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Wednesday, 25 August 2010

NRL Top 8 Predictions 2010: The Race To September - August 24 Update

WHO MAKES THE CUT IN 2010?
This Update: Tuesday August 24

For all the Finals Week One Matchups - Click here. Updated September 5.

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.

Make sure you take a look.

Click below for the rest of this article.

Note: This article was first written on Monday August 9 - given it is now Tuesday August 24 - the Final Predicted Table after 26 Rounds has been updated from the original prediction. Predicted Ladder published August 10

On the weekly NOT The Footy Show Podcast - we have been discussing the chances of each team to not only make the Finals but win the premiership, so make sure you check out the show on iTunes or on the website.
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Here is the competition table after Round 24 of the 2010 NRL Premiership.
So where are we right now?

Despite losing to the Raiders - it appears as if the Dragons will take out a second straight Minor Premiership as they only need a win against Newcastle or South Sydney to secure it. Parramatta and South Sydney lost in Round 24 to put them into a situation where they have to win their last two games and rely on other results to make the Top 8. Canberra's win puts their Top 8 destiny in their own hands while Brisbane looks the most vulnerable of the current Top 8 teams - and both sides face off in Round 26. The Sea Eagles, Warriors and the Roosters have a minor threat to their playoff births but one win from their last two seals the deal (if their differential advantage doesn't already). The Tigers and Panthers both won to secure their Top 4 berths and remain in the hunt alongside the Titans for 2nd spot.


So with Two Rounds left the teams still in contention for the Top 8 are (in current order):

Dragons, Titans, Tigers, Panthers, Sea Eagles, Roosters, Warriors, Broncos, Raiders, Rabbitohs, Knights & Eels.


Already done in 2010:
Mercifully the Bulldogs season in which their game plan completely changed from the one that got them to the Finals last year - is over. The Cowboys are a huge disappointment or a sum of their parts - depending on whether or not you take two years of failure into consideration when looking at their roster. Cronulla are well... Cronulla - a team without top end talent proving that hard work can't win you games when talent simply isn't there. Then there is Melbourne - a team who would sit the Top 4 had they not busted the cap - but because they did they have sewn up the club's first wooden spoon and will continue to torment tipsters for the rest of the season.


So with 12 Teams fighting for 8 Playoff Spots - here is how the Run Home looks for every team:
Each team is listed with their Round 22 Record (Graphic) then their results from Rounds 23 & 24 + Fan Comments for Teams.

ROUND 23 v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles @ WIN Jubilee Dragons Won 32-10
Great game for Monday Night Football. Dragons would all but secure the Minor Premiership with a win here. Manly could jump into Top 4 with a win with a win but a loss could see them drop down to 8th. Tip: Dragons
ROUND 24 v Canberra Raiders @ Canberra Raiders Won 32-16
St.George-Illawarra can't buy a win against Canberra but they should finish the Raiders season off mathematically with a win in Canberra. If there was a game on the schedule that the Dragons could use to revive their attack - this would be it as the Raiders are not a great defensive team. Tip: Raiders
ROUND 25 v Newcastle Knights @ EnergyAustralia
Newcastle are still fighting for their lives and playing at against the Dragons makes them a threat to the likely Minor Premiers. After losing to Canberra in Round 24 - the Dragons need to win either this game or the next to seal the Minor Premiership, while the Knights have no leeway - they MUST WIN. Tip: Dragons
ROUND 26 v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ WIN Jubilee
The Dragons should be presented with the JJ Giltinan Shield as Minor Premiers in front of their home crowd but it could be after a defeat if the Rabbitohs still have something to play for entering the contest. Tip: Dragons
The NRL Tweet Says:
A team with a differential of +197 shouldn't feel too concerned when they are in top spot with just two rounds left - but the Dragons haven't played a great game of football since they beat the Wests Tigers 32-10 in Round 16. In fact they only have 3 wins from the 7 games since then. But they have the best defence in the league and when they start a game well - every team struggles to peg back their grinding style. Problem is - where's the flexibility if Plan A doesn't work in the Finals?
Predicted Regular Season Finish:
St.George-Illwarra fan Justin Davies says:
It's frustrating that bigger packs can hurt us, much like Canberra in Round 24. If the Dragons can find another gear, we'll go far and maybe even win the whole thing, big IF though.
St.George-Illawarra Fan Nathan B Says:
Please not again!

