Digging With The Mole

The Rugby League Week Mole gives us all the ins and outs ahead of Week 1 NRL Finals.

If Cameron Smith was a mere mortal, he would be out for a month with the ankle injury that saw him hobble from the field last weekend.

The Storm have kept quiet just how bad Smith’s injury is… he should not be playing.

But I am hearing Smith has made remarkable progress under Melbourne’s physiotherapist guru Tony Ayoub – and is all but certain to play against the Bulldogs on Sunday.

Smith won’t be 100 per cent fit and will take a painkiller – but the mere fact he is playing should give punters the confidence that the Storm will get the job done.

The Storm are $1.30 hot favourites to beat the Bulldogs at home on Sportingbet, giving 9.5 points start.

If Smith was out, the Bulldogs – a team that always rises in the finals – would be value at $3.55.

But the mail is strong that Smith will play – in which case I would urge punters to stick with the Storm

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There’s a perception that Souths are the marshmallows of the NRL – they melt when the finals heat is on – and that theory will be put to the test tonight.

The Bunnies are $1.44 favourites tonight on Sportingbet, giving Manly 6.5 points start.

It’s a ‘home’ game for Manly, but under the crazy NRL rules, will be played at Allianz Stadium in Rabbitohs heartland.

To me, it is just about an even money game – Manly are a team that revel in finals footy and have tough, hard pros like Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai and Daly Cherry-Evans.

I can tell you Souths are nervous – talking to people in the Bunnies camp, they know all the heat is on them tonight.

Halfback Adam Reynolds is a smart playmaker but he has yet to prove himself at finals level and he will be closely watched by the critics.

I see a Souths win – but only just.

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All season the critics have been death-riding the Panthers – and speaking to players this week, they are treating the clash with the Roosters like a grand final.

The Panthers are fired up, determined to prove the critics wrong.

But to me, the Roosters have had a Melbourne Cup preparation and are peaking for the finals – they will beat the Panthers, but maybe not quite cover the 10.5 points start.

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In the final game, the class of Johnathan Thurston will see the Cowboys through against the Broncos.

At home, the Cowboys are good things at $1.44 on William Hill and I see the 6.5 points they are conceding as the bet of the round – they will beat the Broncos by plenty.

Happy punting!