There are still four rounds to go in the
NRL premiership but the Melbourne Storm and the Canterbury Bulldogs have the
top two places all sewn up – and really do look the standout teams when it
comes to grand final night next month.

The Storm have now won 17 of their 20
matches – the last 10 straight. In the salary cap era that is an extraordinary
achievement. The Bulldogs have won five straight and 14 out of 20 played this
year. With a six point lead over the Bulldogs, the Storm would need to lose all
four remaining games to give up the minor premiership, and that won’t happen.

On the premiership table, it is rather
crammed when you get beyond the top two sides. Third place is shared by the
Broncos, Knights, Sea Eagles and Dragons on 26 – but there is not much doubt in
my mind that the Broncos and the Dragons are there on sufferance.

The Raiders and the Eels are on 24 – but I
won’t be surprised if they leapfrog the Broncos and Dragons in the next couple
of weeks. The Cowboys, Sharks and the Panthers have dropped out of the top
eight and look like staying there.

The Cowboys were just plain dreadful against
the Bulldogs. The reigning premiers, the Tigers, won’t even make the
semi-finals and after their 46 to four loss to the Storm don’t deserve
to.

The contest for places three to eight has plenty of interest left in it. My tip for the top eight apart
from the Storm and the Bulldogs is – Eels, Knights, Raiders, Sea Eagles,
Dragons and Broncos. If, as I suspect, the Dragons and the Broncos stagger into
seventh and eight place, they will be demolished in round one of the semi-finals by the Storm and the Bulldogs.

The team that will cause some heartache in
the coming weeks is the Rabbitohs. They just about ended the Panthers’ hopes of
making the finals yesterday – and they have something a few other clubs don’t
have – enthusiasm.

Given that the wooden spoon is theirs for
the keeping, and given all the drama surrounding the club this year, their
enthusiasm merits an honourable mention.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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