The Storm’s main rival could well be from outside the top four

Greg Prichard Columnist

By Greg Prichard, Greg Prichard is a Roar Expert

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    This could easily be one of those years when a team makes it all the way to the grand final from the bottom half of the top eight, but which team?

    It’s impossible to say, because the teams occupying the four spots from fifth to eighth at this stage are all still capable – at least mathematically speaking – of finishing in the top four.

    And there are two more teams currently outside of the top eight who are still a chance to make it in by the end of the 26 rounds of the regular season.

    That’s the thing. The top eight – apart from clear leaders Melbourne – is so compressed we can’t be sure what we’re going to end up with in terms of order with at this stage.

    The Storm, the obvious benchmarks, are six points ahead and also have a tremendous for-and-against differential of plus 181.

    Second-placed Brisbane are the only other team with a differential topping the century. They are plus 160.

    There are only ten points between the first and eighth-placed teams on the table with three rounds to go, but more importantly there are just four points between second and eighth.

    By comparison, after 26 rounds last season, there were 15 points between first and eighth, and 12 points between second and eighth.

    After 26 rounds in 2015 there were 12 points between first and eighth, and ten points between second and eighth.

    The way it is this season, with not much difference in quality between so many of the teams in the running for the finals, there might end up being little difference – in reality – between the team that finishes, say, third, and the one that finishes sixth.

    Then it comes down to what sort of momentum you’ve got going into the finals, what your situation is in terms of injury, and the bounce of the ball and the decision-making by the match officials on the day.

    Obviously it would be a massive shock if the Storm didn’t win the minor premiership from here. They would have to lose all three of their remaining games and the Broncos win all three of theirs for that to happen.

    Like the Broncos, third-placed Sydney Roosters are on 32 points, but their differential of plus 62 is a whopping 98 points inferior to that of Brisbane and 119 short of Melbourne.

    The Broncos and Roosters are locked in a battle of their own. Second and third play each other in the first week of the finals, and if it’s Brisbane and the Roosters filling those spots then the lower-ranked of the pair is going to have to face the disadvantage of travelling interstate for the game.

    Blake Ferguson Jake Friend Sydney Roosters NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    But, as unlikely as it may seem, it’s still possible for the Broncos – and, so, the Roosters and fourth-placed Cronulla – to actually miss the top four and finish in the bottom half of the eight.

    Fifth-placed Parramatta had the chance to move into the four last week, but blew it when they lost a home game against last-placed Newcastle.

    But, again, the compressed nature of the table means the Eels can still get there and the result of their Round 25 away game against Brisbane is going to mean a lot – to not only those two teams but also others around them.

    Penrith have made a strong late-season charge into sixth place, with the chance to finish top four if they keep winning.

    Seventh-placed Manly, defensively fragile, and eighth-placed North Queensland, finding it tough as the absence of Johnathan Thurston finally kicks in hard, look like weak links and their stumbles have helped bring ninth-placed St George Illawarra and tenth-placed Canberra back into the contest.

    The Raiders would make a few teams nervous if they squeaked in and their home game against the Panthers on Sunday is another clash that is critical in terms of positions.

    The way those two teams play and with so much riding on the result, that shapes as the match of the round.

    Greg Prichard
    Greg Prichard

    Greg Prichard has spent all of his working life in the media, from way back when journalists were still using typewriters. He has covered rugby league, football, AFL and various other sports for News Limited and Fairfax newspapers and also worked for magazines, radio and pay television. Twitter: @gregprichard

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    The Crowd Says (47)

    • Roar Guru

      August 16th 2017 @ 8:13am
      The Barry said | August 16th 2017 @ 8:13am | ! Report

      Maybe the other seven teams in the eight could combine their teams to take on the Storm.

      I think there’s a few teams with the potential to best the Storm but I feel like they all need to lift to varying degrees. Broncs seem most likely at the moment.

      • August 16th 2017 @ 4:06pm
        Bonza said | August 16th 2017 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

        As Sharks fan am hoping Fifita fires up. He needs to do something silly, be vilified by media then unleash. We can beat Storm if we rediscover 2016 aggression/swagger.

        • Roar Guru

          August 16th 2017 @ 5:30pm
          The Barry said | August 16th 2017 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

          Gallen’s been relatively quiet as well.

          I think the Sharks can give it a shake but they need a massive surge in form.

    • August 16th 2017 @ 8:45am
      DJ said | August 16th 2017 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      If the Bronx keep playing the way they have been the past few games, they will go all the way.

    • Roar Rookie

      August 16th 2017 @ 9:23am
      Joe said | August 16th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      Broncos and Roosters very good chances of going all the way. I’m also still backing the Sharks to get there as well even though a lot of people have written them off. They are still the team that can match it with anyone in the comp. Raiders can make it but they need other results to go their way which isn’t really a very good equation at this time of the year. I feel that the team that is struggling is the Cowboys due to injury, they’ve had two very unlucky weeks with injury that could possibly cost them a spot in the 8 this week. The match against the Sharks this weekend is as important as the Broncos v Dragons and the Raiders v Panthers. I still think Manly will make it and I also like the Dragons chances. Lots to look forward to this weekend!

