We’re going into the final six rounds of the 2019 NRL season with eight teams fighting it out for three spots in the finals.

The NRL talked about the need for a Wildcard Round to eliminate ‘dead games’ towards the end of the season. With how the Top 8 is looking now, we might not know who is playing finals football until the last game of Round 25.

Right now, just six competition points separate 6th and 13th on the ladder leaving eight teams battling it out for three finals spots over the final six rounds of the season.

6th – Eels, 22 points
7th – Panthers, 20 points
8th – Broncos, 19 points
9th – Knights, 18 points
10th – Sharks, 18 points
11th – Tigers, 18 points
12th – Warriors, 17 points
13th – Cowboys, 16 points

The Top 8 had been all but locked in by this time last year. That’s far from the case this time around giving punters an opportunity to capitalise on a late-season run.

NRL Top 8 Odds

The Eels are the best of the bunch to remain in the Top 8 at $1.18. Given their favourable schedule to finish the season, they can’t be ruled out of the top four with their $8 price appealing to the optimists.

Despite their horror start to the year with time spent holding the wooden spoon, the Panthers are $1.75 to hold onto their place in the Top 8. It’s been an incredible turnaround and it looks as though the form might stick.

Plenty put a line through the Broncos earlier in the year, but like the Panthers, they’ve worked their way into the eight. Their appearance in the Top 8 has come on the back of wins over the Bulldogs and Titans. Obvious question marks remain. They’ll be answered this week, though. Brisbane’s current $1.80 for the Top 8 will drop if they can get past Melbourne as $2.70 and -4.5 underdogs.

Finally healthy and sending out perhaps their strongest team of the season in Round 20, the Sharks have another run towards September in them. They’ve disappointed over the last two months and fell terribly short of expectations. However, it’s opened up an opportunity for punters. Cronulla’s $2.25 to make up the one point between them and 8th screams value.

Speaking of disappointing, the Knights have come crashing back down to earth recently. Despite the misguided hopes of reaching the NRL’s top four, they’re out to $2.75 just to make the Top 8. Newcastle’s current spot on the ladder feels about right for this group.

The Tigers are still sniffing around the Top 8 too. Just two competition points outside, it’s their -66 points differential that has them way out at $4.25. It’s effectively another loss if they can’t reel it in and pull closer to 0 by the end of Round 25.

They’re undoubtedly smokies, but we can’t quite rule the Cowboys out to make the Top 8 at $15 just yet. Not at that price, anyway. With Jason Taumalolo the best forward in the game and Michael Morgan returning from injury, the Cowboys can still make a run.

The Verdict

First and foremost, lock the Eels in. They have the easiest run home of all 16 NRL clubs. Backing them in from here is risky because, well, they’re the Eels. A finals spot is being handed to them on a plate, though.

Given Parramatta’s $1.18 price, we will need to look elsewhere for value.

Hello, Cronulla.

Their list is too good not to roll the dice on from here. Wade Graham is healthy and will turn their left side attack on its head. Meanwhile, Shaun Johnson’s right side is the most potent in the NRL. Their run home is neither easy nor hard, but this list is better than 10th on the ladder. Taking the $2.25 to make up the points is the play.

And last but not least, the Broncos.

Sure, they’ve got a new coach who has had a rocky start to his career at Suncorp. But this club knows how to navigate the pointy end of the season. They’re coming good at the right time, play four of their last six at home, and play the Cowboys and lowly Bulldogs as their only games away. Their current $1.80 to finish inside the NRL’s Top 8 won’t hold if they get past the Storm this week.