By STEVE ARCHBOLD
COFFS HARBOUR'S Bruce Hopkins believes the NRL grand final winner is tough to pick. As a former Balmain player, Hopkins has a soft spot for the Wests Tigers but isn't prepared to come out and declare them as winners. "I don't really have an opinion as to who will win," he said. In a distinguished career, Canterbury's first Kangaroo also had stints with Balmain, Manly , St George and Easts and played for a Combined Townsville team against Balmain in 1945. Hopkins believes tomorrow night's grand final will be a high scoring affair where both sides will throw the ball around. "Both these teams have an open style of football and play with a lot of flair," he said. Hopkins said a key to the game could be the tough defence of the Tigers who showed a big improvement in this area of their game eliminating St George-Illawarra. "As both sides have plenty going for them in attack it will be the side who comes up with the best defence who will be doing the victory lap tomorrow night," he said. Hopkins predicted some exciting individual match-ups with the two full backs Brett Hodgson and Matty Bowen dangerous whenever they touch the ball. "The battle between Thurston and Prince will also be crucial to the outcome of the game as to who can take control," he said. He said the two sides would lack nothing on the score of coaches as Tim Sheens and Graham Murray are both good tacticians who read a game extremely well. "Murray will have learnt plenty from the last time the two sides met when the Tigers handed the Cowboys a real hiding," he said. Hopkins predicted the experience gained by the Cowboys in the semi-finals last year would be crucial this time around. "After narrowly missing the grand final last year they will be more determined than ever to grab their chance this year," he said. "These two teams are evenly matched all over the park and it will come down to the team that is best prepared mentally."