Guide to each NRL team’s finals keys

KEY TO YOUR NRL CLUB’S FINALS SERIES SUCCESS

MELBOURNE

Strength: Their no-fuss style. Missed the least tackles and made the least errors this year. It’s why they finished first and were 50 points better than any other defensive outfit.

Weakness: They only lost four games while close to full-strength, but they were to Canberra, Canterbury, Cronulla and Brisbane – all teams they could face in the next month.

CANBERRA

Strength: Their attack. They scored more points (688) this season than any other team than in the past decade and have still scored 96 points in the past fortnight without injured playmaker Blake Austin.

Weakness: That 20-minute switch-off. They got away with it in recent weeks against Parramatta and Manly in recent weeks, but it won’t wash in finals football.

CRONULLA

Strength: Their forwards have busted through 300 tackles this year, with Andrew Fifita accounting for 82 of them. He and Paul Gallen have also cracked the 3000-metre run mark, while the team has produced 340 offloads.

Weakness: They’ve missed the second-most tackles (669) of the finals teams, and their two highest counts have come in the past month against Melbourne (41) and St George Illawarra (35).

NORTH QUEENSLAND

Strength: Rejuvenated Johnathan Thurston. Was quiet by his standards in the Cowboys’ mid-season slump, but has set up five tries and six linebreaks in the three wins leading into the finals.

Weakness: Have lost to each of the other top-five teams. Also provide the least offloads of all teams in 2016, which the best defensive teams will know and rely on.

BRISBANE

Strength: They’ll make the opposition work for every opportunity. The Broncos have conceded the least penalties (5.5 per game) and made the second-least errors (8.7 per game) of all teams this year, making field position hard to come by.

Weakness: Halves Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt can be inconsistent. Hunt has failed to set up a try or a linebreak in nine games this year, including in four of the past five weeks. Milford has done likewise on six occasions.

PENRITH

Strength: Finals matches are generally tight, and no-one wins more close ones than Penrith. They’ve won seven matches by four points or less this year, more than any team in the competition.

Weakness: Only the Titans have a worse defensive record of all top-eight teams, while Penrith have also missed 32 tackles per match.

CANTERBURY

Strength: Sam Kasiano returns from suspension. He often provides much-needed momentum off the bench, as evidenced by the fact the Bulldogs score more points than any other team between the 20th and 40th minute.

Weakness: They have the worst attacking record of any team in the finals, including an average of just 13.8 points per match since their second bye.

GOLD COAST

Strength: They love the grind. Work their way into almost every match and have beaten Canberra and Penrith doing that this year, before drawing with the Sharks.

Weakness: They’re still adapting to a game plan with late arrival Jarryd Hayne at the back, and won’t have much more time to learn with an elimination final against Brisbane on Friday.

*Stats courtesy Fox Sports Stats.

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