Monday 17 September 2012

NRL 2012: Final Four Premiership X-Factors

2012 NRL Premiership
By W D Nicolson 

Well time hasn't been overly kind so the content rich 2012 Finals Series that I had hoped to bring to hasn't really happened... but this might tide you over in the short-term.

The term 'x-factor' is so loosely used these days it appears to have been on an intern-ship at the Telegraph, but with just three games left to decide the 2012 Premiership - here is our look at the four players who have true premiership deciding x-factor written all over them.

Some are obvious... others might surprise.

NOT The Footy Show will have our entire panel's choices for their Final Four X-Factor on Wednesdays Episode 127 on iTunes.

Benjamin 'I Score Tries In My Sleep' BARBA
Really, honestly and truly - Barba is Canterbury's X-Factor.
Ok he was an obvious choice but he only just shadows Josh Reynolds - because both have the ability to lay on a try from nothing (and that's huge praise for Reynolds after just one season in the NRL as a starter).
Barba just needs to avoid getting smashed on kick returns early and he's the weapon that took the Bulldogs to the Minor Premiership and he came up with the play that decided the Qualifying Final against Manly.
But what makes Barba the special player he is?
He backs himself to make the play no matter what... though he's yet to get a chance to prove that is going to be the case in as big a game as this Saturday night.
He's been the face of the NRL this season, and he'll live up to that tag if he gets the Dogs into the decider.
Jesse 'My Middle Name Isn't James' BROMWICH
The real roughie on this list - for two reasons:
One - you aren't going to learn anything more about Billy Slater, Cameron Smith or Cooper Cronk that you didn't already know and Two - Melbourne's title challenge will come down to their ability to hold a team in the ruck.
And that's where Bromwich and Jason Ryles (if fit) come in.
The Storm's biggest issue isn't whether or not the Big Three fire - but whether their pack is good enough when the top sides apply the blowtorch in the middle. So Bromwich's combination of size, footwork and knowledge of his role in the team in particular - makes him Melbourne's x-factor in providing the opposition with a problem up front.
If Bromwich fires, then the Cronk-Slater-Smith three-headed monster can do what they do best.
Greg 'Just Give Me The Ball Please' INGLIS
No-brainer in the sense that he is the BEST Big Game Player in the Game.
Yes there may be better overall players (though not many) in the game but when the big games come around - Inglis has won more games than anyone due to his influence.
Inglis just imposes himself on the game with a will that has just grown and grown since he was part of that Storm run to the Grand Final in 2006.
If Souths have got half a brain - Inglis touches the ball almost every time in an attacking set of six and if he does - they are a great chance of not only beating the Dogs but maybe Manly or Melbourne the week after.
Kieran 'I Didn't Touch The Ball' FORAN
It could've been Daly Cherry-Evans but I've gone with Foran because he holds the key to Manly's left edge being a factor in a big game.
Foran wasn't dubbed by Peter Sterling as the best young player in the game for no reason before Manly won the title last year, and though injury has slowed him this season - he's still got arguably the best go to the line pass in the game.
The reason that pass is so devastating is because he's got Tony Williams next to him and Steve Matai and Hip Hip Jorge Taufua are pretty handy options if he decides to go long rather than short to T-Rex. Then there's a guy called Brett Stewart who can also chime into that left edge... can you say handy?
Foran hasn't been the force in defence this year, but I get the feeling he's waiting to the biggest games of the season to re-announce that side of his game to the NRL.
Just give me one good reason.
NOT The Footy Show Episode 127
Out Wednesday Night September 17

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NOT The Footy Show will release another Podcast this Wednesday night - September 19 with our Preliminary Finals Preview.