Well as the season end draws near and finals footy is already on the minds and tongues of most, I give you JBs top 8 predictions and finals fairytales. The NRL has a ladder predictor and having gone through a few scenarios and taking into account occasional shocks I can't go past a top 8 that looks like this:
They really don't have to do that much to secure minor premiership. Their path to the finals sees them play Storm, Broncos and Eels at home and Panthers, Raiders and Rabbitohs on the road. All in all they have their arguably tougher games at home and apart from the Storm game at home and the Panthers on the road, the Dragons have all but captured the top spot. Even if they were to drop two out of thier last 6 the 4 point start they already have on the Bulldogs would be enough.
A team that deserves the position given the football they have played all year, hat off to super coach . Remaining home games against the Raiders, Roosters and Warriors with away games to Rabbitohs, Cowboys and Tigers will see the Dogs come up against several teams who will be playing with everything they have to make the 8. In particular the away game to Cowboys will basically determine the chances of the Cowboys and second spot for the Dogs. I'm going to say the Dogs can do it up at Dairy Farmers with the Cowboys bumped out of top 8 - big game!
Away to the Dragons, Knights and the Warriors and home to the Roosters, Sea Eagles and Cowboys sees the storm with plenty of work to do if they want to secure a top 4 finish. Probably one of the harder runs to pick but going to go out and say that they will go down to the Dragons but be too good for the Cowboys, Knights and Sea Eagles, Roosters and Warriors. A loss to the Cowboys will see the Cowboys scrape into the top 8 but if they can't hold it against the Knights and Sea Eagles then both the will leap frog them into a possible final 4. I'm betting that the very rehearsed playbook of the Storm will see them hold their nerve and hold out the hopefuls.
I like the look of this football team, big questions (as was the case last year) regarding depth but I think they have developed and matured into a full squad. Can't see them not making the top 8 but will have to work on it to get into the top 4. Away to Dragons, Warriors, Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles, with home games to Sharks and West Tigers. Pretty sure they will go down to the Dragons, Sea Eagles and even Warriors on the road. But even with a factored in loss to the Cowboys at home, the Titans will make 4th all theirs.
5. Sea Eagles
Personally, this is a team that I want to see hurt and left dwelling in the cellars for years to come. Away to the Tigers, Roosters and Storm with home games to the Rabbitohs, Sharks and Titans makes me think that they will fly into the top 8. Predictable wins over the Tigers, Rabbitohs, Roosters and Sharks. Two danger games against the Titans and Storm with my prediction the Eagles to split their luck going down to the Storm on the road and a win over the Tits at home.
Not in my 8 at the start of the year but all in all worthy holders of a spot in the 8. They face the Roosters, Storm, Cowboys and Panthers at home with the Eels and Raiders away. W's over the Panthers and Cowboys put down to the home advantage. Also putting down wins against the Roosters, Eels and Raiders. The loss to the Storm the only hiccup predicted for this team on the way to glory.
Need the wounded back and back pretty soon to be any chance but they do have talent to make it if they can play. Path to the finals includes away games to the Raiders, Dragons and Cowboys with home games to Sharks, Panthers and Raiders. Look I'm not going to say there isn't a degree of risk with this 8 and in particular this selection. I'm not sure the Broncs can win next week against the Raiders at home let alone the run they need to secure the top 8. I have them dropping next weeks game to the Raiders on the road, turning it around at home against the Sharks. A win at home against the Panthers will see them make 7th, a loss and they're doing it tough. No doubt they will go down to the Dragons, but a tough win over the Cowboys on the road and a home win over the Raiders will make the comeback complete for this team that is all but down and out at the moment.
I'm sure that the Professor will tell me all about the Panthers chances and that the 8th spot is the worst they will finish but I've done the math. The most likely alternate ending to this line up in my mind is the panthers at 7th and Cowboys and Broncs fighting for 8th. Panthers have a win against the Warriors at home, a loss to the Dragons at home, a loss to the Broncos away, a win against the Bunnies at home, a loss to the Eels away and another loss to the Knights away. Plenty of games that the Panthers could win but I like it the way I have called it.
Points difference to determine final standings as usual but pretty confident on the line up as you see them here. The finals as I see it unfolding is:
Titans (w) v Sea Eagles
Storm (w) v Knights
Bulldogs (w) v Broncos
Dragons (w) v Panthers
Titans (w) v Knights
Storm (w) v Sea Eagles
Bulldogs (w) v Storm
Dragons v Titans (w)
Bulldogs v Titans
To be honest the Dragons deserve to win the title but Titans on their day are one team that can un-do the dream and bring on more cries of serial chokers.
Well you heard it hear first Dogs v Titans final!