ROUND 23 v Wests Tigers @ Campbelltown Tigers Won 43-18
Huge game in the context of the Top 4. If the Tigers win at home they could move back into the Top 4, the Panthers lose here and they would probably hand the Dragons the Minor Premiership. Tip: Tigers
ROUND 24 v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ CUA Panthers Won 54-18
If Souths don't beat Melbourne they will have no choice but to knock off the Panthers at CUA to keep the pressure on the current Top 8. Dave Taylor may be available for this game which would be a huge boost but Penrith will still likely be in the race for the Minor Premiership so they will have plenty to play for themselves. Tip: Panthers
ROUND 25 v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs @ ANZ
Penrith will still be looking to secure a Top 4 (if not Top 2) spot entering Round 25 and unless the also-ran Bulldogs open up their style dramatically - the Panthers should take the two points here. Tip: Panthers
ROUND 26 v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks @ CUA
Cronulla shouldn't present the Panthers with any problems in Round 26. Unless the Panthers have a large number of players carrying injuries - resting them is a possibility so if the Panthers have sewn up a their Top 4 Spot. Still - it's the Sharks, so you pick Penrith. Tip: Panthers
The NRL Tweet Says:
Before they lost 5 of 6 they looked like genuine Minor Premiership contenders... now they look like probable Top 4 finishers with an easy draw to end the year (@ CBY, v CRO). Don't discount the value of a Home Final at CUA for the Panthers - they'll draw 20,000 screaming fans for one.
Fitness of Michael Jennings & Lachlan Coote the major concerns when it comes to talking 'Premiership' and the slight problem that is the flighty nature of their halves.
Predicted Regular Season Finish:

Penrith Fan Michael Treacy says:
I feel Penrith is starting to show the form from earlier in the year that had them as one of the most dominant attacking teams in the competition. Overall, I feel our chances are very good and that we match up very well against other teams in the top 8. With Lachlan Coote and Tim Grant still to come back into the team it would get rid of two of the weakest performers in the team being Adrian Purtell and Daine Laurie. We have Luke Walsh who is able to guide the team around and last week really took on the line a lot more and the results were proof of how that works well. He hasn't done that for a month. He has his "mojo" back which is fantastic. Our forwards when in form are one of the most dominant in the competition. Luke Lewis is a freak. Only problem is getting Pritchard fired up.
I feel confident that if we can maintain the rage we can be a team that can be dangerous come semi final time.

ROUND 23 v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks @ Toyota Sharks Won 18-12
The Sydney Roosters should hand the Sharks a thrashing and improve their Points Differential significantly. A Roosters win would keep them embedded in the Top 4. Sharks look destined for the unofficial Wooden Spoon. Tip: Roosters
ROUND 24 v Gold Coast Titans @ SFS Titans Won 23-14
With both the Titans & Roosters expected to win in Round 23 - this game will have a major bearing on the makeup of the Top 4. Given the game is at the SFS you would lean towards the Roosters and their superior differential might secure them a Top 4 spot with a win over the Titans. The ladder is so congested the Titans could incredibly end up in 2nd spot if they win here and results go their way. Tip: Roosters
ROUND 25 v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles @ SFS
The Sydney Roosters are now reeling after 3 straight defeats but meet a Manly side that is still one win from a guaranteed playoff spot. Given it is at the SFS - the Roosters get an advantage despite their recent form and Manly are missing a number of starters through injury. Tip: Roosters
ROUND 26 v North Queensland Cowboys @ Dairy Farmers
The Roosters are fortunate that their last game is a trip up to Townsville but their minds will be firmly on the upcoming playoffs and the chance at a Home Final if they've beaten the Sea Eagles the week before. So it could be a danger game especially if the Roosters have to win it to secure a Top 8 spot. The Cowboys will have played a month without Johnathan Thurston by this stage - so their development will be interesting as the game plan shifts. Tip: Roosters
The NRL Tweet Says:
Have lost 3 straight to put an end to their Top 4 hopes and if they can't find a win in the last two weeks - they could miss the Finals altogether! Wouldn't that be a shock - given how many people were calling them equal favourites a month ago. They have the best scrumbase in the league in Anasta, Pearce & Carney but their season will come down to ball control by their outside backs (Shaun Kenny-Dowall & Anthony Minichiello I'm looking at you) and the ability of Nate Myles & Jason Ryles to carry the forward pack. Should make the Semis but need to score a bucketload of points in one of their final two games to get the self-belief back in their attacking game.
Predicted Regular Season Finish:

