Dirty dozen to decide NRL finals fate - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Dirty dozen to decide NRL finals fate

By Steve Jancetic 06/08/2009 05:30:09 PM Comments (0)

They are the dirty dozen - the 12 games that will make or break this year's NRL top eight.

While 40 regular season games still remain before the finals kick-off, there are 12 involving sides sitting third through to Parramatta in 12th which will go a long way to deciding who will reach the playoffs.

Some games take on even greater significance, like the Wests Tigers-Parramatta showdown in round 24 or the final round meeting between Newcastle and Penrith, both of which could be elimination contests.

If the Tigers and Parramatta both make it through to round 26 with their finals candle still burning, then they will have to pass the tallest of obstacles to make it through - with games against top two sides the Bulldogs and St George Illawarra respectively.

But Tigers captain Robbie Farah won't be looking that far ahead.

Three straight years without finals action have left him more than a little wary heading into the run home despite Monday night's upset win over Manly.

Farah said the next two weeks against the two sides at the bottom of the ladder - the Sydney Roosters and Cronulla - would be just as vital as the final three games against Parramatta, Gold Coast and the Bulldogs.

"A loss this week and everyone will be talking about us missing the eight again," Farah said.

"If you're a little bit off your game the opposition's going to punish you and we just can't afford that at the moment.

"Four wins in a row, the confidence in the place is high.

"Probably six weeks ago we didn't believe we could win a game like we won (against Manly).

"You get confidence out of going down to Canberra and winning a game and turning up against the defending premiers ... but complacency is something that we can't afford at the moment."

It's the same for the sides higher up the ladder, with one of Manly, North Queensland, Penrith or Newcastle needing to drop out of the eight for any of the Tigers, Parramatta of Brisbane to sneak in.

All four of those sides would also have designs on the top four, which secures a home game in the first week of the finals.

St George Illawarra and the Bulldogs appear certain to at least finish top four if not top two, leaving Gold Coast and Melbourne to fight off the chasing pack for the last two home finals.

The Titans' next four games are against sides currently outside the top eight, meaning they should be able to hold off the pack, but any slip ups could see their final-round clash with Manly take on massive consequences.

The Storm don't have it so easy, their next three games all against sides in the top eight including a grand final rematch against the Sea Eagles in round 24.

If they can win at least two of those games, then a game at Olympic Park in the first week of the finals appears a formality.

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