With seven rounds to go, the race for the
NRL premiership is looking more like a four way contest than at any time in
recent years.

The runaway leaders are the Melbourne Storm,
now with a six point (or three game) advantage over the Bulldogs, the Broncos
and the Dragons. The minor premiership is almost certainly the Storm’s for the
keeping.

But the Bulldogs and the Broncos in
particular are serious threats when it comes to the grand final – and the
Dragons cannot be ruled out.

On their recent form, the Bulldogs are
entitled to be premiership favourites. Their win over the Dragons on Friday
night was all class, driven by the best forwards pack in the game.

The Broncos have escaped their normal State
of Origin horror run and will be favoured in the Queensland derby
against the Cowboys in Townsville on Saturday night.

After leading the comp at the start of the
season, the Cowboys are playing dreadful football. The Cowboys v Panthers game
on Saturday night was one of the worst I have seen in a long time, especially
the first half. Neither side looks to be a serious premiership contender.

The Sea Eagles, Sharks and the Knights have
the ability to trouble the competition leaders, but must be long shots for the
premiership.
The reigning premiers, the Tigers, will struggle to
make the top eight, thanks to a cruel “golden point” penalty kick loss to the
Raiders yesterday, but have not been playing well enough to be serious contenders
to defend the title.
The wooden spoon is the Rabbitohs.

Sadly, a couple of matches over the
weekend’s round that featured close contests were decided by controversial
decisions by referees and video referees. For as long as the game continues to
use the video referee to rule on the majority of tries the controversy will
remain.

The good thing about it is that the top
four teams are genuine grand final contenders – let’s just hope when it comes
to the first Sunday in October the grand final is not decided by controversial
calls by referees and video referees. We can only hope!

Peter Fray

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