Sydney Fan Sassy Says:
Shock of all shocks in 2010: Roosters are a chance. A chance in a flat, flat field, but still a chance. Coming off the wooden spoon last year and with a lot of new players, players in different positions like SKD, Mini coming back to fullback and the new Pearce-Carney combination they don't have any solid winning form. I just don't think they're used to winning together. So when a big game like the Monday night Titans game comes along or when they string a few losses together they can look jittery. You can't win footy matches with the amount of mistakes they made on Monday night. But at the same time when their attack comes together it's INCREDIBLE. I reckon they have more genuine ball-runners than any of the other teams in the 8 - Aubusson as a back rower, Anasta at lock, Mini at fullback, and even though Carney has a great kicking game, my favourite thing is when he and Pearce run the ball.
Knowing that they have so many attack options other than kick-tries is a huge advantage. Plus the forward pack on their day I think can take on the Dragons/Raiders/Panthers and those packs are all monsters to face up against.
This season the team that wins will be the team that busts out their form from next week and at the right time - the Dragons have been the most consistent over the season but my picks for premiership would be the Tigers and the Titans - coming into form at the right time - and my Chookies as complete roughies.

ROUND 23 v North Queensland Cowboys @ Skilled Titans won 37-18
The Titans are starting to emerge from their injury crisis and it looks like the Cowboys have entered theirs with Johnathan Thurston done for the season. If the Titans are fair dinkum challengers for the title they must beat the Cowboys and do it well. Tip: Titans
ROUND 24 v Sydney Roosters @ SFS Titans Won 23-14
With both the Titans & Roosters expected to win in Round 23 - this game will have a major bearing on the makeup of the Top 4. Given the game is at the SFS you would lean towards the Roosters and their superior differential might secure them a Top 4 spot with a win over the Titans. The ladder is so congested the Titans could incredibly end up in 2nd spot if they win here and results go their way. Tip: Roosters
ROUND 25 v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks @ Toyota
Recently any team visiting the Sharks at Toyota Park has had their way with the home side - in fact since Round 9 the Sharks have been beaten by 20, 16, 18, 30 & 27 points in every home game. (This stat changed in Round 23 when the Sharks beat the Roosters 18-12). The Titans might be needing a big differential boost from this game to hold onto 2nd spot but winning it may be their first concern. Because if there is another game the Sharks might win before the end of the year - this is it. Tip: Titans
ROUND 26 v Wests Tigers @ Skilled
A game that will decide who gets 2nd spot if both teams win in Round 25. Scott Prince & Preston Campbell v Benji Marshall & Robbie Farah - the quality on display should ensure a sell out crowd at Skilled. Tougher to pick than a broken nose at the best of times - let alone a few weeks in advance! Tip: Tigers
The NRL Tweet Says:
Good football team but are they great? Have won 5 straight games to sit in 2nd spot with two games to play and hold their destiny in their own hands. If they beat the Tigers in Round 26 I'll declare them a genuine contender but I find it hard to get their awful performance against Parramatta in the Elimination Final last year out of my head when they had so much to play for. Veterans Preston Campbell and Mat Rogers are in such great form - Scott Prince won't have to carry this team on his own... something he couldn't do in the Finals last year. Worth respecting.
Predicted Regular Season Finish:


Gold Coast Fan Dalroy Says:
I'm a huge Titans fan and have been a member for 3 years now. After Monday night's fantastic win over the Roosters, they can go all the way. They have beaten every Top 8 team except the Tigers & Broncos. With the the Tigers at home last round and Sharks this week they could possibly win both and sneak up to Dragons for Minor Premiership if the Dragons lose their last two games against Knights & Rabbitohs. Good work on podcast. I listen every week.

