DOG FIGHT: David Fifita andhis Broncos teammates can cement a place in the top eight when they take on the Bulldogs. Inset: Paul Gallen will be playing to keep his career alive when the Sharks take on the Tigers.
DOG FIGHT: David Fifita andhis Broncos teammates can cement a place in the top eight when they take on the Bulldogs. Inset: Paul Gallen will be playing to keep his career alive when the Sharks take on the Tigers. Bradley Kanaris

Parker: And then there were nine

AFTER a season with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster at Disneyland, it's no surprise that we head into the final round of the competition with the top eight still to be decided.

While there are still nine teams gunning for eight spots, there are still six teams aiming for a spot in the coveted top four. This year, more than any year previously, a home game in week of the finals will be crucial for the survival of the final eight sides.

While the statisticians crunch the numbers, let's have a look at the six games that will decided the top eight.

Rabbitohs v Roosters

There's no denying the Roosters are the team to beat in this competition.

They have strike weapons across the park and sit in second spot of the ladder having not played their best footy yet this season. The Roosters will have close to their best 17 this weekend with Latrell Mitchell and Cooper Cronk returning to the starting line-up, but they won't have it all their own way against the Rabbitohs.

The last time these two sides met the Rabbitohs emerged victorious and they did that by dominating the Roosters through the middle.

If the Burgess boys and Cam Murray can lay a platform for Damien Cook to play off the back of, they could spring an upset.

Tip: Roosters by 6

Eels v Sea Eagles

The Sea Eagles have been the surprise packets of the season and have played with an intensity and determination that has been unrivalled.

The loss of Tom Trbojevic is a big one for the Sea Eagles but they can't let it undo all the hard work they've put in this year. For the Eels it's all about discipline and ball control. The Eels have time and time again this year allowed their opponents back into the match off the back of a penalty or loose carry.

While a win won't save the Eels from an elimination final, it's imperative they put in a good performance.

Tip: Eels by 8

 

Raiders v Warriors

The Raiders have been superb since round one and showed last weekend they are ready to handle the big stage.

To come from behind, in front of a hostile away crowd, on an emotional afternoon for the Sharks, is a feat that shouldn't be underestimated.

If there's one place that teams won't want to travel to during the finals it's GIO Stadium, the home ground that the Raiders have turned into a fortress over the past three years.

A win for the Raiders seals their spot in the top four and gives them the opportunity to secure a home preliminary final with a win in week one of the playoffs.

Tip: Raiders by 14

 

Bulldogs v Broncos

The equation is easy for the Broncos: Win and secure your spot in the finals, lose and it's a nervous wait on Sunday afternoon.

If the competition was won on talent and talent alone, the Broncos would without doubt be in the top four. The Broncos may have lost their round 23 game against the Rabbitohs but it was a loss that showed that they are capable of knocking off the big guns.

The Bulldogs won't just roll over and let the Broncos take the two points on Saturday night but if the Broncos can dig in and get the win they'll go into the finals with their tails well and truly in the air.

Tip: Broncos by 2

 

Paul Gallen of the Sharks is tackled during the Round 14 NRL match between the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and the Wests Tigers at Southern Cross Group Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, June 10, 2018. (AAP Image/Craig Golding) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Paul Gallen of the Sharks is tackled during the Round 14 NRL match between the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and the Wests Tigers at Southern Cross Group Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, June 10, 2018. (AAP Image/Craig Golding) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY CRAIG GOLDING

Tigers v Sharks

What an incredible way to finish the season, a Sunday afternoon game at Leichardt Oval, a finals spot on the line and two NRL legends starring down the barrel of playing their last game.

For Robbie Farrah and Paul Gallen it will be curtains for one and for the other it will be one last tilt at premiership glory.

The Sharks will be smarting after their golden-point loss against the Raiders last week-end while the Tigers are flying after back-to-back wins.

These are the types of games that the Sharks love. Backs to the wall, odds against them and a hostile crowd baying for their blood.

This game really is a coin toss. The home crowd suggests a Tigers win but with Gallen, Andrew Fifita, Aaron Woods and Wade Graham leading the way for the Sharks I think they'll be too good.

Tip: Sharks by 8.

 

That leaves the top eight after 25 rounds as Storm, Roosters, Raiders, Rabbitohs, Sea Eagles, Eels, Broncos and Sharks. It's going to be a cracking final round.

 

Watch every game of Round 25, LIVE, ad-break free during play and in HD on FOX LEAGUE and streamed on Foxtel Now. Sign up today at Foxtel.com.au

News Corp Australia

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