|=|You know you are in trouble if you've got the same tips as Laurie Daley & a million other people this week...
Round 25 of the NRL presents tipsters around the nation with one of two options - go for the glory and try to narrow the gap on the leaders or pick the safe option and go with the favourites.
There is another option that we've been employing all season long, which in Round 25 actually channels the latter.
At wdnicolson.blogspot.com we have been doing our best to tip the winners of each game each week - on a Tuesday - and rather impressively we have actually delivered at a 64% success rate in 2010.
While we have been tempted to change a boatload of tips during the latter half of the week when injuries become clearer, the format of sticking to what we feel like is the right choice on the Tuesday has worked so far - so we're sticking to it.
Even if it means we're tipping the same as the great Laurie Daley this weekend. Apologies in advance if it turns out terribly for one and all.
Speaking of Tips for Big Games - the American Rugby League Grand Final will be played in Philadelphia this Saturday with the Jacksonville Axemen taking on the New Haven Warriors. Kick-Off is 5am Sunday Morning AEST - get more info here. Going with the Axemen in the decider!
|=| ROUND 25 EXPERT TIPS FROM A 4 YEAR OLD + In studio this week you'll find Waz & Dave as they spend way too much time breaking down your team's chances at not only the Top 8 but the Premiership as well + Waz & Dave are joined by QLD's 101.5FM Breakfast Presenter Matt Duncan to get an update on Darren Lockyer and explore the chances of a second Brisbane Team working + Nic gets on the phone with Waz & Dave to take us through the Round 25 Preview and discuss why he owes Waz a lifetime supply of Special Fried Rice + NRL Tweet Player of the Year Update + Signing News: Frank Pritchard signs with Bulldogs & Manu Vatuvei re-signs with Warriors + Who won't be back in 2010 for your team's playoff assault? + We ask what are the selection decisions by coaches that make absolutely no sense to you?
The Race to September in the 2010 NRL Premiership is almost over after Round 24 came to a close with the Gold Coast Titans beating the Sydney Roosters 23-14 at the SFS.
Results over the last two rounds, since this article was first published on Tuesday August 10, have thrown up a new genuine challenger to the current Top 8 sides in the Canberra Raiders who smashed the Minor Premier bound Dragons 32-16 in Canberra on Sunday.
Only two games from Round 24 had no bearing on the Top 8 - and wins to the Knights, Raiders, Tigers, Panthers & Sea Eagles ensured we'll still have 12 teams in the running for the Top 8 next week in Round 25.
However as you will see below - that figure could reduce to as little as 10 sides depending on results in Round 25.
In an added feature in this edition - we have Fan Comments on each of the 12 NRL Teams who remain a chance at playing Finals Football.
|=|Are the Canberra Raiders poised for Playoff Miracle?
If you had asked me six weeks ago if the Canberra Raiders were going to make the Finals - I'd have responded with the following remark: "Yeah... sometime in the next decade."
Given it is 2010 - the start of a new decade, the next decade in question would begin in 2020... and when Canberra comes off playing some of the most pathetic football ever seen during losses to the Cowboys, Tigers, Bulldogs & Roosters - all games in which they were in positions to win yet produced nothing when the game was there to be won - my comment held some serious weight.
But I forgot one crucial ingredient that makes up the 2010 NRL Premiership - no one is actually very good.
As a result the Canberra Raiders have since won 5 of their next 6 games and on Sunday knocked off the St.George-Illawarra Dragons 32-16 - the team that will be Minor Premiers.
Canberra's Scott Logan runs over Dean Young on Sunday Afternoon in Canberra.
Now that's not to say the Raiders didn't deserve to win - they were error free and played superbly in the 2nd half when David Furner introduced a genuine hooker into the game - but it speaks volumes for how poor the overall standard of teams is in today's game.
Yes there are some great players running around but team wise - if you look at this competition with objective eyes - it is pretty clear that no one team is a sure thing to play in the Grand Final, let alone win the premiership.
What it does mean however is we still have 12 teams in mathematical contention for the Top 8 with just 2 rounds remaining - but with Canberra's win they just became the 9th team that holds their playoff destiny in their own hands.
If they defeat the North Queensland Cowboys & Brisbane Broncos in their final two regular season games - they will be playing Finals Football in September.
Yet six weeks ago - Canberra's playoff chances looked a tad less immediate.
Welcome to the averageness that is the NRL in 2010.
Terry Campese celebrates his try v Dragons... but no Terry - Canberra aren't in the Top 8 yet. Add a finger.