ROUND 23 v Penrith Panthers @ Campbelltown Tigers Won 43-18
Huge game in the context of the Top 4. If the Tigers win at home they could move back into the Top 4, the Panthers lose here and they would probably hand the Dragons the Minor Premiership. Tip: Tigers
ROUND 24 v Parramatta Eels @ Parramatta Tigers Won 20-18
This game may already be a sell-out such is the anticipation of Jarryd Hayne v Benji Marshall but unless Parramatta beat Brisbane the week before - the Eels will not only need to win this game but win it by about 40 points. Highly doubtful and the Tigers could be all of a sudden on the playoff ropes if they lose to the Panthers in Round 23 and then here against the Eels. Crunch game. Tip: Tigers
ROUND 25 v Melbourne Storm @ Leichhardt
The Tigers won't have any idea what kind of Melbourne side will show up (as this is an away game for the Storm) but the fact remains the Tigers have to win this game to keep their Top 2 hopes alive. If Melbourne are going to rest their star players - away from home in Round 25 seems the most likely time to do so. Tip: Tigers
ROUND 26 v Gold Coast Titans @ Skilled
AA game that will decide who gets 2nd spot if both teams win in Round 25. Scott Prince & Preston Campbell v Benji Marshall & Robbie Farah - the quality on display should ensure a sell out crowd at Skilled. Tougher to pick than a broken nose at the best of times - let alone a few weeks in advance! Tip: Tigers
The NRL Tweet Says:
They were my pick months ago when I saw them crush the Warriors 50-6 at Campbelltown. That was coming off a huge 50-10 loss to Souths and a scrappy 23-6 win over the Knights in Newcastle. I keep hearing that they aren't a threat yet they are 11-3 since Round 11. Robbie Farah & Benji Marshall are the most talented duo in the league (now that the Storm won't be playing Finals Football) and I've seen enough close wins by the Tigers to suggest their forward pack has finally stepped up and realised - they hold the key to giving Farah & Marshall a chance to win the Tigers a 2nd premiership in 6 seasons.
Predicted Regular Season Finish:
Wests Tigers Fan Russell Nicolson says:
As a Tigers fan I am relieved about finally making the Top 8 after the last few disappointing seasons. We have the attacking brilliance to beat anyone and we have shown this year that we can win the close ones. Marshall, Farah and Lui will need to keep firing in attack and defensively we need to work as a unit and tackle hard. I genuinely believe we can win the comp this year so bring on the finals!!

ROUND 23 v St.George-Illawarra Dragons @ WIN Jubilee Dragons Won 32-10
Great game for Monday Night Football. Dragons would all but secure the Minor Premiership with a win here. Manly could jump into Top 4 with a win but a loss could see them drop down to 8th. Tip: Dragons
ROUND 24 v Warriors @ Brookvale Sea Eagles won 19-16
If Manly are still on 26 points when they face the Warriors here at Brookvale - they might be in a position where a loss would put the Sea Eagles on the edge of the Top 8. Considering the Warriors might be on 28 points going into this game if they beat the Knights in Round 23 - Manly can not afford to let the Warriors get 4 points ahead by surrendering this game at Brookvale. Tip: Sea Eagles
ROUND 25 v Sydney Roosters @ SFS
The Sydney Roosters are now reeling after 3 straight defeats but meet a Manly side that is still one win from a guaranteed playoff spot. Given it is at the SFS - the Roosters get an advantage despite their recent form and Manly are missing a number of starters through injury. Tip: Roosters
ROUND 26 v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs @ Brookvale
Manly should be in the playoffs if they win one game from Rounds 23 to 25 but even then they might have to beat the Bulldogs at Brookvale to guarantee their spot. Canterbury playing their current game plan will pose no threat to the Sea Eagles - but if it opens up, Manly might be in a pickle in what will be Luke Patten's and possibly Brett Kimmorley's last game in the NRL. Tip: Sea Eagles
The NRL Tweet Says:
Injuries are cutting the Sea Eagles to pieces as September approaches. It was bad enough losing Brett Stewart in Round 1 but they now lose Shane Rodney on the eve of the Finals with Josh Perry & Ben Farrar no guarantees to return. Then there is the leg injury to Anthony Watmough - if they lose him too you can rule Manly out of the Premiership race. But they still have to get there but they should beat the Bulldogs in Round 26 to qualify. Des Hasler has relied on the same group for most of 2010 so finding replacements for injured players is not easy.
Predicted Regular Season Finish:
Manly-Warringah Fan Annelise Says:
Manly to win of course - even with all our injuries (esp David Williams and Brett Stewart) we've done better than I thought. but we must win the next 2 Rounds.