    • Roar Rookie

      August 16th 2017 @ 9:35am
      Bunney said | August 16th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      Greg, where’s the rest of the article?

      The premise of your article is that this is the year that someone outside the top 4 could press and challenge the Storm, but then you make no arguments about who and why. You’ve given no opinion at all!! You’re just like the rest of us – completely in the dark!

      I currently only have one strong opinion about the 8, and that is the Panthers are pretenders. They’ve got talent, but they’ve beaten no one of note.
      And like Joe above, I’m not writing off Cronulla yet. They are mirroring two teams from last year that had vastly different fortunes – the 2015 premiers the Cowboys, who just couldn’t continue to produce their best at the end of a long season, and themselves, who lost form in the last month before pipping the Raiders in week 1 and going on with it. Could go either way. Fence-sitting on the Sharks.

      • August 16th 2017 @ 12:05pm
        Duncan Smith said | August 16th 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

        Yes, that’s what I thought. The article seems to be saying Melbourne will make the GF, but which of the other 7 teams get there is anyone’s guess!

    • August 16th 2017 @ 9:39am
      Oingo Boingo said | August 16th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      Have you been taking confessions from Greenburg,Greg ?
      Has he admitted that the NRL will gift the Storm a spot on the 1st ?
      After the refereeing display a few days ago on their home turf , one might be quite rightly a bit cynical.
      Anyway the Roosters came awfully close to rolling them against a weight of suspect decisions and away from home .
      Having said that , they took their foot of their heads and allowed them to breath at the death , when they should have closed it out .
      Brisbane V Melbourne GF , apparently Greenburg has put his house on it .

      • August 16th 2017 @ 12:02pm
        Duncan Smith said | August 16th 2017 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

        Are you aware Melbourne have lost most of the penalty counts this season in their games? But don’t let the facts get in the way of your conspiracy theory.

        On Saturday, the Roosters were laying all over them in the ruck and most of those penalties were justified,.

        • August 16th 2017 @ 3:26pm
          bbt said | August 16th 2017 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

          ..and what about a Roosters knock on leading to a Roosters penalty!!

          • Roar Rookie

            August 16th 2017 @ 3:56pm
            Joe said | August 16th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

            That was one of the dumbest calls I’ve seen in rugby league. The problem is no one is asking whether the ref made the right call according to the rules because they’re all talking about the penalty try. If he did make the right call according to the rules then the rules have to be changed because that is just stupid. Clear knock on then Slater picks up the ball and runs behind Ado-Carr therefore there is no advantage to Storm so it should have gone back to the knock on but the ref says he can’t downgrade from a penalty to a knock-on and therefore gives the Roosters the penalty!?? mind numbing stuff.

            • August 16th 2017 @ 5:39pm
              The Spectator said | August 16th 2017 @ 5:39pm | ! Report

              On advantage it is always first offence, penalty knock on what ever after is irrelevant if you haven’t passed 10 meters from first infringement, if that is how the ref ruled, he was wrong, I saw and thought, back to knock on, no ad, as you said mind boggling, imagine gf, costing a team, would we get %100 fans on board that the ref’s are hurting our game. It’s not so much the ref’s but the system there currently working under.

            • August 17th 2017 @ 7:40am
              Oingo Boingo said | August 17th 2017 @ 7:40am | ! Report

              What about the Guerra knock on after the Roosters had split the Storm up the middle …. no knock on , just a momentum shifting decision , to give the ball back to the home side on the second tackle .
              Garbage refereeing overall .

    • Roar Guru

      August 16th 2017 @ 9:49am
      Nat said | August 16th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      It’s ominous that the Storm have to lose twice not to be in the GF. Not that they can’t be beaten, every team will lift come finals time and so will they. Unfortunately I’d say the perpetual injury list for the Cowboys has crippled them but what they’ve achieved minus JT and Scott will make them serious contenders next year. Manly, Saints or Raiders could win or lose to anyone. Broncos, Panthers, Roosters are fast, sharp and enthusiastic while Sharks can match the niggle and wrestle of the Storm machine.

      Still a few good games to consume before the finals start and momentum is everything. The juggernaut that is the Knights may pull off something amazing at home on Saturday.

      • Roar Guru

        August 16th 2017 @ 10:34am
        BigJ said | August 16th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        Hey mate congrats on your Guru status!! When did that happen??

        • August 16th 2017 @ 5:41pm
          The Spectator said | August 16th 2017 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

          Hey it’s Big J, how’s things mate, been a few funny posts since you’ve been away.

          • Roar Guru

            August 16th 2017 @ 7:53pm
            BigJ said | August 16th 2017 @ 7:53pm | ! Report

            What comments would that be mate i need a good laugh

      • August 16th 2017 @ 1:26pm
        Benny said | August 16th 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

        No, they just have to lose their prelim to not be in the gf

      • August 16th 2017 @ 11:13pm
        Bugo said | August 16th 2017 @ 11:13pm | ! Report

        Storm have to lose twice? A team can lose only 1 game all season and not make the GF.

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