Have your say on the NRL Finals
Erin Molan is a Nine News sports reporter. She also features on the NRL Footy Show and the Sunday Footy Show and is a mad Canberra Raiders fan.
Less than two months ago it was looking like Canberra's season would be over long before the finals but the feeling in the nation's capital is now very positive.
Due to a slow start to the season the Raiders have been facing must-win games for several weeks now so they are well aware of the pressures involved in finals football. They are really confident which is good for a young team like the Raiders. When their confidence is high that is when they are at their most dangerous.
There is also lot of optimism at Canberra and a sense of relief. David Furner's coaching job was pretty much on the line but now everyone seems to be in a good place.
Canberra's performance against Cronulla wasn't spectacular but that's a good thing in a way. Finals football can often be 'ugly' with teams grinding out wins and the Raiders only really ran away with it in the last 15 minutes when the Sharks were chasing the game.
To beat a team like the Sharks without playing spectacularly is a good boost for the Raiders. Youngsters Sam Williams and Josh Papalii were impressive against the Sharks. Williams directed the team around the park in a man of the match performance, while Papalii got the upper hand in his battle with Cronulla captain Paul Gallen.
A lot was made of Papalii's running battle with Gallen – perhaps more than the young forward wanted, but the way he handled it was impressive and I think he has a big future in the game.
Losing centre Jarrod Croker is a big blow however, as he has been in amazing form this season. Croker's goal kicking will also be missed. The Raiders had a goal-kicking session at training yesterday involving Reece Robinson, Blake Ferguson and Josh Dugan. Dugan was the most impressive in practice so he is likely to get the job against the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
The Raiders are in for a tough game away from home but I was in Canberra earlier this week and I can tell you that all mini-buses are booked out and private companies are putting on more coaches to take people up to Sydney for the match.
Michael Maguire will have Souths fully primed for this clash after a below-par performance against Melbourne. It would have been better for the Raiders if the Rabbitohs had only just lost to the Storm rather than being totally outclassed, as Souths will now be fired up and keen to improve. They say Greg Inglis never has two bad games in a row and he was quiet against the Storm, so look out Raiders.
Maguire today said Inglis will not be switched to the centres to replace the injured Matt King and I expect Souths will start the match with Issac Luke at hooker and Nathan Peats on the bench.
I spoke to Dugan earlier this week and he said it was now all about putting your body on the line to win. If there is a Greg Inglis, a Dave Taylor or a Sam Burgess running at you they must be stopped at all costs. I'm of course sticking with the Raiders but I expect to see a very different South Sydney on Saturday night.
In last week's column I tipped Manly to beat Canterbury and to go on and win the NRL premiership. I'm sticking with the Sea Eagles after their loss to the Bulldogs but North Queensland are playing some fantastic football.
Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen is playing incredibly well – even outshining Johnathan Thurston at the moment. Bowen has expressed a desire to continue his playing career with the Cowboys, so he is obviously full of confidence ahead of the clash with Manly.
I still think Manly's finals experience will get them over the line and it appears Jamie Lyon will take his place in the centres. Lyon may not be 100 percent but he could still cause the Cowboys problems. The Manly forwards were really fired up in the first half against the Bulldogs and if they can recapture that form it will be another intense battle against the big North Queensland pack.
I'm tipping Manly but it's going to take a big effort to stop the Cowboys who are on a huge roll.
On The Footy Show I deliver the late mail each week but one thing that you never want to leave late are check-ups for bowel cancer. I'm a Bowel Cancer Australia ambassador as my sister was diagnosed with the disease two years ago. We were incredibly lucky as her diagnosis was quite late but just in time for treatment to work.
Bowel cancer is rarely talked about in society but I can't stress enough the importance of screening and testing. While this type of cancer is uncommon in young people it is still important to be aware of it and to know what lifestyle changes can be made to decrease risk. For more information on bowel cancer go to bowelcanceraustralia.org
Will the Raiders beat the Rabbitohs?
Will the Cowboys keep their roll going and beat Manly?
Who will win the 2012 NRL premiership?