The final round of the NRL season is here, and with four teams vying for the final three spots in the top eight and a further two clubs trying to break into the coveted top four, the stage is set for a brilliant closing weekend before the finals.
The action kicks off Thursday night in Townsville when the North Queensland Cowboys host the Brisbane Broncos. The seventh-place Cowboys are a $2.60 AUD outsider for the win they need to ensure they qualify for the finals for a seventh year in a row.
The Broncos ($1.50) are sitting in third place on the table, but they can move as high as second—meaning they host a qualifying final the following weekend—should they win and the Sydney Roosters lose to the Gold Coast Titans on Saturday.
That is highly unlikely, though, given that the Titans haven't won since Round 17 and have slid all the way down to 14th position in the process. The Roosters are $1.09, according to AustralianGambling.com.au, while the Titans are way out at $7.50.
Another club who can finish second on the ladder if results go their way is the Parramatta Eels, who are heavily favoured to beat the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Friday night at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney.
Parra are at $1.22 to win their ninth game from their last 10 starts against a Souths side that cannot wait for the season to end.
Another fascinating clash takes place in the northern beaches of Sydney on Saturday afternoon, when the Manly Sea Eagles ($1.77) host the Penrith Panthers ($2.05).
The hosts are in eighth place, so the pressure is on them to perform. But despite last weekend's shock loss to the St George Illawarra Dragons, the Panthers are the league's in-form team, having won their previous seven games in a row.
Penrith are sitting in sixth spot, but they can go up to fifth if the Cronulla Sharks are upset by the Newcastle Knights.
The reigning Premiers are $1.30 to win that crucial contest in the Hunter Valley on Sunday afternoon, with the Knights, who are in a battle with the Wests Tigers to avoid the wooden spoon, way out at $3.55.
The Tigers sit just one win ahead of the Knights but can ensure they escape winning the unwanted piece of kitchenware with a win over the New Zealand Warriors on Sunday night. That win is priced at $1.57, with the Kiwis out at $2.40.
Should Manly lose, then the ninth-place Dragons can into sneak into the eight with a win over the Canterbury Bulldogs on Sunday. St George have been an incredibly tough team to follow this season, having won two games in a row just twice.
The Melbourne Storm's last hit out before the finals comes at home on Saturday night against the Raiders, whose season ended two weeks ago when they were beaten in a nail-biter against the Panthers.
Melbourne's form has been red hot: They dismantled Souths 64-6 last week and are $1.33 to enter their seventh straight finals campaign with a win.