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Bunker Review – Round 24

Close games were in short supply during NRL Round 24, but Top 8 picture remains as scrambled as ever. 

Weekend blowout

Round 24 was in anomaly in several ways. All eight favourites won for the first time in season 2023, while the smallest winning margin was eight points – in the Warriors’ ugly 30-22 win over Wests Tigers in Hamilton – and the only other two favourites who failed to cover were Penrith and South Sydney, who lurched to scrappy 12-point wins over Manly and St George Illawarra, respectively.

A season-high four matches were decided by 30-plus margins – after no team so much as scored more than 30 points in Round 23 – as finals hopefuls’ for-and-against received crucial boosts and blows.

Raiders and Rabbitohs limping towards September

Canberra and South Sydney can steaming down the home straight in late-2022 to secure the last two finals spot, using that momentum to overachieve in the playoffs: the Raiders upset the Storm in the qualifying final before exiting in week two, while the Rabbitohs sent Sydney Roosters and Cronulla packing prior to a prelim loss to Penrith.

In contrast, both clubs are stumbling big time and – despite both being well-favoured to make the Top 8 (Souths $1.08, Canberra $1.36)  could inexplicably miss the playoffs.

Souths’ bumbling 26-14 defeat of St George Illawarra in Cairns on Saturday, just their fourth in 11 games, was as unimpressive as wins come. If they fall to in-form Newcastle – who are on a four-match winning streak – in Round 25, the last-placed Rabbitohs may face a do-or-die last-round clash with the Roosters.

The Raiders have a bit more leeway two points further ahead in sixth, but a devastating 48-2 loss in Melbourne was their third in four games and puts them under immense pressure in this Sunday’s home assignment against the Bulldogs. A shocking for-and-against means Ricky Stuart’s side will likely need to win one of their other two games against the Broncos and Sharks to confirm their place in the finals.

But on current form, both sides will be merely making up the numbers in September.

Roosters inch closer as Eels stare into the abyss

Sydney Roosters remain a $7.50 outsider to make the Top 8, but they’re nevertheless still alive in the race after finding a bit more of their mojo again in a Drew Hutchison-led 30-14 defeat of the Dolphins.

With three wins in four games, the Roosters have momentum for the first time since March and could squeak in if they win their last three games.

The Tricolours moved to 26 points alongside 10th-placed Parramatta, whose trip to Brisbane could not have gone worse.

Destroyed 54-10 by the Broncos at The Gabba, the Eels also lost Mitch Moses to a season-ending injury.

As fortune would have it, the teams face off against one another in a do-or-die showdown on Friday – with the Roosters opening as $1.65 favourites. The Eels will be boosted by the return of Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Maika Sivo from suspension…but can they overcome the absence of their No.7?

Last year’s grand finalists have drifted to $9.50 to qualify for the playoffs.

Statement game of NRL Round 24

Second-placed Brisbane are getting better by the week and will go into the bye on the back of a 54-10 destruction of Parramatta on Friday night.

It was the Reece Walsh Show once again in a electrifying attacking performance, more than making up for the odd misstep with a slew of highlight-reel-worthy moments.

But there were impressive performances all over The Gabba for the Broncos: Ezra Mam scored a try and laid one on, Billy Walters bagged a double, stand-in winger Deine Mariner scored two tries on top of three line-breaks and two try assists, Kurt Capewell scored a try and set up two, and Payne Haas put aside contract speculation with a powerhouse 191-metre effort.

Coming into $3.60 for the title, the Broncos boast the best attack and second-best defence in the league. They are now unequivocally the greatest threat to Penrith’s three-peat bid.

Top three backed in

The Panthers, Broncos and Storm shortened further in the top three positions after Round 24. The only other teams whose prices dropped were the Sharks and Knights, with all other teams easing out in the premiership market to some degree – and the Sea Eagles, Dolphins and Titans have been written off altogether.


Penrith Panthers$1.90$2.05
Brisbane Broncos$3.60$4.00
Melbourne Storm$7.00$8.00
New Zealand Warriors$11$9.50
South Sydney Rabbitohs$15$11
North Queensland Cowboys$19$18
Cronulla Sharks$34$41
Newcastle Knights$41$51
Canberra Raiders$126$61
Sydney Roosters$151$91
Parramatta Eels$251$151
Manly Sea EaglesN/A$501
The DolphinsN/A$501
Gold Coast TitansN/A$501
Canterbury BulldogsN/AN/A
St George Illawarra DragonsN/AN/A
Wests TigersN/AN/A


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