If Kiwis and Poms are allowed to play, Origin might be about to stumble into eligibility rules that work
Proposed rule changes to Origin eligibility might be that rarest of things: a solution that works for everyone.
With just eight matches left to complete the 2023 regular season, there is still little certainty in the race for the top eight.
What is known is that Newcastle have joined Brisbane, Penrith, the Warriors and Melbourne are the only guaranteed finalists although Cronulla would have to be pummeled in the final round to slip out on percentages.
The Broncos and Panthers will finish in the top two although the minor premiership is yet to be decided while the Warriors and Melbourne have sealed a top-four berth after they won on the weekend and the Sharks lost to the Knights.
Newcastle will host one qualifying final with the winners of the Sharks vs Raiders clash on Sunday to host the other one.
There are five teams fighting it out for the final three spots with the Rabbitohs vs Roosters game on Friday night and North Queensland’s trip to Penrith on Saturday the key matches alongside Cronulla hosting Canberra in the final match of the regular season.
Here’s how it all breaks down for each team
Run home: Storm (home) on Thursday night.
Adam Reynolds should rest his wonky calf one more week to be right for the playoffs and it looks like Patrick Carrigan will also put his feet up one more match with one of them slightly injured. It is likely they will host the Storm two weeks in a row.
Run home: Cowboys (home) on Saturday evening.
It wouldn’t surprise to see Ivan Cleary rest the majority of his stars when he names his team on Tuesday or pull them out later in the week if the Broncos wrap up the minor premiership on Thursday night. Although he may want to give Jack Cogger a run at five-eighth alongside Nathan Cleary as a tune-up before the finals now that Jarome Luai has been sidelined with a shoulder injury until the prelim final stage.
Run home: Dolphins (away) on Saturday afternoon.
The clash with the Dolphins will be little more than a glorified training run for the Warriors. They’ve been below their best against some non-contending teams in recent weeks but still winning. A chance to rest a few veterans like Shaun Johnson and Tohu Harris might be difficult for Andrew Webster to resist. Would the Warriors want to slip to fourth to play the Broncos in the first round of the finals or is it better to draw the Panthers first up while Luai is sidelined? If the Storm lose to the Broncos in the first match of the round, the Warriors will be third if they win, lose or draw with the Dolphins.
Run home: Broncos (away) on Thursday.
The return of Ryan Papenhuyzen on Saturday in the win over the Titans was great to see and he will only get better the more game time he gets under his belt. They can’t lose a top-four berth now that Newcastle are their nearest rivals, three points adrift.
Run home: Dragons (away) on Saturday night.
It was a near-perfect win over Cronulla and if Kalyn Ponga’s shoulder is OK it’s happy days for Newcastle now that they have locked in a finals spot. They have sealed a home elimination final but will slip to sixth if they lose to the Dragons.
Run home: Raiders (home) on Sunday.
Their final game of the round is likely to have ramifications not just for themselves and the Raiders with the Cowboys and Roosters potentially deathriding the Green Machine so they can leapfrog them in the playoff mix. A loss will mean seventh is their best finishing position. A heavy defeat could send them to ninth if Souths win and the Cowboys thrash the Panthers but it’d be highly unlikely for those two results to produce a not-so-nice 69-point swing.
Run home: Sharks (away) on Sunday.
Have been tracking poorly over the past month and will be bundled out due to their dreadful for-and-against record if they lose and the Cowboys win with the Roosters-Rabbits winner also leapfrogging them on differential. If the Raiders are victorious, they will rise to sixth or fifth if the Dragons beat Newcastle.
Run home: Roosters (home) on Friday night.
They have a relatively simple scenario – win and you’re in. If they get beaten by their 1908 rivals, it’s all over. They will rise to seventh if the Raiders lose to the Sharks or if they win big time and Cronulla go down but they’d have to make up a 32-point for-and-against difference.
Run home: Panthers (away) on Saturday evening.
They’re relying on Penrith playing an understrength team or having an off night and that won’t happen two weeks in a row. If they beat the premiers, the Cowboys still need Canberra to lose on Sunday or for the Roosters to have beaten Souths on Friday to sneak in. Seventh is their highest finishing position.
Run home: Rabbitohs (home) on Friday night.
Just when it looked like they could make a late charge, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves gets himself suspended for two acts of trademark grubbiness while Joey Manu limps off with a hobbled hamstring. If they beat Souths, they still need the Raiders or Cowboys to lose otherwise they could end up ninth due to their poor differential.
Run home: Bye.
Beating the premiers was a great way to end their season but doesn’t make up for the previous 25 rounds of meh.
Run home: Tigers (home) on Friday evening.
Will finish 12th no matter what happens this weekend – for all you Des Hasler fans playing along at home, that’s one position lower than last year when he got the boot.
Run home: Bulldogs (home) on Sunday.
The only thing on the line is bragging rights between their Queensland rivals over who avoids finishing fourth among the Sunshine State sides.
Run home: Warriors (home) on Saturday.
Predicted finish: See above.
Run home: Titans (away) on Sunday.
They can’t sink any lower and could only jump out of 15th if they make up a points differential of 100-plus on the Dolphins. Unlikely doesn’t begin to cover it.
Run home: Knights (home) on Saturday night.
Have rocked up more moral victories than the England men’s cricket team in recent weeks but will at least avoid the wooden spoon, unless they cop an absolute flogging and the Tigers towel up Manly.
Run home: Sea Eagles (away) on Friday evening.
The dream of avoiding a second straight spoon is technically still alive if they pummel Manly and the Dragons get trounced by Newcastle for a collective 70-point swing. It’s the hope that kills Wests Tigers fans.