NRL legend PAUL GALLEN will make regular appearances on Nine’s 100% FOOTY every Monday night throughout the NRL season. Alongside Phil Gould and James Bracey, they will engage in insightful debates on rugby league’s hottest topics. Be sure to tune in tonight at 10.50pm (AEST) following an action-packed round 21!
With only six rounds remaining in the NRL season, teams are running out of time to secure their spot in the top eight. Currently, Penrith, Brisbane, and the Warriors are performing well, while Melbourne and Canberra are strong contenders for the finals as well.
However, the Sharks, Cowboys, and Eels face challenging matches ahead and will need to put in extra effort to remain in the top eight and qualify for the post-season. Among the teams currently outside the top eight, South Sydney appears to have the best chance of making it to the finals.
Looking at the remaining schedule, the Rabbitohs have a relatively easier run compared to other teams. They will face the Tigers, Sharks, Dragons, Knights, and Roosters, along with having a bye week. On the other hand, the Eels have tough matches against the Storm, Broncos, and Panthers, all of which are formidable opponents in the late stages of the season.
To make matters worse for the Eels, they will have to play without three key players: Dylan Brown, who is stood down, and Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Maika Sivo, who are serving suspensions for a few weeks.
If the Eels fail to make it to the finals after reaching the grand final the previous year, they will face criticism. However, the club has experienced significant player turnover, and their bench strength this season is not as strong as before. They also had to deal with the Ryan Matterson situation at the start of the season, which affected the team’s performance.
On the other hand, South Sydney has the potential to win the premiership even if they finish outside the top four, given their inclusion in the finals and the resurgence of Latrell Mitchell. Mitchell’s X-factor could be crucial in high-pressure games, and if the Rabbitohs manage to win four consecutive matches, they have a shot at the title.
While it is historically challenging to win without finishing in the top four, no team would want to face South Sydney in September or October. Additionally, Newcastle and Manly are playing well and have an outside chance of sneaking into the finals, although they face an uphill battle due to their current standings.
Overall, I believe the final top eight will consist of the top nine teams currently on the ladder. However, Penrith remains the favorite for the premiership. Despite some slight regression, the Panthers are still a formidable team with exceptional defensive capabilities. Their defense has been outstanding, having conceded only 236 points, which is more than 100 points less than the next best defensive team.
Although the Panthers have faced the loss of key player Viliame Kikau, Scott Sorensen has successfully filled that void and is having a remarkable year. While the likes of Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai receive the spotlight, the Panthers’ lesser-known players consistently deliver on the field.
Of course, many surprises can still unfold in the remaining six weeks of the season. Stay updated with the latest breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports by subscribing to our newsletter!
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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.