NRL legend Paul Gallen will join Nine’s 100% FOOTY every Monday night throughout the NRL season, engaging in lively debates about rugby league’s hottest topics alongside Phil Gould and James Bracey. Don’t miss tonight’s episode at 9.45pm (AEST) after an action-packed round 20!
The closing rounds of this NRL season are filled with excitement and uncertainty, and that’s what makes it so captivating. It’s been a while since the competition has been this wide open. While the Panthers, Broncos, and Warriors seem to have secured their spots in the top four, the remaining positions in the top eight are up for grabs. From the fourth-placed Storm to the 12th-placed Roosters, it’s impossible to predict how the top eight will ultimately pan out.
Last year, the competition was already decided after just 10 rounds. Penrith dominated the season and comfortably claimed the minor premiership. They even rested players in the final four weeks of the competition, as it was clear they had already sealed their fate.
However, this year is completely different. The stage is set for an exhilarating end to the season, with many teams fighting for their place in the finals. The final four rounds will feature matches between these competing teams, adding to the intensity.
Aside from the Panthers, Broncos, and Warriors, there are a couple of standout teams that have the potential to make a deep run into September if they can regain their full strength and overcome their recent injuries. The Cowboys, in particular, are a dangerous side, but their chances depend on the fitness of key players like Jeremiah Nanai. Similarly, the Rabbitohs can compete with the top teams when they have a full-strength lineup, but injuries have ravaged their forward pack, making it difficult to make a convincing case for them.
Although the Storm currently sit in fourth place, their recent performance against the Panthers was underwhelming. The absence of Jahrome Hughes and uncharacteristic errors from senior players like Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Christian Welch impacted their game. However, given their track record, it’s likely that they will come back stronger in the upcoming weeks.
As for my old team, the Cronulla Sharks, they have shown some signs of instability in recent weeks. However, their performance against the Rabbitohs was impressive, and I believe they still have the potential to shake things up in September if they can deliver their best football when it matters most.
South Sydney has been the center of attention lately, and rightfully so. Earlier in the season, they showcased their potential, with Latrell Mitchell being a standout player. While he may not have had his best game against the Sharks, his absence in the match against the Tigers demonstrated his importance to the team. It’s important to credit the Sharks for shutting down the Rabbitohs’ key players, Cody Walker and Latrell, as they had an off day. Additionally, the Rabbitohs have faced difficulties with injuries in their middle of the field, which has affected their gameplay.
When analyzing teams, it becomes evident that the performance of the middle players is crucial. The Penrith Panthers, for example, stand out not only because of their star players like To’o, Cleary, Luai, and Edwards, but also because of their strong middle players who maintain a solid defense. This allows their outside backs to confidently spread out wide. Similarly, teams like the Brisbane Broncos, with players like Payne Haas, Pat Carrigan, and Tom Flegler, have strong forwards that contribute to their success.
The battle for the top eight is still open, and the Rabbitohs need to find a way to finish strong. If they manage to secure a spot in the finals, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
Get ready for an exciting end to the season as we enter the last four rounds!
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Hasibur Rahaman is a passionate sports journalist. He covers everything from cricket to field hockey, delivering up-to-the-minute updates and in-depth analysis of sporting events, both within India and on the international stage.