With one round to go in the NRL regular season the finals are yet to be locked in with the Raiders and Broncos to fight it out for the final spot in the top eight.
Meanwhile, the Panthers are the only team locked in to their ladder position and will finish the regular season in top spot.
However, the other six teams in the Sharks, Cowboys, Storm, Eels, Roosters and Rabbitohs need to win and hope other results go their way to finish as high on the ladder as possible.
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All-important home finals in week one of the finals series are at stake in a crucial final round of the regular season.
Foxsports.com.au looks at the remaining clashes to analyse where every team can finish.
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 1
Parramatta Eels vs Melbourne Storm at CommBank Stadium, 7.50pm AEDT
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 2
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Manly Sea Eagles at Accor Stadium, 6.00pm AEDT
Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs at AAMI Park Park, 7.55pm AEDT
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 3
Warriors vs Gold Coast Titans at Mt Smart Stadium, 3.00pm AEDT
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Brisbane Broncos at Nestrata Jubilee Stadium, 5.30pm AEDT
North Queensland Cowboys vs Penrith Panthers at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, 7.35pm AEDT
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 4
Newcastle Knights vs Cronulla Sharks at McDonald Jones Stadium, 2.00pm AEDT
Wests Tigers vs Canberra Raiders at Leichhardt Oval, 4.05pm AEDT
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PREDICTED LADDER AFTER ROUND 25
1. Panthers (42 points)
3. Sharks (38)
2. Cowboys (36)
4. Storm (34)
5. Roosters (32)
6. Eels (32)
7. Rabbitohs (30)
8. Raiders (30)
9. Broncos (30)
10. Dragons (24)
11. Sea Eagles (22)
12. Warriors (16)
13. Bulldogs (14)
14. Knights (14)
15. Titans (12)
16. Tigers (10)
PREDICTED FIRST WEEK OF FINALS
First qualifying: (1) Panthers vs (4) Storm
Second qualifying: (2) Sharks vs (3) Cowboys
First elimination: (5) Roosters vs (8) Raiders
Second elimination: (6) Eels vs (7) Rabbitohs
Finish 1st no matter what
Analysis: The Panthers are sitting six points clear having clinched the minor premiership with their win over the Rabbitohs in Round 22 and can run out a reserve grade side if they like against the Cowboys. Ivan Cleary will be mindful of striking the right balance between resting up some key players and wrapping them in cotton wool and playing enough starS so that the team has confidence, cohesion and momentum heading into the finals series. Given they could very well meet the Cowboys at some point in the finals series, a second win for the season against North Queensland would strike a telling psychological blow.
Minor Premiers: Done deal
Win: Finish 2nd
Lose: Finish 2nd if Cowboys lose, 3rd if Cowboys win
Analysis: The Sharks are odds on to finish second for the first time since 1999 with only the lowly Knights standing between them and their best finish in over two decades. Craig Fitzgibbon’s biggest issue is that he has a number of backline stars out injured and he will want to give as many as possible some game time to get their match fitness up before the finals start. On the other side he may want to wrap Nicho Hynes in cotton wool because the Sharks can’t win the premiership without their halfback, but they should beat the Knights in a canter.
Win: Finish 2nd if Sharks lose, 3rd if Sharks win
Lose: Finish 3rd if Storm lose, 4th if Storm win
Analysis: The Cowboys let a golden opportunity slip to finish top two and earn a home final in week one after losing to the Rabbitohs to see the Sharks overtake them heading into the final round. Given the Sharks are unlikely to lose to the Knights even if they rest some stars, the Cowboys will weigh up the importance of beating the Panthers in the final round, with keeping their stars fit and fresh for their first finals series since 2017. The Panthers may well rest a lot of their stars, so it could be the perfect opportunity to beat Penrith, which would give the Cowboys some confidence heading into September. If they lose, they could slip to fourth if the Storm win and will have to play Penrith again in the first week of the finals. The Cowboys would want to win because carrying two losses into the finals is not ideal for their confidence, despite their stellar year. The club will be hoping Tom Dearden is back on deck after their attack struggled against the Rabbitohs, with Scott Drinkwater moving to five-eighth.
