Sport

Durko's Dissections for the preliminary finals

Can a bruised and battered Johnathan Thurston lead the Cowboys to a second straight grand final?
Can a bruised and battered Johnathan Thurston lead the Cowboys to a second straight grand final? JULIAN SMITH

TOMORROW

SHARKS V COWBOYS

First preliminary final

Allianz Stadium, 7.55pm

History: Played 40, Sharks 24, Cowboys 16

At Allianz: Played 1, Sharks 1, Cowboys 0

Last met: Sharks 13-10, at Southern Cross Group Stadium,

round14, 2016

UNDER normal circumstances most good judges would be supremely confident of the Cowboys progressing to their second successive grand final, despite a surprisingly poor record against the Sharks. But the circumstances surrounding this match are by no means normal. Battered, bruised and bleating after two of the toughest games they have played all season, the premiers will need to call on every ounce of skill and desire to beat a confident Sharks outfit coming off a terrific win, plus 13 days of R&R. Many Cowboys, including big guns Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, are carrying injuries and the club has gone on a full-scale offensive over the season-ending injury to second-rower Ethan Lowe, which could be a distraction. The Sharks, conversely, have been able to sit back, secure the services of injured trio Paul Gallen, Wade Graham and Sam Tagatese, and watch the exhausted Cowboys tiptoe along their grand final qualifier road. While the two sides have shared the spoils in season 2016 in close games, last year's 39-0 finals hammering by the Cowboys will no doubt still be on the minds of the Sharks. The major query is whether the smaller Sharks pack can handle the Cowboys up front, in particular the rampaging Jason Taumalolo. And, on the surface, the answer looks to be no.

TIP: Cowboys

Joseph Leilua is a constant threat for the Raiders.
Joseph Leilua is a constant threat for the Raiders. DAN HIMBRECHTS

SATURDAY

STORM V RAIDERS

Second preliminary final

AAMI Park, 7.40pm

History: Played 37, Storm 26, Raiders 11

At AAMI: Played 5, Raiders 3, Storm 2

Last met: Raiders 22-8, at GIO Stadium, round 23, 2016

BEATING the Storm in Melbourne is one of the toughest road trips in the NRL - unless, it seems, the colour of the opposition jersey is lime green. On three of their past four trips south the Raiders have lowered the colours of the Storm, although the last was back in 2013 when Ricky Stuart was not the coach and only three of the current roster played. But the Raiders have every reason to believe they can add to that impressive record in Melbourne, having suffered a loss in week one of the finals after 10 successive wins. They were also the competition's best attacking side, averaging almost 29 points over 26 rounds. The stumbling block, however, is Melbourne, the most miserly defensive team; the minor premiers; the side coming off a 13-day lay-off; and the best-prepared team in the competition. Add to that the suffocating control of Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk, and the Raiders will need to produce their very best on Saturday night to reach their first grand final in 18 years. And while the likes of Joey Leilua, Jordan Rapana and Jack Wighton can be match winners, their discipline is a concern. No doubt the Raiders have been the surprise packets of 2016 and they play an intoxicating brand of footy, but this looks to be the end of the line.

TIP: Storm

Topics:  nrl finals, tony durkin



Northern NSW: when perfection and beauty is not enough

MAKING A SPLASH: The Pearce, McLuckie and Foat families, from Queensland's Gold Coast, choose the NSW North Coast and more specifically the Big 4 Saltwater Yamba for their holidays, booking in twice a year.

Queenslanders say why they love holidaying in the Clarence Valley.

Chamber think-tank to target empty CBD shops

The Grafton Chamber of Commerce has identified the large number of vacant shops in Prince St as an issue a think it is forming next month can tackle.

Grafton's vacant shops in the sights of business group.

Golf club brings its views closer

Yamba Golf Club functions coordinator Jo Court and general manager Luke Stephenson on the newly extended deck.

New deck at Yamba Golf Club

Local Partners

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Sabeena joins Ramsey St crew

Yamba girl Sabeena Manalis is currently appearing on the soapie cult classic Neighbours.

Yamba actress joins cast of Australian soapie

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Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie with their six children

Angelina Jolie is reportedly being consoled by Johnny Depp

Conner's food distraction leads to elimination

Australian Survivor contestant Conner Bethune.

HUNGER gets to castaway as Australian Survivor's tribes merge.

Bonus point gets Dan and Carleen over the line on The Block

Dan and Carleen in their winning living and dining rooms in a scene from The Block.

BABY boomers win living and dining week as show hits halfway mark.

Olivia Wilde having a girl

Olivia Wilde revealed she is expecting a baby girl.

Clarence Valley property prices go through the roof

Buyers are hungry to sink their teeth into the Clarence Valley

UPDATE: Former rodeo champ's sale rained out, now back on

Larkhill local Ken Consiglio is having an auction of most of the things on his property.

'People kept showing up and we had to turn them away'

Couple build their own 'tiny house' for $45k

Holly Bowen and Oli Bucher built their "tiny house" themselves, only hiring a plumber and an electrician. Photo/supplied

The house, which is built on a trailer and can be towed.

Sunshine Beach property breaks real estate record

The property overlooks Sunshine Beach, as the backyard lawn meets the sand.

Sunshine Beach mansion sale smashes real estate record

NEW HOME: Agents to the rescue for family of nine

RELIEF: Tanya Cone (middle) with her kids and McKimm's Real Estate property managers Regan Firth and Nadine Greenhalgh who helped find her family a home.

DEX article prompts property managers to help family find new home

SOLD: Historic hotel finds new owner

Post Office Hotel Grafton

Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner

Pub in new hands and heading in a brand new direction