NRL ladder predictor: Penrith move that could spell disaster for finals contenders

There are still 10 teams who can genuinely make the NRL finals heading into the final round of the regular season.

The Panthers,  Rabbitohs and Roosters in action in the NRL.
The Panthers' decision to rest players ahead of the NRL finals could be disaster for the Rabbitohs and Roosters. Image: Getty

With just one round remaining in the NRL regular season, there's an extraordinary 10 teams still in contention to make the finals. If you include mathematical possibilities, the Parramatta Eels are still alive as well (but we know it won't happen).

Who makes the final eight and who goes on Mad Monday will hinge on a massive decision that the Penrith Panthers make. With the Broncos taking on the Storm in the first game of Round 27 on Thursday night, Brisbane can wrap up the minor premiership with a win at home.

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However Kevin Walters' side are likely to be without captain Adam Reynolds and inspirational forward Patrick Carrigan, and haven't beaten the Storm in their last 13 meetings dating back to 2016. The last time they beat the Storm in Brisbane was way back in 2009.

However the Storm have injury issues of their own, with halfback Jahrome Hughes unlikely to make the trip north after suffering a medial injury to his knee. Harry Grant also has a shoulder problem, with Craig Bellamy unlikely to risk his star players ahead of the finals.

It means the Broncos-Storm clash could go either way, but the result will shape what the Panthers do against the Cowboys. If the Broncos can break their drought against the Storm, Ivan Cleary is highly likely to rest the majority of his front-line starters because Brisbane will have secured the minor premiership.

Cleary has already been resting players in recent weeks (Brian To'o, Dylan Edwards and Sunia Turuva), and will be desperate to avoid any injuries after already losing Jarome Luai to a dislocated shoulder. That means the door will be wide open for the Cowboys to win and sneak into the finals.

Jarome Luai, pictured here after dislocating his shoulder in Penrith's loss to Parramatta.
Jarome Luai dislocated his shoulder in Penrith's loss to Parramatta. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

A Cowboys victory could be potential disaster for any of the Sharks, Raiders, Rabbitohs or Roosters. The Sharks and Raiders play each other on Sunday after the Rabbitohs and Roosters do battle on Friday night.

There is a scenario that would see the Rabbitohs and Roosters both miss out (if the Cowboys, Roosters and Raiders all win). But once again, both matches are an absolute toss of the coin.

The Rabbitohs will be without Latrell Mitchell due to suspension and would seemingly be affected by the off-field turmoil that has rocked the club in recent weeks. But the Roosters will be missing Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (suspension) and possibly Joey Manu (injury), although James Tedesco will be back on deck after missing the win over the Tigers due to concussion.

Permutations for all NRL finals contenders for last round

The Sharks will also likely be without Nicho Hynes once again, although the Raiders appear destined to lose Corey Horsburgh to suspension if he fails at the judiciary. We've run the predictions and scenarios to come up with all the permutations for every finals contender:

1. Broncos (currently on 42 points, +224 differential) v Storm

Highest finish 1st, lowest finish 2nd. A win will secure the minor premiership and a home final in week one of the playoffs, but a loss will have them hoping the Panthers beat the Cowboys.

2. Panthers (40 points, +301) v Cowboys

Highest finish 1st, lowest finish 3rd. It's mathematically possible for the Panthers to slip as low as third, but that would require the Warriors making up a 153-point differential.

3. Warriors (38 points, +148) v Dolphins

Highest finish 2nd, lowest finish 4th. The New Zealand side have their own injury issues, with five-eighth Luke Metcalf (hamstring) and Tohu Harris (back) unlikely to play in the final round. A loss would drop them to fourth if the Storm beat the Broncos.

4. Storm (36 points, +158) v Broncos

Highest finish 3rd, lowest finish 4th. The Storm are assured of a top-four finish - it just depends whether it's third or fourth.

5. Knights (33 points, +155) v Dragons

Highest finish 5th, lowest finish 6th. Kalyn Ponga and Jackson Hastings won't be risked in the final round, meaning a loss would send the Knights back down to sixth if the Sharks beat Canberra.

6. Sharks (32 points, +104) v Raiders

Highest finish 5th, lowest finish 9th. The Sharks can actually miss the finals if they lose by a big margin to the Raiders and the Cowboys and Rabbitohs both win by a lot.

7. Raiders (32 points, -119) v Sharks

Highest finish 5th, lowest finish 9th. The Raiders' woeful for-and-against could come back to haunt them if they lose to the Sharks. The Cowboys, Roosters and Rabbitohs could all leapfrog Canberra with wins.

8. Rabbitohs (30 points, +73) v Roosters

Highest finish 7th, lowest finish 11th. The Rabbitohs will be knocked out if they lose to the Roosters, although there's a possibility that both sides won't make it.

9. Cowboys (30 points, +36) v Panthers

Highest finish 7th, lowest finish 11th. The Cowboys will be sweating on the Broncos beating the Storm and the Panthers resting their stars.

10. Roosters (30 points, -38) v Rabbitohs

Highest finish 7th, lowest finish 11th. The Roosters can sneak in if they beat the Rabbitohs and the Cowboys lose to the Panthers.

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