Win: Finish 3rd if Cowboys lose OR if Cowboys win but they pass them on differential, 4th if Cowboys win and stay ahead on differential
Lose: Finish 5th
Analysis: The Storm let a golden chance to cement their top four spot slip in their 18-14 loss to the Roosters at home. Melbourne always seem to bounce back after a loss, but they come up against their bogey team in the Eels in a winner takes a top four spot clash. The Eels have had the Storm’s number in recent times, including a Round 3 loss at AAMI Park. Adding to Craig Bellamy’s dilemma is that he is battling a horror injury list and can’t afford to lose any more stars ahead of the finals. However, given the loser of this clash misses out on a second chance in the finals, Bellamy has little option but to play his full strength side in a bid to beat the Eels and seal a top four finish.
Win: Finish 4th
Lose: Finish 6th below Roosters/Rabbitohs winner
Analysis: The Jekyll and Hyde Eels are starting to string some wins together, but thrashings of the Broncos and Bulldogs won’t scare the Storm. However, the Eels dominance of Melbourne in recent years will worry Melbourne and another victory for Parramatta would be a huge psychological blow for Brad Arthur’s side against their fierce rivals ahead of the finals. The winner of this clash is in the top four, while the loser can be bundled out in the first week of the finals with a loss. However, the winner would likely play the Panthers in the first week of the finals, while the loser would have a home final against either the Raiders, Broncos or Rabbitohs. Given the top four gives the Eels a second chance though and a clash with their arch rivals the Panthers, who they have beaten twice this season, they will want to win at all costs in Round 25.
Win: Finish 5th if Eels lose, 6th if Eels win
Lose: Finish 7th
Analysis: The Roosters are the form team in the NRL on the back of seven straight wins and are a real chance to win the premiership from outside the top four. The Roosters play arch rivals South Sydney in front of a packed house at the opening of the new Allianz Stadium in a blockbuster clash. trent Robinson’s side need to win to earn a home final against potentially the eighth placed Raiders or Broncos and will slip to seventh and have to play an elimination final away against the Eels or Rabbitohs if they lose. Hurting their chances will be the likely loss of Lindsay Collins to suspension. The Roosters are quite banged up so Robinson could opt to rest a couple of players, but given the importance of the game to where they finish, that is unlikely. It all goes on the line as the finals start early for the Tricolours on Friday.
Win: Finish 5th if Eels lose, 6th if Eels win
Lose: Finish 7th
Analysis: The Rabbitohs’ top four hopes have sailed, but they can still grab a home elimination final with a win over the Roosters in Round 25. However, they could find themselves playing against the Roosters again in week one of the finals at the same venue even if they lose and the Eels win in Round 25. Still Souths have dominated the Roosters in recent games and will want to continue their stranglehold over their fiercest rivals heading into a potential meeting in the finals series. An elimination final against the Raiders or Broncos would be a much better proposition than facing the Eels or Roosters in a do or die game, so the Bunnies will be looking to win at all costs to try and cement fifth spot on the ladder.
Win: Finish 8th if Broncos lose OR if they don’t win by 44 points more than Raiders do
Lose: Miss finals if Broncos win, 8th if Broncos lose
Analysis: The Raiders have had a bumper second half of the year albeit aided by a soft run home, which continues against the wooden spooners the Tigers in Round 25. Given they are in eighth spot already, a big win over the Tigers would ensure they lock up the final spot in the eight. The Raiders have a better points differential than the Broncos by 43 points even though they are both on 28 competition points. However, if both the Raiders and Broncos win and Brisbane win by 44 more points than Canberra do, they will leapfrog them into the finals. The Raiders just need to win first and foremost and then hope the Broncos don’t pull off the impossible.
Win: Finish 8th if Raiders lose OR win by 44 points less than Broncos do, otherwise miss finals
Lose: Miss finals
Analysis: For a team that was in the top four after 19 rounds, the Broncos’ destiny is no longer in their hands and they have to hope the Raiders slip up against the worst team in the NRL in the Tigers. First thing is first for Kevin Walters’ side is to beat the Dragons and try put plenty of points on them to keep the pressure on the Raiders. Canberra play the last game of the regular season against the Tigers, so they have the advantage of knowing the mathematical equation if the Broncos beat the Dragons and improve their points differential to better than Canberra. It looks like too many ifs for the Broncos in a sad finish to their season, but there is still some hope however faint.