In other Round 24 results - Gold Coast kept 2nd spot by beating the Roosters 23-14, Manly beat the Warriors 19-16, Melbourne were too good for Cronulla 24-4, Penrith obliterated the Bunnies 54-18, Newcastle also ran through the Broncos 44-18, Canterbury left it very late to down the Cowboys 22-20 and the Wests Tigers edged out the Eels 20-18.
You can find all the results in detail below with NRL Highlights of Every Game and our take on the match with The NRL Tweet Recap.
Latest Rugby League Podcast 18th August, 2010:
NOT The Footy Show Episode 35 - Round 24 NRL Preview Podcast -
Round 23 of the Premiership saw Top 8 incumbents Manly and Brisbane open the door to the chasing pack with losses to the Dragons and the Eels respectively. Of the chasing pack - Canberra kept their head above water by defeating the Bulldogs 28-14, Parramatta beat Brisbane 30-14 and although South Sydney lost 18-16 to the Storm - they too stayed alive with their differential not taking a beating. After losing to the Warriors 22-10, Newcastle must win all 3 remaining games and rely on results to make the playoffs.
Further up the ladder the Roosters dropped to 5th with their shock 18-12 loss to the Sharks, while the Tigers jumped into 3rd by beating the Panthers 43-18. The Gold Coast beat North Queensland 37-18 to move into 2nd, while St.George-Illawarra defeated Manly 32-10.
But the team that struggled the most in Round 23 (compared to recent form) was the Brisbane Broncos who were without Darren Lockyer due to a rib injury. If he can't play until Round 26 as expected - the Broncos may need to win at least one game from the next two to ensure they can make the playoffs when he returns.
Does No Darren Lockyer = No Hope for the Broncos?
That leaves us looking at this week's schedule and highlighting the Knights-Broncos, Eels-Tigers, Panthers-Rabbitohs, Sea Eagles-Warriors & Raiders-Dragons as key battles for spots in the Top 8.
The fact that we've highlighted five of the eight games (and the Roosters-Titans game is a Top 4 battle) - is a good indication that this weekend should be a great round of footy!
If Manly and Brisbane win - they will make life extremely difficult for Parramatta, Canberra & Newcastle to make the Top 8 given their superior differential to those teams. Only South Sydney with +59 have a differential that is good enough to force their way into the Top 8 if they finish on equal points with any team above them currently.
NOT The Footy Show Episode 35 - Round 24 NRL Preview Podcast -
|=| WHO HAS A DATE WITH A NUDIE RUN? + Waz catches up with 101.5FM Superstar Matt Duncan to talk Broncos and Quade Cooper to Rugby League + Nic and Waz walk you through what happened in Round 23 including the Mark Gasnier 'Try' Debacle and Preview Round 24 with our Special Fried Rice Picks + Dave tries to make sense of Darren Lockyer's Contract + Mat Rogers retires + NRL Tweet Player of the Year Update + Defending the 40/20 Kick and Why do teams ignore the Short Kick-Off?
|=| Wednesday's Market: NEW $2.00 v BRI $1.80 (Graphic is Tuesday's Team Lineup)
|=| Recent Clashes: Newcastle have won the past 2 v Brisbane but only 3 of the last 10. Knights won 30-22 at Suncorp in Round 8.
|=| Wednesday's Preview:Newcastle may be only a mathematical chance at reaching the playoffs but they could deal the Broncos own hopes a huge blow by beating them at EnergyAustralia on Friday Night. Newcastle have named Jarrod Mullen to return from a rib injury and his inclusion mixed with the lack of Darren Lockyer for the Broncos - make the Knights a real threat despite their table position. Brisbane lacked direction without Lockyer last week despite plenty of possession and the home ground factor is big for the Knights.
Going with Newcastle to upset the Broncos and well and truly open the door to the teams outside the Top 8.
|=| Team Selection + Fantasy News August 17 (Friday's Update with help from SMH's Late Mail): Newcastle have named Jarrod Mullen to return from a rib injury at the expense of Scott Dureau. That is the Knights only change to the 17 that lost to the Warriors last Sunday. Brisbane will be without Darren Lockyer again (and maybe for the rest of the regular season) with his own rib injury and Corey Norman has been listed to play five-eighth again despite Matt Gillett starting there against Parramatta. There are no other changes for the Broncos.
Update August 20: Matt Hilder & Cooper Vuna will play after passing fitness tests. Jarrod Mullen will also play - despite the pain of injured ribs. Brisbane will be 1-17.