lowe, which could be a distraction. The Sharks, conversely, have been able to sit back, secure the services of injured trio Paul Gallen, Wade Graham and Sam Tagatese, and watch the exhausted Cowboys tiptoe along their grand final qualifier road. While the two sides have shared the spoils in season 2016 in close games, last year's 39-0 finals hammering by the Cowboys will no doubt still be on the minds of the Sharks. The major query is whether the smaller Sharks pack can handle the Cowboys up front, in particular the rampaging Jason Taumalolo. And, on the surface, the answer looks to be no.

TIP: Cowboys

Joseph Leilua is a constant threat for the Raiders.
Joseph Leilua is a constant threat for the Raiders. DAN HIMBRECHTS

SATURDAY

STORM V RAIDERS

Second preliminary final

AAMI Park, 7.40pm

History: Played 37, Storm 26, Raiders 11

At AAMI: Played 5, Raiders 3, Storm 2

Last met: Raiders 22-8, at GIO Stadium, round 23, 2016

BEATING the Storm in Melbourne is one of the toughest road trips in the NRL - unless, it seems, the colour of the opposition jersey is lime green. On three of their past four trips south the Raiders have lowered the colours of the Storm, although the last was back in 2013 when Ricky Stuart was not the coach and only three of the current roster played. But the Raiders have every reason to believe they can add to that impressive record in Melbourne, having suffered a loss in week one of the finals after 10 successive wins. They were also the competition's best attacking side, averaging almost 29 points over 26 rounds. The stumbling block, however, is Melbourne, the most miserly defensive team; the minor premiers; the side coming off a 13-day lay-off; and the best-prepared team in the competition. Add to that the suffocating control of Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk, and the Raiders will need to produce their very best on Saturday night to reach their first grand final in 18 years. And while the likes of Joey Leilua, Jordan Rapana and Jack Wighton can be match winners, their discipline is a concern. No doubt the Raiders have been the surprise packets of 2016 and they play an intoxicating brand of footy, but this looks to be the end of the line.

TIP: Storm

Topics:  nrl finals, tony durkin


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

MP and Mayor tuck into 'meaty issues'

Noosa MP Glen Elmes and Mayor Tony Wellington.

Noosa MP and Mayor's tasty meeting

Be fabulous with the Queens this long weekend

QUEEN BEE: Melony Brests brings you an evening of razzling, dazzling fabulousness this long weekend at the Noosa Arts Theatre.

Join local icon Melony Brests for a fabulous show this long weekend

Peregian littlies have big hearts for the homeless

HELPERS: C and K Peregian Springs Kindergarten pupils started a donation basket for the homeless. Archie is pictured here with a recreation of Orange Sky Laundry.

Peregian Springs kindy kids start a donation basket for the homeless

Local Partners

Future for Cambodian kids shaped by Noosa gifts

Noosa asked to help poor students by former councillor

Fresh bid for market in Cooroy

The Noosa Farmers markets are a model for the new Cooroy concept.

Cooroy markets pitch

MP and Mayor tuck into 'meaty issues'

Noosa MP Glen Elmes and Mayor Tony Wellington.

Noosa MP and Mayor's tasty meeting

Be fabulous with the Queens this long weekend

QUEEN BEE: Melony Brests brings you an evening of razzling, dazzling fabulousness this long weekend at the Noosa Arts Theatre.

Join local icon Melony Brests for a fabulous show this long weekend

Peregian littlies have big hearts for the homeless

HELPERS: C and K Peregian Springs Kindergarten pupils started a donation basket for the homeless. Archie is pictured here with a recreation of Orange Sky Laundry.

Peregian Springs kindy kids start a donation basket for the homeless

Noosa surf lifesaver dives in to graduate position

TOP JOB: James Ghent has landed a graduate position with Arup.

USC student lands position with top engineering firm.

Capturing our Noosa from high

NEW LOOK: Local photographer Dave Gleeson's work can be seen on a Melbourne tram.

Dave Gleeson's freelance photography has taken off

Blessing of the Pets to be held in Coolum

TRULY BLESSED: The Rev Dr Cathy Laufer and Cassie get ready for the Blessing of the Pets.

All creatures great and small welcome

Musicians tune up for Caloundra Music Festival

BIG DAY: Sunshine Coast musician Mason Hope will take the stage on Saturday.

It's here! The Coast's biggest music event of the year starts Friday

Carlos Santana added to Bluesfest 2017 line up

Carlos Santana at Bluesfest 2013.

Calling all local black magic women

The Dixie Chicks to headline 2017 CMC Rocks festival

US country music group The Dixie Chicks.

ORGANISERS move festival dates to lock in US country music stars.

What's on the big screen this week

Denzel Washington in a scene from the movie The Magnificent Seven.

DENZEL Washington returns in a shoot-em-up Western.

Our funny bachelor bows out

The Bachelorette contestant Aaron Brady from Golden Beach. Supplied by Channel 10.

COAST marketing executive eliminated from The Bachelorette.

6 top tips for getting approved for a rental property

Follow these top tips to better your chances.

Real estate agent shares what you can do to get approved to rent

$40million hotel, shops development project for Mackay

Mt Pleasant hotel and retirement accommodation, proposed at 194-202 Malcomson St.

$40m development to take Mackay to 'the next level'

Property 200m from ocean selling for just over $100K

BEACHCOMBER PARK: Work has started on a new $19.2 million development at Toogoom.

The estate's developer is offering huge discounts for early buyers.

UPDATE: Former rodeo champ's sale rained out, now back on

Larkhill local Ken Consiglio is having an auction of most of the things on his property.

'People kept showing up and we had to turn them away'

First stages of $25 million housing development underway

New development on Madsen Rd - The Springs.

The blocks of land are much bigger than usual

Couple build their own 'tiny house' for $45k

Holly Bowen and Oli Bucher built their "tiny house" themselves, only hiring a plumber and an electrician. Photo/supplied

The house, which is built on a trailer and can be towed.