NRL legend Scott Minto is predicting the Panthers and the Raiders will prevail in this weekend’s NRL semi-finals. Picture: Evan Morgan
NRL legend Scott Minto is predicting the Panthers and the Raiders will prevail in this weekend’s NRL semi-finals. Picture: Evan Morgan

Scott Minto: ‘Who I think will win the NRL semis’

FOR Scott Minto, there’s nothing like footy finals time.

The CQ rugby league legend is rubbing his hands together in anticipation of this weekend’s blockbuster NRL semi-finals.

Minto played 53 NRL games for the Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys.

Today, he talks about what finals footy means to him and he casts an eye over the semi-final combatants and which teams he thinks will making it to the big dance on Sunday, October 25.

THERE’S something different about the finals. If you haven’t played them before you must be wondering what all the talk is about. I played my share of semis, prelims and grand finals. I was lucky to win a grand final with the Yeppoon Seagulls and I was unlucky to lose one too when playing with the Toowoomba Clydesdales in the Q-Cup.

But what makes them so different? I like to think of it as a culmination of nine months of blood, sweat and tears, corks in your muscles and tag marks on your shins. It’s the occasional bone-rattling, body-jarring hit mixed with the euphoria of that try when you hit a hole at pace and feel nothing but the breeze filling your ears as you dive over the line.

It’s not so much the now but the journey that makes the finals all the more special.

I cast my mind back to 2003 and a semi-final against Penrith I played in. Rockhampton’s own Rhys Wesser was playing and I was a ball of nerves in my first full year of first grade.

The game was tough that day and we went away losers at Panthers Stadium.

Scott Minto has high praise for Melbourne Storm frontman Cameron Smith. Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images
Scott Minto has high praise for Melbourne Storm frontman Cameron Smith. Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images

The Panthers would take control and march on through the ensuing weeks to their first grand final in over a decade.

This weekend, the Rabbitohs will be facing a formidable foe at the foot of the mountains - a Penrith outfit unbeaten in 16 outings with no fear and youth on their side.

I hate to say it, but experience is what really counts in these big game moments.

The Rabbitohs have some key players who can stand up and make life tough for the Panthers.

In the other game this weekend, Melbourne lock horns and battle the Raiders who are seeking to be one of only a few sides to dispose of the Storm at the pointy end of the season.

Experience comes in bucketloads when you look at their front man Cam Smith. There is no more capped player and frankly, I don’t think there ever will be again.

The game’s sped up to a point where the body won’t sustain the high demands that the new-look NRL requires, let alone playing 400 or more of them.

This week’s games promise to be classics and I think there will be little to separate the teams at full-time.

Scott Minto believes Jack Wighton holds the key for the Canberra Raiders in their showdown with the Melbourne Storm. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Scott Minto believes Jack Wighton holds the key for the Canberra Raiders in their showdown with the Melbourne Storm. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Let’s take a look at the match-ups.

Storm v Raiders: The Storm are the modern-day Canberra Raiders. When the Green Machine had its day, no one could match their go forward and finishing ability. Daley, Stuart, Meninga, Belcher the list goes on.

March forward 25 years and you have a team building its name again in the nation’s capital.

The Storm boast a win percentage better than any other team spanning the last decade in finals football.

Led by the man who helped them in most of these games, Cam Smith, you would be a fool to back against them given the vast finals knowledge that he brings to this match.

Munster and Hughes are killing it and their outside backs and number one are going as good as anyone.

I would love to see the Green Machine march on but I think their only hope is if Jack Wighton can turn in a man-of-the-match performance.

I’m going with the team I followed as a kid and think Canberra will play its second grand final in as many years.

Raiders in an upset by 4.

Penrith's Nathan Cleary has been sensational for the Penrith Panthers. Picture: Brett Costello
Penrith's Nathan Cleary has been sensational for the Penrith Panthers. Picture: Brett Costello

Panthers v Rabbitohs: I like what Penrith have done this year. They possess big, mobile forwards laying the platform for halves with time, finesse and unpredictability, with speed out wide and strong wingmen waiting for their chance to strike.

Souths on the other hand have the old stager, Wayne Bennett. He’s brought this team up a mile in 2020 and they look like a genuine threat to the high-flying Panthers.

For mine it will be close but I’m backing Penrith. Their halves of Cleary and Luia are tearing teams apart. Look to Cody Walker to light it up.

Consistency meets razzle dazzle in this Saturday night blockbuster.

Panthers by 6.