JT’s tips for NRL finals blockbusters
IN an exclusive column for The Saturday Telegraph, champion halfback Johnathan Thurston identifies where Saturday's finals will be won or lost
PANTHERS v WARRIORS
ISSAC Luke, Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck are all NRL superstars. They are excitement machines and match winners.
But they are not the players who will lead the Warriors final's charge - Blake Green is.
That's right Green, the no-nonsense journeymen.
Blake Green is fast becoming the Warriors most valuable player and I believe he is the player that will lead New Zealand to a win.
While we all know what Luke, Johnson and Tuivasa-Sheck can do it, Green is the players that allows them to do it.
Green is a very underrated player and the man that holds the Warriors together.
He is the calming influence. He is the direction. He is their glue.
Johnson, Luke and Tuivasa Sheck are instinct players. They play what is in front of them and are lethal in second phase play.
is the player that will pull them back into shape if they go too far away from their plan. Green allows the other three to play their instinctive game.
So yes, I rate Green.
I have spoken to a lot of guys that have played with him and they all say he is a very valuable player. He is the player that will keep the Warriors in the grind.
They have plenty of points in them and quality outside backs that can score tries. But big games are won in the middle third and I like the Warriors because Green is at the centre of a top-class spine.
I think Penrith will struggle to contain that spine this weekend.
James Maloney and Nathan Cleary must step up for the Panthers. Jimmy is the more experienced of the two and a lot rests on his shoulders. I think we see the best of Cleary when his forwards lay on a platform for him.
The Panthers are a team that love playing unstructured football.
Maloney and Cleary have been at their best playing off the back of quick play the balls and meters in the middle. Big meters in the middle mean off-loads and second play shifts and that is when the Panthers put on points.
Playing this style of football is difficult in the finals and that is why I think the Warriors will cause an upset.
JT'S TIP - WARRIORS
ROOSTERS v SHARKS
THIS is the match of the round - a clash between two genuine premiership contenders.
Both these team are in form.
The Sharks have hit their straps over the last month and the Roosters have been red-hot. This game really could go either way with two teams with opposing styles going head-to-head.
The Roosters are flair. The Sharks are grind. And that will make this one hell of a contest. I really can't wait for this game.
One player I am looking forward to watching his Latrell Mitchell. He could be the x-factor for the Roosters this final series. I think Latrell struggled a little in the month after State of Origin. He looked tired and was not consistent.
I think Latrell is still learning how to deal with his body. He has floated in and out of games and hasn't been the same from week-to-week.
But that will come - and look out when it does because Mitchell is a game breaker.
The Roosters will be hoping he rises to the challenge during the finals and his combination between Luke Keary his something to get excited about.
While the Roosters are hot-shots you can't write of the Sharks.
Cronulla are a team made for the finals because they love to grind. They will get down and dirty. They will play set-for-set. And they will never go away.
The Sharks will look to minimise stoppages in play. They will kick to the corners and attempt to pin the Roosters down. They will chase hard on tackle one and two.
Matt Prior is there key defensive player because he is the man that leads every chase. He also sets their line speed.
There attacking weapon in the middle is Andrew Fifita. He is a key player for Cronulla and a forward the Roosters need to stop.
Fafita has a quick play the ball and has the ability to off-load late. He is also a damaging ball runner and the Sharks will be looking to score points of what he creates
The clash between Fafita and Jared Waerea Hagreaves should be a blockbuster.
Valentine Holmes will also put on a show. Val is a freak and he will be the man the Sharks look to for their flair and spark.
JT's TIP - ROOSTERS