ROUND 23 v Parramatta Eels @ Suncorp Eels Won 30-14
This game could decide the Top 8 - and yes it's only Round 23. Parramatta need to win all four games to make it with their bad differential while a Brisbane loss here (without Darren Lockyer) all of a sudden puts their own Top 8 spot in jeopardy. Tip: Eels
ROUND 24 v Newcastle Knights @ EnergyAustralia Knights Won 44-18
With Darren Lockyer possibly still out with a rib injury and having been without him against Parramatta - the Broncos might be in a position where the Knights could draw level with them on 26 points if Newcastle win here. Lockyer has been the key ingredient for the Broncos this season as he rediscovered his fitness - but without him can Peter Wallace & Corey Norman do the job? Newcastle's season might be on life support if they lose the week before to the Warriors but if they win - they will be a tough proposition at home. Tip: Knights
ROUND 25 v Warriors @ Mt Smart
Brisbane lost in Rounds 23 & 24 to put themselves under enormous pressure entering this game. The Warriors need just one win from their last two to guarantee their playoff spot but Brisbane's differential has taken a beating in both losses - meaning that they really need to win this game to relieve the pressure. That being said the Broncos still have to play Canberra in Round 26 but if they beat the Warriors in Auckland, they put as much pressure on the Warriors as themselves going into Round 26 for Top 8 survival. Darren Lockyer is unlikely to return from injury for this game after failing to pull up well from his first training run. Tip: Warriors
ROUND 26 v Canberra Raiders @ Suncorp
Brisbane may yet need to win this game to guarantee their playoff spot and the visiting Raiders may put a spanner in the works if they have re-energised their attacking setup (which they did to a degree in wins over the Bulldogs & Dragons in Rounds 23 & 24). Brisbane will have Darren Lockyer back (rib damage or not - he'll play) but it is looking increasingly like the winner of this game will make the playoffs and the loser will miss out. Tip: Broncos
The NRL Tweet Says:
This was a team that looked like a real threat at the title a month or two ago... but Darren Lockyer's rib injury has just been a gigantic blow to their push. Not only for the Premiership but if he can't play in Round 26 against Canberra - the Broncos may miss the playoffs for the first time since 1991! Still have a host of quality players but as the Broncos showed early in the season - unless Lockyer is fit and firing they are just another team. Thing is if they beat the Raiders without Lockyer - they'll still make the Finals.
Predicted Regular Season Finish:
Brisbane Fan Michael McLucas says:
There's still hope for Broncos if they win next 2 games and Lockyer gets fit. Could finish as high as 6th after 26 rounds.

