7 Must-Watch NRL Games Before the Finals

The 2023 NRL finals series is almost here, and – following on from our Seven Must-Watch NRL Games for March 2023 NothingButLeague has highlighted another seven must-watch games (in order of appearance) for the final month of the regular season.

BRISBANE BRONCOS VS PARRAMATTA EELS, THE GABBA, FRIDAY AUGUST 11 (ROUND 24)

Brisbane’s final game at The Gabba is a big one – and they’ll have revenge on their minds.

Poised for a top eight finish in 2022, Brisbane lost four of their last five games, including an embarrassing 53-6 loss to Parramatta at Lang Park in Round 24. A grateful Canberra – who found form at the right time – swept into eighth spot.

A year later and Brisbane are trying to leapfrog Penrith for the minor premiership. Even if they finish second, two Lang Park finals is a nice reward. Parramatta stayed alive with a comeback win over St George Illawarra, so they’ll want to throw everything at Brisbane – as they’re still outside the eight on points differential.

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NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS VS CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS, QUEENSLAND COUNTRY BANK STADIUM, THURSDAY AUGUST 17 (ROUND 25)

A replay of last year’s epic qualifying final, this is a clash between a Cowboys team with two wins from their last four games (and looking to steal and top eight stop), and a Sharks team in freefall and desperate to hang on to their finals place.

Cronulla are the ‘flat track bullies’ of the NRL: racking up big wins against bottom eight teams, but struggling against top eight teams (though they beat Souths in Round 23). This is a must-win for the Sharks to keep their top eight spot.

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NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS VS SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS, MCDONALD JONES STADIUM, SUNDAY AUGUST 20 (ROUND 25)

Newcastle are one of the surprise teams of the second half of 2023. They’ve won five in a row and are now a genuine finals chance, and they’ve been playing a lot better at McDonald Jones Stadium (with six wins so far).

The Rabbitohs looked like a premiership contender at the start of the year, but have fallen away and will have to settle for between fifth and eighth. Could this be an early elimination final preview?

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PENRITH PANTHERS VS PARRAMATTA EELS, BLUEBET STADIUM, THURSDAY AUGUST 24 (ROUND 26)

Another big game between the western Sydney rivals. While Penrith are competing with Brisbane for the minor premiership, their focus will be making sure everyone is fit heading to the finals. They have enough experience to be confident winning from anywhere on the ladder.

Parramatta upset Penrith back in Round four: can they do it again to keep their finals hopes alive?

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BRISBANE BRONCOS VS MELBOURNE STORM, SUNCORP STADIUM, THURSDAY AUGUST 31 (ROUND 27)

While Melbourne have dominated Brisbane, with 13 straight wins, these clashes are still high quality games. The Storm love playing at Lang Park, so assuming their winning record in Queensland continues, it could decide the minor premiership, and may even be a qualifying final preview.

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PENRITH PANTHERS VS NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS, SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 2 (ROUND 27)

By now, Penrith will know their minor premiership fate. If top spot is secure, expect them to rest players before the qualifying final. The Panthers took a NSW Cup side to Townsville in Round 25 2022, which resulted in a big Cowboys win. The North Queenslanders backed it up during Origin this year, with a 27-23 win. If Penrith rest players, then the Cowboys will fancy another upset win.

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CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS VS CANBERRA RAIDERS, POINTSBET STADIUM, SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 3 (ROUND 27)

The final regular season game of 2023 sees a Sharks side struggling to hold onto a finals spot, and a Raiders side who’ll either be comfortably in the eight or also holding on (their -74 differential – as of Round 23 – doesn’t help).

Canberra travelled to Shark Park in the final round of 2020, and the “Baby Raiders” raced to a big lead before winning 38-28, and then (back with a full-strength side) beating the Sharks again in the elimination final. This could also be an early elimination final, with the loser tumbling out the eight.

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