It’s the final week of the 2021 NRL regular season, the minor premiership is still up for grabs, and so too is eighth place!
The crucial Round 25 matches begin on Thursday evening, when the Raiders attempt to secure a finals berth when they meet the Roosters. Currently in eighth place, the Sharks have the unenviable task of lining up opposite the Storm, who themselves are trying to finish in top spot.
Parra play the Panthers, the Broncos host the Knights and the Neds Titans take on the Warriors in other quality Round 25 fixtures.
The final round of the home and away season begins with arguably the most crucial match of the week, as the ninth-placed Raiders take on the Roosters.
The Raiders’ have ultimately been undone by key injuries and inconsistency in 2021, but they have been a vastly improved side since the Origin period.
They were unlucky not to beat the Sea Eagles a fortnight ago, but they kept their season alive with a tough Round 24 win over the Warriors.
The Roosters meanwhile are well and truly limping their way into the finals, and they were given a real touch-up by the Rabbitohs last week; a result which ultimately saw them slip to sixth on the ladder.
The desperate Raiders have opened favourites, but I personally cannot split them, so I am going to take the Roosters to cover a small line as outsiders.
Another crucial tie will see the eighth-placed Sharks take on the Melbourne side that is likely to be without several rested stars, but who are also still chasing the minor premiership.
The Sharks’ season can be compared reasonably consistently with the aforementioned Raiders and surprise, surprise, it has resulted in a virtually identical scenario in the final week of the regular season.
The key difference of course being their stronger for-and-against, and should both sides lose, the Sharks will almost certainly finish eighth.
The Storm had the opportunity to close out another minor premiership and make history last week, but their incredible winning streak was ended by the Eels, and they have been joined on 42 competition points by the Panthers.
I think that the Sharks will be desperate, but I also think that a Storm B side is the better bet.
Betting wouldn’t suggest as much, but I have a feeling the best contest of the weekend could very well materialise between the Eels and the Panthers on Friday night.
The Eels’ freefall down the ladder has seemingly ended, and they are chasing a third win in succession this week after downing the Cowboys, and far more impressively, the Storm.
While their opponent was without some key players, there was absolutely no knocking what Parramatta managed to achieve last week, and they are over the odds at their current $6.80 quote.
The Panthers look to be nearing a return to their brilliant best, and they’re timing their run of form to absolute perfection.
They were too good for Wests Tigers last week and they will probably win this match too, but I think that the bookies have been far too generous towards them, given the quality of their Round 25 opponents.
The Broncos’ season will end on Saturday afternoon, but the Knights can continue their fine run of form into the finals, and betting suggests that this will be another great contest.
They have obviously been terrible all year – you need only look at the ladder for that to ring true, but the Broncos have certainly continued to improve throughout the last month or so, and without getting ahead of themselves, I think that Broncos fans can be quietly confident in their future prospects.
A lovely win over the Warriors in Round 23 wasn’t built upon when they met the Sharks last Saturday, but it was certainly another competitive effort, and they were in the contest the entire way.
The Knights have now won seven of their last ten matches, and they’ve well and truly distanced themselves from the three sides chasing eighth spot in terms of their ability.
I think that they will win this match, and we’re getting a nice price for them too!
It looks like being the most one-sided match of the round, and perhaps understandably so.
The Cowboys have been just awful through the second half of the season, but they did snap a long run of ducks with an impressive win over the Dragons in Round 12.
Their season is done, but with a few key signings coming into the club ahead of their 2022 campaign, who knows what they can achieve next year.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Sea Eagles beat the last-placed Bulldogs in Round 24 and with that result, climbed into the top four.
There isn’t a bigger form turner in the entire NRL than a Des Hasler half-time spray, and that was well and truly on show last week, as it has been several times in 2021, as the Sea Eagles tend to be their own worst enemy.
Regardless, there’s a pretty obvious class difference here and the Sea Eagles should be winning.
The Rabbitohs and the Dragons reignite their historic rivalry on Saturday night, and I simply cannot understand why the Bunnies have opened as long as $1.42.
Sure, they’ll be forced to do it for the rest of the season without Latrell Mitchell, and that makes opponents like the Storm and the Panthers infinitely harder, but they’re playing the Dragons this week. The Dragons.
The Dragons have been terrible all year, they’ve been plagued by controversy and finally, their campaign will end.
Souths should be winning this with their eyes closed.
The Neds Gold Coast Titans will host the New Zealand Warriors in the home and away season’s penultimate fixture on Sunday afternoon.
The Titans remain a mathematic chance of playing finals footy in 2021, but given they require both the Sharks and the Raiders to lose, and themselves to put on a big score against the Warriors, it does shape as a pretty enormous task.
I’m confident that they can win this match, and the other two clubs might lose their matches, I think that their for and against is going to be the issue.
The Warriors have failed to deliver on some serious talent once again, and this will be their final match of 2021.
Without much to play for, I can’t imagine them winning.
Wests Tigers (proudly sponsored by Neds) can end their season with a win over the last-placed Canterbury Bulldogs.
A flurry of wins after the Origin period kept alive a small chance of playing finals, but the Tigers have had a reasonably tough run home this season, and they haven’t quite been able to get there.
Like the Broncos, I do believe that their fans have a lot to be excited about, and the development of some of their good young players will begin to convert into more success from 2022 onwards.
The Bulldogs have been bad all year, and while they have shown a few glimpses themselves in recent weeks, they are still a long way off most other clubs.