ROUND 23 v Newcastle Knights @ Mt Smart Warriors Won 22-10
Not only does a Warriors win here put them on the verge of securing a playoff spot - but by beating the Knights the Warriors would rub out the chances of one of their competitors. Knights simply have to win this, as the Warriors are a team with a tough draw that could drop out of the Top 8 - and open a spot up for Newcastle. Tip: Warriors
ROUND 24 v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles @ Brookvale Sea Eagles won 19-16
If Manly are still on 26 points when they face the Warriors here at Brookvale - they might be in a position where a loss would put the Sea Eagles on the edge of the Top 8. Considering the Warriors might be on 28 points going into this game if they beat the Knights in Round 23 - Manly can not afford to let the Warriors get 4 points ahead by surrendering this game at Brookvale. Tip: Sea Eagles
ROUND 25 v Brisbane Broncos @ Mt Smart
Brisbane lost in Rounds 23 & 24 to put themselves under enormous pressure entering this game. The Warriors need just one win from their last two to guarantee their playoff spot but Brisbane's differential has taken a beating in both losses - meaning that they really need to win this game to relieve the pressure. That being said the Broncos still have to play Canberra in Round 26 but if they beat the Warriors in Auckland, they put as much pressure on the Warriors as themselves going into Round 26 for Top 8 survival. Darren Lockyer is unlikely to return from injury for this game after failing to pull up well from his first training run. Tip: Warriors
ROUND 26 v Parramatta Eels @ Parramatta
If the Warriors stumble and win just one game from the previous three entering this Round 26 clash - they might have to beat Parramatta in order to stay in the Top 8. Parramatta needed to be on a 3 match winning streak to be a realistic shot at forcing their way into the Top 8 but even two wins from three might give them a glimmer of hope if they beat the Warriors here. It is likely that the winner of this game would relegate the loser to also-ran status in 2010. Tip: Eels
The NRL Tweet Says:
If they get Jerome Ropati and Micheal Luck back from injury for Round 26 (or the Finals if they qualify) the Warriors are a real smokey for the title. Well they would be if every game was played in Auckland where their style is extremely hard to beat in the wet conditions. If they beat the Broncos this Friday they'll make the Finals but lose and they will have to beat the Eels in Parramatta to make sure of it. Lose both and it will come down to differential - and at +7 the Warriors aren't looking too flash if some chasing teams pick up two wins. Make the playoffs and this team just has a feel about them that says they could reach a Preliminary Final - but I'm not sure they can go much further than that.
Predicted Regular Season Finish:
Warriors Fan Darvin Boyd Says:
As a Warriors fan I reckon they'll make the top eight after this weekend!

ROUND 23 v Melbourne Storm @ AAMI Storm Won 18-16
South Sydney will get some troops back here (Sam Burgess & Michael Crocker) but they have lost two key men in John Sutton & Ben Lowe for the season. Melbourne have nothing to play for on the road but have two home games on the trot here where they have played well. South's don't have to win this but considering it is against an non-contending team who might rest a star or three - they really should make it a priority even down on troops. Tip: Storm
ROUND 24 v Penrith Panthers @ CUA Panthers Won 54-18
If Souths don't beat Melbourne they will have no choice but to knock off the Panthers at CUA to keep the pressure on the current Top 8. Dave Taylor may be available for this game which would be a huge boost but Penrith will still likely be in the race for the Minor Premiership so they will have plenty to play for themselves. Tip: Panthers
ROUND 25 v Parramatta Eels @ ANZ
Winner of this clash between the Rabbitohs and Eels will keep their season alive at ANZ... stick a fork in the loser - because they are done for 2010. Tip: Eels
ROUND 26 v St.George-Illawarra Dragons @ WIN Jubilee
The Dragons should be presented with the JJ Giltinan Shield as Minor Premiers in front of their home crowd but it could be after a defeat if the Rabbitohs still have something to play for entering the contest. Tip: Dragons
The NRL Tweet Says:
South Sydney will probably miss the Finals but considering their injury list in the back end of the year - finishing within a win or two of the Top 8 is quite an effort. Face the Eels & Dragons to end the season and have to win both but given their differential is still good at +23 - they could pip almost any other side on 28 points if they make it there. Sam Burgess may not play Finals Football in his debut season but it isn't from a lack of effort on his part - he has been sensational. Their chances in the final two games may well rest on the form of Chris Sandow... not 100% sure he's capable of winning two games by himself though.
Predicted Regular Season Finish:
South Sydney Fan Glen Anderson Says:
With Dave Taylor back for Souths, we have a half a chance of beating Parramatta. But I'm unsure if we can topple the Dragons the following week to make the Top 8. 

