How do this weekend’s games affect the NRL finals?

How do this weekend’s games affect the NRL finals?
Wayne Bennett is preparing for yet another finals series. Photo: John, Wikimedia Commons

Next week the NRL finals will start, and the top 8 were already set before the start of the round. That doesn’t mean, however, that the final games of the regular season are meaningless. The finalists are separated by a total of 4 points, meaning that games this weekend are likely to play a huge role in deciding who gets home finals next week, with for and against also being vital.

The Rabbitoh’s thrashing of West Tigers last night means that Souths are currently positioned in second place, and although it is a mathematical possibility they are unlikely to fall below third. The Roosters will take back second place if they beat the Eels tomorrow, so they will most likely host Souths in the first round of finals football.

The Storm are almost certain to finish in first place due to their for and against, however a loss to the Panthers tonight would see the Roosters try and run up a cricket score chasing them. The Panthers, in that scenario, could challenge for a top four spot.

The Warriors also have everything to play for tonight against the Raiders, as a good win could see them realistically jump as high as fifth (mathematically they could even come third).

The Knights-Dragons clash tomorrow will see a woeful St George try and regain some form heading into the NRL finals, and again a win may well give them a home match in week 1. The second Saturday game, between the Cowboys and Titans, is meaningless except for being Johnathan Thurston’s last rugby league game.

The Eels and Roosters match has already been discussed regarding what it means for Easts, but Parramatta will also be desperate, hoping for a miracle to allow them to avoid the wooden spoon. The Roosters, while they seem safe in the top four, could end up sacrificing a home game next week and have to travel to Melbourne if they lose.

The Sunday matches are also full of drama. By the time they take the field against the Bulldogs (who have nothing to play for) they will know if they need to win to make the top four, and may have the chance to chase a home final and avoid a trip to Melbourne. They could lose and still come fourth, but if the Bulldogs get up then the Broncos will chase a big score against the Sea Eagles to try and sneak into the top 4.

The Brisbane and Manly game could have a great deal of significance for the NRL finals, or it could have none at all – we won’t know which until 4 pm on Sunday. If other results go their way, the Broncos could look to dominate a listless Manly and climb the rankings. The Sea Eagles, meanwhile, will know if they are in danger of collecting the clubs first ever wooden spoon.

The remaining matches over the weekend will be full of drama, and there are still any number of potential shapes for the NRL finals in 2018.