Rugby league at the moment is an interesting beast. On the one hand the teams that will make up the NRL top 8 are all but set in stone, with only Wests Tigers still having a realistic chance of breaking in. On the other, within the finalists positions there is plenty of room for movement, with only 2 wins separating top spot from 8th.
At the moment the top 3, the Storm, Dragons and Rabbitohs, are all on 28 points. The next two, the Roosters and Sharks, are a win behind on 26. The Panthers, Warriors and Broncos round out the NRL top 8 on 24, with the Tigers chasing on 20.
With only 6 games remaining the Tigers will need to win all 4 games remaining against teams ranked below them, as well as at least one of the Dragons or Rabbitohs. They will also need one of Brisbane or New Zealand to drop a few games by a sizeable margin (they are unlikely to catch the Panthers even if they make up the 2 game difference, as Penrith have a 97 lead on points differential).
The Dragons have a relatively soft final draw, and are a good chance to reclaim top spot if they can find some form. The Storm are currently in first place thanks to points differential, but are really only there due to consistency. On their day most of the other top teams would be more than capable of knocking Melbourne off their perch.
Still, the consistency from Melbourne could easily be enough to keep them in the pointy end of the NRL top 8. Their main threats seem to be the Sharks, Roosters and Rabbitohs, all of whom have had great periods this season. Souths had a 9 game winning run in the lead up to their loss to the Tigers last weekend, while the Sharks and Roosters are finding some scary form at the right time of year – particularly the Roosters, with Cooper Cronk learning the systems better and James Tedesco coming red hot out of Origin.
If the Panthers can recover from their injuries, they could also cause some damage in the finals. The competition this year looks more open than ever, and any team in the NRL top 8 will fancy their chances of a premiership.