ROUND 23 v Warriors @ Mt Smart Warriors Won 22-10
Not only does a Warriors win here put them on the verge of securing a playoff spot - but by beating the Knights the Warriors would rub out the chances of one of their competitors. Knights simply have to win this, as the Warriors are a team with a tough draw that could drop out of the Top 8 - and open a spot up for Newcastle. Tip: Warriors
ROUND 24 v Brisbane Broncos @ EnergyAustralia Knights Won 44-18
With Darren Lockyer possibly still out with a rib injury and having been without him against Parramatta - the Broncos might be in a position where the Knights could draw level with them on 26 points if Newcastle win here. Lockyer has been the key ingredient for the Broncos this season as he rediscovered his fitness - but without him can Peter Wallace & Corey Norman do the job? Newcastle's season might be on life support if they lose the week before to the Warriors but if they win - they will be a tough proposition at home. Tip: Knights
ROUND 25 v St.George-Illawarra Dragons @ EnergyAustralia
Newcastle are still fighting for their lives and playing at against the Dragons makes them a threat to the likely Minor Premiers. After losing to Canberra in Round 24 - the Dragons need to win either this game or the next to seal the Minor Premiership, while the Knights have no leeway - they MUST WIN and help their differential as much as possible. Tip: Dragons
ROUND 26 v Melbourne Storm @ AAMI
Melbourne in Melbourne in Round 26... not an ideal matchup for the Knights who by some miracle may be alive in the Top 8 race entering the last week of the season. Newcastle will have to have won two of their previous three to be alive but either way - Melbourne's stars will all turn out in their farewell game as a 'team' and they'll be hard to beat in front of what should be their biggest crowd at AAMI Park for 2010. Tip: Storm
The NRL Tweet Says:
Produced a stunning display to beat the Broncos last weekend but performances like these have been few and far between in 2010. While the shift of Kurt Gidley to halfback is viewed as a success - he plays better at fullback and with youngster Beau Henry joining in 2011 - the Knights will be better served with their skipper in the #1. That being said let's not look too far ahead - if they find a way to beat the Dragons & Storm in the last two rounds the Knights will be a chance at the Finals. But realistically even if they sneak in - I can't see them getting past the first week... just like last year.
Predicted Regular Season Finish:
Newcastle Fan Ashley Clinch Says:
Love my Knights but realistically I can't see them getting into the Top 8. We haven't been consistent enough this year even though Gidley & Mullen going great guns now!


ROUND 23 v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs @ ANZ Raiders Won 28-14
Although Canberra beat Penrith to end Round 22 - the Raiders are long long odds to make the Finals. As a result someone needs to tell David Furner his side needs to look towards adopting a new attacking structure for 2011 in this one... funny thing is - his Canterbury counterpart Kevin Moore might be well served re-adopting the Bulldogs 2009 model as well. Tip: Bulldogs
ROUND 24 v St.George-Illawarra Dragons @ Canberra Raiders Won 32-16
St.George-Illawarra can't buy a win against Canberra but they should finish the Raiders season off mathematically with a win in Canberra. If there was a game on the schedule that the Dragons could use to revive their attack - this would be it as the Raiders are not a great defensive team. Tip: Dragons
ROUND 25 v North Queensland Cowboys @ Canberra
Canberra ARE in playoff contention after beating the Bulldogs & Dragons so Round 25 clash with the Cowboys is massive for the Raiders. Canberra lose this and it will be their worst loss since the 2003 Elimination Final against the Warriors when Jason Bulgarelli dropped their season over the line. Canberra's playoff fate is in their hands now - losing here is unacceptable. Tip: Raiders
ROUND 26 v Brisbane Broncos @ Suncorp
Brisbane may yet need to win this game to guarantee their playoff spot and the visiting Raiders may put a spanner in the works if they have re-energised their attacking setup (which they did to a degree in wins over the Bulldogs & Dragons in Rounds 23 & 24). Brisbane will have Darren Lockyer back (rib damage or not - he'll play) but it is looking increasingly like the winner of this game will make the playoffs and the loser will miss out. Tip: Broncos
The NRL Tweet Says:
Give Canberra credit - they looked gone after a month of horrendous football when they went 0-4 in games that they should have won (Rounds 14-17) - yet because this comp lacks the quality to eliminate a team who have a bad stretch - they have won 6 of 7 since to be back in the mix. In fact if they beat the Cowboys & Broncos they will play Finals Football - for a team that still has major issues scoring points when inside the opposition 20m zone - this is nothing short of incredible.
They'll be everyone's 2nd team if they make the Finals - so they could just make a brief run in September... if they don't stuff it up before then.
Predicted Regular Season Finish:
Canberra Fan Mitch Elphick Says:
I think the Raiders will just make the Top 8 and if they play the Dragons I think they will beat them again.

