JT’s grand final plan: How I’d beat the Chooks
Everyone's saying the Roosters can't be beaten. Reigning premiers, a team full of superstars and a near-perfect season.
But rugby league is full of fairytales - and Johnathan Thurston has come up with a plan to spoil the red, white and blue party.
Here is his five-point plan from the game's greatest playmaker
1. ONE-ON-ONE DEFENCE
We have all seen the Roosters attacking shape - and so have the Raiders. Canberra will be well prepared for the James-Tedesco-up-the-inside play. They will also be ready and waiting for Luke Keary to play out the back.
The blocks, the shifts, the shapes - the Raiders will have them covered. Their defensive structures will be good enough to defend Roosters set plays. The danger for Canberra will come from the likes of Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell and Joseph Manu when they get early ball.
It will be individual brilliance that breaks their brick wall.
The Raiders' one-on-one defence will need to be near perfect. They can't afford to make one-on-one misses. They can't afford to jam when they should have held. And they can't afford to hold when they should have jammed.
2. FIND GRASS AND KICK TO CORNER
The Raiders' kicking game needs to be almost perfect. This is an all-bets-are-off match that could be decided by a repeat set earned - or avoided. They can't afford any kick-errors. They can't boot it dead or send it out on the full. They need to kick to the corners and find grass.
This sounds crazy but I would be targeting Latrell Mitchell. I would kick it to the Roosters' right - to Daniel Tupou - so I could get at Mitchell on play two or three.
I would be looking to tire him out by making him ruck the ball into a set defensive line.
I reckon you might just be able to take enough out of him to make him less of a threat in the attacking zone.
3. TARGET MIDDLE THIRD
The Raiders' strength is their middle third - and that is the area they need to attack. They need to take them on straight through the middle.
I wouldn't say the Roosters are weak anywhere, but you need to break them down through the middle in order to beat them.
The Raiders are a chance because they have such dominant middle forwards. Big collisions, quick play-the-balls and an offload or two will give the Raiders a shot.
4. MAKE NO MISTAKES
The Raiders will have to be near perfect when it comes to holding the ball. In an all- or-nothing match against the Roosters, a single error in the yardage zone could decide the game. They will need to complete all of their sets while coming off their line.
They will also have to complete most of their attacking sets. You just don't want to give the Roosters the ball. They will still have to try things - they can't be one out and predictable - but they will have to manage the risk.
I don't think flair will win it for Canberra. They will do it by turning the game into a brawl. They need to bring the Roosters down to their level and make it a war.
5. GIVE IT TO 'PAPA'
Big Josh Papalii is without doubt the Raiders' most important player. He is the giant that could single-handedly win them the game.
Papa's form of late has just been staggering. He has led the Raiders' charge and put them into the grand final with his try against the Rabbitohs.
The key to beating the Roosters is to break down their middle and there is no better middle man in the game right now than this Queensland Origin enforcer.