With just one full round of the NRL Telstra Premiership ahead of us, the race for spots in the top eight has well and truly heated up.
Penrith have clinched the minor Premiership… but other than that, every other position in the finals is still capable of facing some changes with spots in the top four and top eight still undecided heading into the final round.
Best and worst case finishes
Penrith Panthers (1st, 42 points)
- Best case: 1st
- Worst case: 1st
- Round 25 game: v Cowboys (A), Saturday, 7.35pm.
Penrith have wrapped up another minor premiership, and were presented with the JJ Giltinan Shield by NRL CEO Andrew Abdo at the conclusion of their Round 24 match. Coach Ivan Cleary may choose to rest a handful of players in Round 25 as they travel north to face the Cowboys in Townsville.
Cronulla Sharks (2nd, 36 points)
- Best case: 2nd
- Worst case: 3rd
- Round 25 game: v Knights (A), Sunday, 2.00pm.
With a straightforward win over the Bulldogs and the Cowboys going down to the Rabbitohs, the Sharks are now in the box seat to secure a home final in week one of the finals. Simply, if Cronulla beat Newcastle in the final round they will finish second. The only way the Sharks can fall to third is if they lose to the Knights and the Cowboys beat the Panthers in their final game of the regular season.
North Queensland Cowboys (3rd, 34 points)
- Best case: 2nd
- Worst case: 5th
- Round 25 game: v Panthers (H), Saturday, 7.35pm.
To finish second, the Cowboys will need to beat the Panthers in Round 25 and hope that the Knights can upset the Sharks in their final game, with the two results needing a 15-point differential swing in the Cowboys’ favour. If Todd Payten’s side do beat the undermanned Panthers, then they will likely finish third — assuming the Sharks beat the Knights — or they could drop to fourth if they lose to Penrith and the Storm beat the Eels. While technically possible they could fall to fifth, it is highly unlikely given the drastic points differential they would need to overcome — meaning the Cowboys will likely finish either third or fourth.