Lang on League: Race for the Finals is on

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As we get closer to the pointy end of the season, I thought it would be a good idea to look at the teams which I believe are certainties to make the Top 8 and those who have no chance of making the Finals.

Each team will be graded in the order they finished on the ladder after 16 rounds.

1. Storm – I honestly didn’t expect the Storm to be going as well as they are especially after they lost Cameron Munster for an extended period. They’ve been ruthless however and definitely the form team of the competition.
Rating: Certainty

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy. Photo: NRL Images.

2. Panthers – Penrith have been winning matches but not as convincingly as they were over the last four years. No Nathan Cleary for the majority of the season hasn’t helped but thankfully their systems are so good, that they’re still well in contention for a Top 4 finish despite his absence.
Rating: Certainty

3. Sharks – Have definitely got the ‘Hippy Hippy Shakes’ of late after a great start but still have the players and coach to bounce back and finish strong.
Rating: Certainty

4. Roosters – They keep winning matches and have scored the most points of any team in the comp. Starting to click at the right time too.
Rating: Certainty

5. Dolphins – The real surprise packets of the year. I for one, didn’t have them in my Top 8 at the start of the season. Wayne’s boys are playing inspired football.
Rating: Certainty

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett. Photo: NRL Images.

6. Bulldogs – The Dogs have improved out of sight and their defence has been hard to crack at times. However, they need to keep this sort of form up for 27 rounds. Can they?
Rating: Maybe

7. Broncos – Not playing with anywhere near the confidence they were at the start of the year. Losing Adam Reynolds has really hurt them and they seem a little lost without
Rating: Maybe

8. Cowboys – Up and down like a yo-yo, the Cowboys really need to find some consistency if they’re to bounce back from last year’s disappointment and make the Top 8.
Rating: Maybe

Cowboys coach Todd Payten. Photo: Megan Dunn.

I’m also going to put the Dragons, Sea Eagles and Warriors in the ‘maybe’ category. On their day these teams can be world-beaters, but they need to have more of these types of days if they want to play Finals football.

In the ‘rough chance’ category I have Canberra and the Knights. I never thought these two teams would struggle so much this year after making the Top 8 last season.

The problem this year is both teams have been very inconsistent, when they’re good, they’re great but when they’re bad, they’re downright awful.

Finally, in the ‘no chance’ category regrettably I have the following teams: Rabbitohs, Titans, Tigers and Eels.

Souths star Latrell Mitchell. Photo: NRL Photos.

None of these teams played Finals football last year and won’t this season either. Despite some good form recently by three of the four sides, I’m afraid they’ve left their run a little too late.

However, all four sides can still make life uncomfortable for teams competing for the final eight.

To sum it up, there are still plenty of teams in contention for the Finals this year, so strap yourselves in, as it’s going to be one helluva finish to the season.

Peter Lang

Peter Lang is an experienced sports writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades. He first wrote Lang on League for the Weekender in the 1990s, and worked for Panthers on its famous Panthers Magazine for several years.

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