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Best and worst final-round scenarios as Broncos need miracle to make playoffs

There’s only one round left in the race for the NRL finals and the ladder logjam in the bottom half of the eight means the playoff teams are all but certainly locked in, positioning is till up for grabs.

Brisbane’s second successive heavy defeat, coupled with Canberra’s 48-6 win over Manly, means the now ninth-placed Broncos need to overcome a 43-point differential if they both win in the final round or hope the Raiders are upset by the last-placed Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval in Sunday’s last match of the season.

The Broncos, who travel to Kogarah to take on St George Illawarra on Saturday night, could join Souths on 30 competition points if they win and the Bunnies lose to the Roosters but they are no chance of bridging a 166-point differential.

Premiers Penrith, who celebrated the minor premiership on Friday in beating the Warriors, are the only team locked into their position.

Jarome Luai (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Cronulla can seal second if they win in Newcastle on Sunday after they beat the Bulldogs in Round 24 and Cowboys lost to the Rabbitohs.

North Queensland could slip to fourth if they lose to Penrith on Saturday in Townsville and the Storm knock off Parramatta in what is effectively a battle for the last top-four berth.

Heading into Sunday’s meaningless Round 24 games, here’s how the run home looks for the finals contenders.

The run home for each team

1. Penrith (1st, 42 points, +336 differential) 

Run home: Rd 25 Cowboys (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 1st. They are the minor premiers and deservedly so.

Predicted finish: 1st. Locked in.

2. Cronulla (36pts, +187)

Run home: Rd 25 Knights (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 2-3. They will slip a spot if the Cowboys beat Penrith and they lose to the Knights.

Predicted finish: 2nd. All they have to do is beat the Knights.

3. North Queensland (34pts, +242)

Run home: Rd 25 Panthers (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 2-4. The Cowboys can leapfrog Cronulla but could lose third spot if the Storm win over Parra and they go down to Penrith.

Predicted finish: 3rd. With the minor premiership wrapped up, Penrith will probably rest a few stars in the final round, opening the door for the Cowboys to clinch second.

(Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

4. Melbourne (32pts, +255)

Run home: Rd 25 Eels (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 3-6.

Predicted finish: 4th. They are in slightly better form than Parramatta for Thursday night’s blockbuster whiech will decide who gets the final top-four berth. They could drop to sixth if they lose and the Roosters beat Souths. This will be their lowest regular-season placing since 2015 – that’s how successful the Storm machine has been in recent years.

5. Parramatta (32pts, +111)

Run home: Rd 25 Storm (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 4-6. If they win, they finish fourth. If they lose, the Roosters or Rabbitohs will take fifth from them.

Predicted finish: 6th. They are likely to be doing it the hard way in the finals from the bottom half of the bracket.

6. Sydney (30pts, +191)

Run home: Rd 25 Rabbitohs (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 5-7. They can’t get a top-four berth anymore after Parra won in Round 24. If they beat Souths, they can claim fifth if Parra lose to Melbourne otherwise they will remain sixth even if they knock over the Bunnies. A loss will mean they will slip to seventh.

Predicted finish: 5th. The final round against the Rabbitohs at the new Allianz Stadium opening match will be huge because even though it doesn’t mean a top-four berth to the winner, it will mean hosting rights in week one of the sudden-death first round.

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

7. South Sydney (30pts, +144)

Run home: Rd 25 Roosters (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 5-7.

Predicted finish: 7th. They could claim fifth from Parramatta if the Storm win and the Rabbitohs also get up. If they lose, Canberra can’t catch them as they have a 123-point differential advantage.

8. Canberra (28pts, -17)

Run home: Rd 25 Tigers (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 8-9.

Predicted finish: 8th. The Green Machine just have to beat the Wests Tigers and they will know by Sunday how Brisbane have gone. The Broncos have to win by more than 43 to bring for and against into the equation.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 27: Joseph Tapine of the Raiders makes a break during the round 24 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Manly Sea Eagles at GIO Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

9. Brisbane (28pts, -26)

Run home: Rd 25 Dragons (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 8-9. 

Predicted finish: 9th. Their season was on the line against Parra and they fell to pieces. They don’t deserve to make the finals but they can do so if they beat the Dragons by a huge score which is 43 points or more greater than Canberra’s win over the Tigers. Or they can qualify if they win and the Raiders lose. Neither scenario is likely.

10. St George Illawarra (20pts, -132)

Run home: Rd 24 Tigers (A), Rd 25 Broncos (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 10-11.

Predicted finish: 10th. With a relatively soft draw to finish the season, the Dragons should have been challenging for a playoff spot but despite their win over the Titans on Sunday, 10th spot is their best-case scenario.

11. Manly (20pts, -104)

Run home: Rd 25 Bulldogs (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 10-11.

Predicted finish: 11th. Six straight losses and the Sea Eagles are petering out with no pride in their jersey.

12. Canterbury (14pts, -193)

Run home: Rd 25 Sea Eagles (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 12-14

Predicted finish: 12th. Their second-half season form under interim coach Mick Potter had been a breath of fresh air, before three straight losses. You’d back them to beat Manly in the final round.

13. New Zealand (14pts, -291)

Run home: Rd 25 Titans (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 12-14

Predicted finish: 13th. Let’s Gone Warriors? This season is long gone and poor old Stacey Jones not only inherited a basket case, he was passed over for the opportunity to turn them around next year despite being a club legend who’s done the hard yards as an assistant coach.

Dominic Young of the Knights is tackled

Dominic Young. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

14. Newcastle (14pts, -258)

Run home: Rd 24 Titans (A), Rd 25 Sharks (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 12-14

Predicted finish: 14th. They have not beaten any of the top-eight sides all year and are unlikely to rise any higher than their current predicament.

15. Gold Coast (10pts, -216)

Run home: Rd 24 Knights (H), Rd 25 Warriors (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 12-16.

Predicted finish: 15th. Avoiding the spoon and the sack are the two main missions for Justin Holbrook. They have Newcastle and the Warriors on the schedule but dodging the spoon may not be enough to save the coach’s skin.

16. Wests (10pts, -279)

Run home: Rd 24 Dragons (H), Rd 25 Raiders (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 11-16

Predicted finish: 16th. Caretaker coach Brett Kimmorley needs to jag a couple of upsets to ensure the wooden spoon won’t be housed at Concord after Round 25. 

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