Race to this year's NRL finals

Rabbitohs hard-man Sam Burgess. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Rabbitohs hard-man Sam Burgess. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
With four weeks to go until the 2019 NRL premiership finals, Michael Minty plays snakes and ladders with the movers and shakers on the NRL ladder to find out who is in and who is out of the race.

Sealed top-four berths

STORM

Current position: first, 36 points

Predicted finish: minor premiers

The perennial ladder leader's annual juggernaut just keeps on chugging and shows no sign of slowing. The run home should not cause too many issues, although it will be tested by the Raiders this week at home and possibly a slippery final round trip to Lottoland to face Manly. Should finish six points clear of the Chooks, so the minor premiership looks like the Storm's to lose.

The Roosters' Brett Morris. Photo: Getty Images
The Roosters' Brett Morris. Photo: Getty Images
ROOSTERS

Current position: second, 30 points

Predicted finish: second

A minor premiership appears unlikely this year but that will not worry the Bondi boys. They take on the Warriors this weekend in Sydney, so expect the unexpected.

Matches against the Rabbitohs and Panthers could test the side if the opposition turns up but will definitely fine-tune Trent Robinson's men towards a potential repeat of the 2018 match-up against Melbourne.

Top-four contenders

RAIDERS

Current position: third, 28 points

Predicted finish: third

While the Roosters and Storm are a lock-in for the top four and look the two on paper to be favourites for grand final day, the Raiders have shown they, too, could be considered premiership contenders.

We will know more in four weeks as the side comes up against three top eight sides and what could be a desperate Warriors side in round 25.

This weekend shapes as potentially the match of the season in Melbourne and the side's 2016 exit to the Storm in the preliminary final will still cut deep.

SEA EAGLES

Current position: fifth, 26 points

Predicted finish: fourth

Des Hasler has his old firm flying, or at least did before hitting some turbulence on a wet cold Auckland night last week. With some players looking flat after a couple of big weeks, rest assured the mad professor will have them back on track for the run home. As with other top four sides, there are no easy games but they should pick up three games, including against the Storm at home in round 25.

Josh Hodgson, of the Raiders. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Josh Hodgson, of the Raiders. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
RABBITOHS

Current position: fourth, 28 points

Predicted finish: fifth

The Rabbitohs started the year on fire, led by Cody Walker, who was scoring tries left, right and centre. However since he made his debut for the Blues and subsequently dropped after game one, it has been hard to get a gauge on the Bunnies. Three of the side's last four games are away from home, including trips to Brisbane and New Zealand, while tricky games against the rejuvenated Bulldogs and Roosters means Manly may knock them out of the top four.

The pretenders (5th- 8th)

Sea Eagles skipper Daly Cherry-Evans. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Sea Eagles skipper Daly Cherry-Evans. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
PARAMATTA EELS

Current position: sixth, 26 points

Predicted finish: sixth

The Eels have got a new stadium and they have made it their own, winning seven from eight games, catapulting them into finals calculations. They will be strengthened even more if or when Blake Ferguson returns to the wing. While a top four spot looks a bridge too far, they should finish on at least 30 points, sealing a potential week one western Sydney match-up against Penrith or a grudge match against Cronulla.

CRONULLA SHARKS

Current position: ninth, 20 points

Predicted finish: seventh

A new coach, a killer injury toll and reported unrest among players and positions have stifled any positive traction throughout the year. The side has the ability to turn up the heat and should be playing finals with what looks to be the easiest run-in. Home games against the Dragons, Warriors and Raiders before a date with the Tigers in round 25, which is likely to be pivotal for both teams.

PENRITH PANTHERS

Current position: seventh, 22 points

Predicted finish: eighth

The gap from sixth to the rest of the competition is widening but with two spots open, the Panthers, thanks to an eight-game winning streak, have momentum and are the front-runners to round out the top eight. There is still a big task ahead with away trips against the Raiders, Roosters, and Broncos. They will need to win at least one of those and clean up the Knights in round 25 at home.

Box of tissues for

Adam Blair, of the Warriors. Photo: Getty Images
Adam Blair, of the Warriors. Photo: Getty Images
TIGERS

Current position: 10th, 20 points

Predicted finish: ninth

The Tigers have perhaps shown more throughout the year than the Broncos. However, 10 does not go into eight.

Will most probably finish on 26 points in a creditable ninth position. However, their now eight-year drought without a finals appearance will be a bitter pill for fans who had hoped for a change in fortune.

BRONCOS

Current position: eighth, 21 points

Predicted finish: 10th

Despite looking promising on paper in pre-season, Brisbane will have to put this one down as a rebuilding one, even if it somehow sneaks into the playoffs. But hard to see the Broncos winning enough games going by last week's horrific winning performance against the equally awful Cowboys and they lack some leadership when it counts.

Also ran ...

WARRIORS

Current position: 11th, 19 points

Predicted finish: 13th

The golden-point draw against the Broncos could prove to be the undoing, should the Warriors exceed expectations during the run home. But it looks a bridge too far with matches against the Roosters, Sharks, Rabbitohs and Raiders. Have had the chances throughout the year and simply need to lift their game to take the officials out of the result.

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