Round 20 is a joyous time for NRL fans every year because it means the State of Origin period is over and the business end of the season begins. All the byes are over which means that there is no confusion as to which teams have achieved better throughout the season so far. The current ladder paints a reasonably clear picture of which teams will be playing finals football in September.
At the moment it looks like it will be either Storm or the Sharks that win the Minor Premiership. The Storm are six points ahead of the next best team and the Sharks are two points ahead of the Storm. Both teams have maintained the bulk of their team that got them to this point and don’t look like dropping too far. The Storm have the tougher remaining schedule but the exciting part is that these two teams play each other in round 26 and could potentially be playing for the minor premiership in that game.
The Cowboys, Bulldogs, Raiders, and Broncos have all basically wrapped up their finals berths as they would only need one or two wins to make the 8 based on the assumption that 28 points would make the finals. All teams look like they have the form to achieve this. The only team in any doubt would be the Broncos due to injury issues. Right now these four teams are playing more to reach the top 4 and earn the right to a home finals game.
With seven round remaining, a team would need a minimum of 14 points to have a chance of making the finals; the Titans, Warriors, Panthers, Dragons, Tigers, Sea Eagles, and Rabbitohs are the teams still in the running for the final two finals spots. Based on recent form however it would be safe to assume that the Rabbitohs won’t win every one of their remaining games. The Sea Eagles have the form, but could only afford to lose one game which is a tough ask considering they have to play the Bulldogs, Storm, Raiders and consecutive weeks. The Dragons have set themselves up well; however, they have been playing like headless chooks in recent weeks and are missing Josh Dugan which doesn’t help their chances. The most likely candidates for the top 8 would be the Titans, Warriors, Panthers, and Tigers. The Panthers look like they are in the best position as they only have to play one team from the top 6 whereas the other teams all have to play two.
The Wooden Spoon
The wooden spoon looks like it will be returning to Newcastle for the second year in a row unless they can create some magic in the following weeks. The next most likely candidate is the Roosters. The Roosters do have a tougher schedule but they do also seem like the stronger team.
Predicted Final Ladder
11. Sea Eagles
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