Time is running out for teams with premiership designs to get themselves into the best position for a deep postseason run, but for several clubs the season is done. Here come your NRL midweek talking points.
As the crush for finals and top four places continues it’s interesting to see who’s got the bye and guaranteed two points for the end of the year.
This week it’s Brisbane’s turn for a rest and the two points in the bank will ensure they stay top two or even go top if Penrith stumble against the Titans, which seems highly unlikely.
The next bye week belongs to South Sydney, who sit eighth on 28 points with games against the Knights and Roosters. The bunnies have been really wobbly in the last few weeks but will only really need to win one of those to be secure in the top half.
Round 27’s bye week is Parramatta’s, who are 10th on 26 points. If the Eels can’t beat the Roosters this week they’re pretty much done, but if they get past and other results fall their way, the free two points might actually vault them into the eight.
There’s lots to happen between now and there, but two points for the bye is probably something the NRL could look at going into 2024. Each team has 6 points from games they never played which obscures and oversells how they’ve actually been going.
We can officially bid farewell to the finals chances of the Gold Coast and Dolphins and our hands hover over the plug keeping Manly and the Roosters’ chances alive, with both needing to win out and win big while also getting lucky results around the grounds.
Parramatta are also in genuine finals peril, with games against the Roosters then Penrith with the aforementioned bye in the final round.
Newcastle are on song but still not guaranteed a spot, with tough outings against South Sydney and Cronulla in the next fortnight.
The most gettable team in the eight is Canberra, who simply must bounce back from a horrific outing in Melbourne and beat Canterbury this week or they’re all but done – however, 9th placed North Queensland have a brutal finish to the season with Cronulla, the Dolphins then Penrith and that might help the Raiders die across the line into eighth.
It’s probably worth mentioning Canterbury have also been formally eliminated from finals calculations, for those wondering.
Hopefully we get some closer efforts this week after a pretty big bludger last round, with an average win of 25.5 points.
We’re away Thursday to Townsville for the Cowboys and the Sharks, who seem to have a new sense of self after a couple of good wins. For North Queensland it’s simple – they have to win.
Friday’s early game has Manly across the ditch for the Warriors, who did all they needed to beat the Tigers and pretty much wrap a top four spot. Manly need the win or it’s ‘officially’ season over, while New Zealand have shown they can be somewhat wobbly at home this year in patches.
Primetime Friday is Parramatta and the Roosters, with the loser basically done and finished. Normally this would be box office viewing but who knows what we’re in for this week.
Saturday’s triple header starts at Commbank Stadium and the Tigers hosting the Dolphins, a game both clubs would usually fancy their chances to win, but the Dolphins are absolutely smashed with injury.
Later in the afternoon Penrith head to Robina in a game they don’t really need to win, but with the Titans’ season over, they probably still will.
Saturday night is St George Illawarra and the Storm in Wollongong and the less said about that the better.
Sunday has two games with big finals bearings – the flying Newcastle hosts South Sydney and the loser will either drop out of finals altogether, or miss out on a chance of a home match in week one.
The round ends with a squib when the Bulldogs head to Canberra. The Raiders need at least one win from their last three to play finals but they’ve been pathetic for the last few weeks. Canterbury have been all over the joint. Their best has been exciting, vibrant play, but it’s too often offset by diabolical defence and poor efforts. Not many will be setting the recorder for this one.
What’s got you talking ahead of round 25, Roarers?