So straight off the back of a wild Round 24, as the Melbourne Storm use their elbows like blunted kitchen knives, it’s time for the last round of the home & away season, a series of words that will be music to the ears of 7 clubs, and it was just shy of 4 years ago that the Roosters & Rabbitohs played the last game at the original Sydney Football Stadium in a cutthroat Preliminary Final:
And all those years later, the eternally bitter rivals go at it again in the first NRL game at the new Sydney Football Stadium, with the stakes being that the winner gets a home Elimination Final, and if the Eels lose to the Storm, the winner will finish 5th instead of 6th, denying us a Chooks-Rabbits knockout in Week 1.
Of course, while one stadium makes its NRL debut, we got the news on Wednesday night that Leichhardt Oval, the 8th Wonder of the World, will stop hosting NRL games after the 2023 season (Assuming the NSW Government doesn’t provide funding), which would mark the end of 89 years of First Grade rugby league at a ground iconic for it’s shitness, as demonstrated when the railing collapsed in that Shute Shield match last month.
Now, for the Top 8 ramifications in the final week:
Cronulla simply need to defeat a no-hope Newcastle to secure 2nd spot, which would be the Sharks’ first Top 2 finish in a Home & Away season since being Minor Premiers in 1999.
Up in Townsville, the Cowboys play a Panthers team with the minor premiership locked up, meaning Ivan Cleary has rested 12 players to get ready for a Qualifying Final, and a (likely) Cowboys win plants them in 3rd, although they would drop to 4th on Points Differential before the game, if the Storm win on Thursday.
In the Thursday Night Thriller to start the weekend, Parramatta vs Melbourne is a straight shootout for a Top 4 spot, with the winner highly likely to finish 4th and play Penrith in a Qualifying Final (If the Cowboys lose the Storm could end up 3rd), and we should remember the Eels & Storm are the only teams to defeat Penrith in 2022, while the loser will drop to 5th, although the Eels can drop to 6th.
As mentioned above, the winner of Easts vs Souths will finish either 5th or 6th, the loser will finish 7th, while an Eels win on Thursday would mean that unless Friday night ends in a blowout, the Chooks and Bunnies will have a rematch in a week’s time.
And last week, the Broncos’ Post-Origin implosion continued with a 53-6 hammering from the Eels at Suncorp on Thursday night, which resulted in their points differential cushion to the Raiders being vaporised into the red (-26), meaning all the Raiders had to do against Manly was win to jump into 8th and gain control of their destiny, which they did 48-6 to go from -25 on differential to +17, in a whopping 89-point swing their way…
Which means the Raiders simply have to win against the soon-to-be wooden spooners Wests Tigers at Leichhardt on Sunday to get 8th spot, while 24 hours earlier, the Broncos have to defeat the Dragons at Kogarah (Which is unlikely based on their recent performances) to even have a chance, and assuming the Broncos and Raiders both win, the Broncos would be the first team in the Top 8 era of First Grade to miss the Top 8 after winning 14 games in a season.
It’d be a cruel irony to end a much-improved season from Kevin Walters’ team.
On another note, good luck to all the players playing their last NRL game this weekend, whether they know it or not already, so without any further ado, here’s the Round 25 Random NRL Picks:
Round 24 Score: 7/8
Progressive Score After Round 24: 134/187 (71.6%), without Origin games 133/184
Round 25 Picks:
Now for the Major Random Pick, and the last two weeks have resulted in landslide victories for the Random Pick (Cronulla and Parramatta)…
So to end the year, for no reason at all we’re going for the Friday 6pm clash between Canterbury and Manly, because the Sea Eagles dialled it in for 2022 when the Rainbow Jersey business kicked off, so the Berries, one-time wooden spoon favourites, are going to end 2022 and warm up for 2023 by belting out one of the Top 100 songs recorded by The Beatles…
Forget about the Dogs of War, these guys could be the Bulldogs’ mascot this week: