In the Telstra NRL 2018 Premiership competition finals, the top eight are so evenly matched that anyone who successfully picks all four winners has permission to declare him or herself a bona fide genius.
The total spread for all four games is 14.5 points and could be much tighter, were it not for the floundering of the St. George Illawarra Dragons in the second half of the season.
Having looked at the Storm v Rabbitohs and Panthers v Warriors, we turn next to the Sydney Roosters versus the Cronulla Sharks.
The Roosters are favoured by 4.5 points, so this one could go either way in a heartbeat.
The Roosters came charging at the end of the season and managed to squeeze by the Melbourne Storm for the minor premiership by the narrowest margin imaginable. The won one more game than did the Sharks, but Cronulla was the form team over the last four games of the competition, winning four and losing one, compared to three wins and two losses for the Chooks.
The Roosters showed what a strong defence could do and that aspect of the game is critical in playing finals. Luke Keary and Cooper Cronk seem to be coming together in the attack, but those two factors together are not enough to cause us to write off the Sharks. One thing working in Cronk’s favour is that he did not have to play Origin this year, so he is likely to have something in reserve for the time of year that matters.
James Tedesco had a good season from the personal viewpoint.
It is tempting to put too much in the Roosters minor premiership. They moved ahead of the Storm by drawing the Eels for the last game.
A key matchup to observe in the Cronulla v Sydney game will be the contests between Andrew Fifita and Jared Waerea-Hagreaves. Waerea-Hagreaves has to step in for the suspended Dylan Napa.