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Can the Roosters be stopped?

Only four teams remain in the race for the NRLW premiership in the fifth season, with defending premiers the Sydney Roosters looking to make it two wins this calendar year.

The Chooks completed the season as the only undefeated team, after beating the Titans in their final regular season match and sentencing the women from the holiday strip to the wooden spoon.

In their preliminary final they will face the Parramatta Eels, who went into Round 5 dead last on the ladder but pulled off a huge upset over the Broncos to force their way into fourth and ensure the trophy won’t be heading back up north of the Tweed.

The other match sees the Knights and Dragons face each other for the second week in a row, after the Novocastrians won a rather meaningless Round 5 match by 30-8 just last weekend.

Here is your preview to the two preliminary finals, which will both be played at Suncorp Stadium.

Roosters vs Eels

The first preliminary final is between the undefeated Sydney Roosters, who have picked up where they left off last season, and the Parramatta Eels who not only avoided the wooden spoon last week but also, somewhat miraculously, forced their way into the top four.

Despite sitting last after Round 4, the Eels were still in finals contention and going into the final round needed to beat the Broncos by more than six points if they were to keep their finals hopes alive, and pray that the Titans wouldn’t cause an upset over the Chooks.

The blue and golds held up their end of the bargain, upsetting the three-time premiers with a 28-16 victory which ensured the northerners won’t play finals for the first time in the competition’s short history.

It was a huge turnaround in form for Dean Widders’ side, who had lost their first four matches and were destined to claim the wooden spoon for the first time.

As expected, the Roosters took care of the Titans, the result meaning John Strange’s side finished the regular season undefeated and on top of the ladder, the only scare coming when they just defeated the Knights by two points in round four.

The Chooks finished with a points differential of nearly 100, with the best attack and defence in the competition, and will loom as the ultimate litmus test for the Eels who were pipped out of a finals berth in the final round of the previous season.

When the teams met back in Round 1 it was the Roosters who kicked off their premiership defence with a 38-16 beatdown of the Eels at Commbank Stadium; the margin could have been so much bigger if it wasn’t for five missed conversions by Zehara Temara.

Captain Isabelle Kelly has also stamped her authority as the best player in the competition in her first season as captain and will be hoping to lead her side into another decider at Accor Stadium next Sunday, in which they will almost certainly start favourites.

Having forced their way into the finals, the Eels would love nothing more than to end the Roosters’ premiership defence, however the Tricolours should show their class as they close in on two premiership trophies this calendar year.

Prediction: Roosters by 14 points.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 11: Isabelle Kelly of the Roosters is tackled by Romy Teitzel of the Knights during the round four NRLW match between Newcastle Knights and Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium, on September 11, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Knights vs Dragons

Well, here we go again.

The Knights and Dragons were always destined to face each other in the preliminary final, which rendered their Round 5 contest last week a dead rubber because finishing higher than the other would provide no benefit in terms of home ground advantage.

Still, the Novocastrians struck a psychological blow with a 30-8 win, the result completing an impressive 4-1 season with the only loss being against defending premiers the Roosters by just two points in Round 4.

It was a huge improvement from their first season, in which they failed to win a single match and claimed the wooden spoon.

A revamp of the club’s playing list saw the likes of Tamika Upton and Millie Boyle join the club, with their experience guiding the Knights up the ladder in season five and into premiership contention.

Of course, the Dragons will be smarting after suffering their second heavy defeat in three weeks, on either side of a thrilling golden point win over the Brisbane Broncos in which Rachael Pearson booted the winning field goal.

There were also rather unconvincing wins over the Titans and Eels in the first two rounds, before they had their title credentials exposed by the Roosters at Allianz Stadium in round three.

Still, they have done enough to finish third on the ladder, and coach Jamie Soward will be demanding further improvement from his ladies as they shoot for a third Grand Final berth in four seasons.

With the stronger squad on paper, the Knights should win through to the decider where they can then shoot for the club’s first piece of silverware since 2001.

Prediction: Knights by 12 points.

Newcastle Knights NRLW (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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