Brothers and Norths in title hunt
THIS is the toughest IRL finals series to pick in the seven seasons I've covered the competition.
Each team has proved its ability to beat the others, so I think it will come down to momentum and injuries.
With no team having demonstrated a sustained dominance, it seems the competition will be won by the team hitting its peak at the right time.
Here's an eye on the candidates.
THE Eagles will be boosted by the return of lock Max Seumanutafa.
They have the forwards to rumble over anyone but have lacked the link Seumanutafa provides between backs and forwards, placing extra pressure on captain and halfback Corey Kirk.
Kirk is a danger when he plays off the cuff but has lacked support runners close while his outside backs are waiting for wide balls.
Fullback Mitchell McNamee is one of the finds of the season but could learn from the lines Jarrod Biggs runs for Norths.
Goodna has the talent to win the comp but it is a long time since they have strung together a full performance as a coherent unit.
FOR Norths, it is all about confidence. If they believe they can win the comp, they can.
They are at full strength and have shown, in patches, they have the defence and attack to get on top of anyone.
Prop Mark Appleton is the key.
His go-forward is fed upon by the hungry triplets (Tim Newton, Brent Newton and Stephen Kafer) and from there the classy Norths backs can sing.
If Norths gain some early ascendancy over Brothers next weekend, they could go all the way.
THE pieces seem to be falling into place for Brothers at the right time.
Having a fit-again Josh Afoa, Sam Krueger and Shane Gibson has made all the difference, while Wade Liddell has gradually increased his influence.
But Jason Connors remains the key.
Brothers' strength can also be their weakness.
If Afoa and Connors are contained, they can be stifled into predictability.
FASSIFERN will be praying Huskie Teutau (injured thumb) is fit to play in the finals.
Teutau's excellence and versatility helps the Bombers paper over some of their weaknesses.
Without him, the Bombers lose go-forward and will be heavily reliant on Mahe Paseka for impact around the ruck.
On the plus side, halfback Kali Nauqe should be back to peak fitness.
With five-eighth Mitch Range increasingly influential, Fassifern now have the smarts and skill in the halves and the finishers to unlock almost any defence.
WITH no team standing up and screaming "premiers", I'm resorting to deduction.
That means no Goodna because they haven't performed at their peak for too long.
It also means no Fassifern if Teutau is not playing.
That leaves us with Brothers and Norths in the grand final.
As for splitting them, that's a question for three weeks' time.