The 2016 NRL Finals kick off tonight and week one features four games with eight teams still fighting for a shot at the title in the NRL Grand Final on Sunday October 2.
Upset NRL Week 1 Finals Tip: Cowboys to beat the Storm on Saturday night @ $2.20 through Ladbrokes.com.au!
Tonight’s Friday night fixture is a Queensland Derby between the Brisbane Broncos and the Gold Coast Titans and is one of two do-or-die deciders.
The other must-win knock-out is Sunday’s Panthers vs Bulldogs clash at Allianz Stadium.
Saturday night is host to the top two Qualifying Finals, the winners of which get a week off while the losers get another chance in next weekend’s semis.
The in-form Raiders (2nd) host the Cronulla Sharks (3rd) in the first in the nation’s capital, before the Minor Premiers Melbourne start favourites at home to knock down the momentum of the reigning Premiers North Queensland.
Check out a full Week 1 NRL Finals preview below complete with our footy tips and the latest odds from Ladbrokes.com.au – home of Footy Freaks!
2016 NRL Week 1 Finals Draw
Brisbane Broncos ($1.32) vs Gold Coast Titans ($4.10)
Friday September 9, 7:55pm, Suncorp Stadium
Big odds are on offer for the Titans here when they head up to Brisbane to play the fifth-ranked Broncos in a must-win for both Queensland clubs.
It’ll be a near sell-out at the old Lang Park as last year’s Grand Final runners-up Brisbane look to stay alive in their second home game on the trot.
In the last week of the regular season they failed in the first quarter, but bounced back for a comprehensive win over the Roosters giving them five-straight heading into finals.
The Tians are the obvious underdogs on the back of a loss to the Cowboys last weekend, only making the Top 8 because of the Tigers’ Round 26 loss.
This is only the third time the Gold Coast have made the NRL Finals Series, but this time they bring Jarryd Hayne with them making for a scintillating showdown between he and the Broncos’ fullback Darius Boyd.
History is against them as Brisbane have won the past four games played between these two teams, and from 16 played at Suncorp the Gold Coast only have three wins.
A few injury concerns for Brisbane give the Gold Coast a slight glimmer of hope at full-strength, but it has been six years since the Titans played in a final and it is likely to be a short-lived run ending here.
Tip: Brisbane by 6 – 10 points
Canberra Raiders ($1.62) vs Cronulla Sutherland Sharks ($2.60)
Saturday September 10, 5:35pm, GIO Stadium
One of the form teams of the season, the Raiders have surprised plenty with just how well they’ve gone to finish third on the ladder.
If Canberra win this they go straight to the prelims, and the Sharks look vulnerable having had one of the worst lead-up to the finals, including a 20 point loss to the Storm last week, in a far cry from their 15 straight victories mid-season.
The Raiders are after their 11th win the trot and when these two last met they came away with a 30 – 14 success they’ll be out to match here.
There’s plenty of points in the Canberra club who lead total tries scored for the season (118), while the Sharks have scored 19 fewer overall (99).
They also got the good news with fullback Jack Wighton getting through the judiciary and after the confidence boosting 52 – 10 victory over the Tigers last round will be bullish with the home advantage here.
All the money in betting is on the Raiders and they are likely to have too many points in them for the Sharks to score the upset.
Tip: Raiders to Beat the Line (-4.5)
Melbourne Storm ($1.82) vs North Queensland Cowboys ($2.20)
Saturday September 10, 7:55pm, AAMI Park
Melbourne made the 2016 NRL Minor Premiership theirs with the good win over Cronulla last weekend and now play the Cowboys in a possible Grand Final preview.
North Queensland also enjoyed a big final-round win over the Gold Coast last week, but have lost both games played against the Storm this year.
All the stats on this are in favour of a Melbourne win, atoning for last year’s Finals Series when the Cowboys knocked them out of the Premiership race.
Johnathan Thurston is good under pressure, but the club has been awful away from home this year with only four wins from 12 away games.
At this venue meanwhile Melbourne have a big 10 – 2 record and head-to-head in the NRL over NQ, the Storm boast a huge 22 – 10 (of 32 games) win advantage.
All of that aside, the Cowboys will be ready to rise here and we’re going the upset with a tight win by the visitors.
Tip: Cowboys by 4
Penrith Panthers ($1.55) vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs ($2.80)
Sunday September 11, 4:10pm, Allianz Stadium
The second knock-out plays out in Sydney and neither the Panthers nor Bulldogs have an obvious home advantage.
Penrith were easy 30 point winners over Manly last weekend, but the Dogs are out to atone for the Round 26 loss to the Bunnies and Canterbury haven’t beaten a Top 8 side since the Broncos (Round 16).
During the regular season momentum is everything, but the scary thing about Canterbury is that they have gone all the way to Grand Final day after ending their season on a low.
Something about the Doggies makes them a true finals’ team and many have written them off.
There are just so many exciting young players in this Penrith side though, and with Canterbury missing Sam Perrett (neck) still and fullback Will Hopoate for reasons of faith, the Panthers really should be winning and progressing to Week 2.
It will be tight, Hasler can always get the most out of his men at finals time and the Bulldogs might actually prefer Brett Morris in the No. 1, but sticking with a narrow Penrith win.
Tip: Penrith by 2
*All odds quoted are provided by Ladbrokes.com.au and subject to change