ROUND 23 v Brisbane Broncos @ Suncorp Eels Won 30-14
This game could decide the Top 8 - and yes it's only Round 23. Parramatta need to win all four games to make it with their bad differential while a Brisbane loss here (without Darren Lockyer) all of a sudden puts their own Top 8 spot in jeopardy. Tip: Eels
ROUND 24 v Wests Tigers @ Parramatta Tigers Won 20-18
This game may already be a sell-out such is the anticipation of Jarryd Hayne v Benji Marshall but unless Parramatta beat Brisbane the week before - the Eels will not only need to win this game but win it by about 40 points. Highly doubtful and the Tigers could be all of a sudden on the playoff ropes if they lose to the Panthers in Round 23 and then here against the Eels. Crunch game. Tip: Tigers
ROUND 25 v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ ANZ
Winner of this clash between the Rabbitohs and Eels will keep their season alive at ANZ... stick a fork in the loser - because they are done for 2010. Tip: Eels
ROUND 26 v Warriors @ Parramatta
If the Warriors stumble and win just one game from the previous three entering this Round 26 clash - they might have to beat Parramatta in order to stay in the Top 8. Parramatta needed to be on a 3 match winning streak to be a realistic shot at forcing their way into the Top 8 but even two wins from three might give them a glimmer of hope if they beat the Warriors here. It is likely that the winner of this game would relegate the loser to also-ran status in 2010. Tip: Eels
The NRL Tweet Says:
Parramatta are still a chance at the Top 8 but Luke Burt's missed penalty goal against the Wests Tigers may have been the final nail in the coffin. Have to beat the Rabbitohs & Warriors by big margins to get within a chance of making it... that's not going to be easy, particularly given both sides will be fighting for their playoff lives in each game. Will look back at the loss to the Titans in Round 21 as the moment their momentum died - leading 12-0 at halftime only to lose 34-12 and waste another golden spurt of from the Hayne Train.
Predicted Regular Season Finish:

Parramatta Fan Mick Radojkovic says:
As a massive Parra fan that has once again been disillusioned by my team's performance this season, I am torn. In one hand, I think that the Eels have been plagued with off-season issues for so long that until we sort them out we won't be able to really be the force we should be. Missing out on the finals this year might actually give our team and management the kick up the butt that we need to sort everything out. On the other hand I think our team has a culture of playing harder when they need to. We often lose to the 'easy' teams and beat the hard ones because that's when we turn up to play. Whether this is complacency, laziness, a bad mental attitude or just coincidence, I don't know.
But I do know that with our playoff position being so precarious and chances so minute at the moment we will be playing our guts out against the Rabbitohs and Warriors to give Captain Cayless as good a sendoff as we can.
Parramatta Fan Daniel Valentine says:
A finals series without the brilliance of Jarryd Hayne will only make me feel more empty after losing to cheats last year...
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So that's the Last Four Rounds of the 2010 NRL Premiership Regular Season broken down... what does our Final Regular Season Ladder look like on August 24?
Note: All Remaining Games were given default 24-18 score lines: thus any win was given +6 differential boost, any loss a -6.
While not every prediction we have made will be correct - this is just the way we think the Final Regular Season Ladder turns out.

It must be noted that Canberra have the opportunity to leap-frog the Brisbane Broncos if they score a huge differential bonus against the Cowboys in Round 25 & the Broncos lose by a large margin to the Warriors in the same Round. Although the 'predicted' differential at the end of the season is 47 points apart - should Canberra win by 30 over the Cowboys and the Broncos lose by 10-20 to the Warriors - Canberra may yet make the Finals even with a loss to Brisbane in Round 26. Parramatta would need two huge wins over the Rabbitohs & Warriors to get a sniff of forcing their way in on differential - unless the Warriors lose to Brisbane in Round 25.

To make the Predicted Ladder as fair as possible each game was processed under a 24-18 scoreline.

As a result of these predictions the First Week of the 2010 NRL Finals Series would feature the following Matchups.

FINALS WEEK ONE - 2010 NRL PREMIERSHIP
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So what do you think?

Are we way off with our Top 8?

Who forces their way into the Top 8 and who drops out?

And finally - once in the Finals - who wins it all in 2010?

Leave a reaction below or get us via The NRL Tweet.
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