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It?s time to get out the calculators and do the sums, as the Tigers (24 Pts, -15), the Raiders (24 Pts -99), the Sharks (24 Pts -101), the Eels (22 Pts -71), and the Knights (22 Pts -111) take part in the Race for 8th in Round 26.
By 9:30pm this Saturday Night, we?ll know the winner of the ?Saturday Night Scramble? or if the Parramatta Eels who play on Sunday against the Roosters, have any chance remaining. There are several different scenarios to keep league fans intrigued in the build up.
If the Wests Tigers can beat Newcastle at Energy Australia Stadium at 5:30 PM, then they?ll end any realistic hopes of Canberra or Cronulla qualifying. The Wests Tigers have a vastly superior ?for and against? of -15 compared to the Raiders -99 and the Sharks -101.
The race for 8th could be all over by 7:30 PM without the chance of a reply by the other two competitors. But let?s just say the Newcastle Knights, who are aiming to send Robbie O?Davis & Ben Kennedy out on a high note, can defeat the Tigers. Then the race really hots up.
The Canberra Raiders look to be in the ideal position to pounce on any slip up from the Wests Tigers, with a home match against South Sydney. However, the Rabbitohs will be going all out to win as well, as they aim to avoid a 2nd consecutive wooden spoon. The Raiders form has been below par but you?d think they would want to farewell veteran Ruben Wiki from Canberra Stadium in style.
If Cronulla can beat the Cowboys in Townsville and their winning margin is 3 points better than Canberra?s, then the Sharks would finish ahead of Canberra. The Sharks have been below par at home this season but have won away to the likes of Brisbane, Melbourne and the Roosters so there is hope for Sharks fans.
Parramatta and Newcastle still retain the slimmest of chances of scraping into 8th, but would need close to a miracle.
The Eels require the Knights to beat the Tigers, the Cowboys to beat the Sharks and the Rabbitohs to beat the Raiders. They would need to better the Tigers ?for and against?. For instance, if the Knights beat the Tigers by 30 points, the Eels would need to beat the minor premiers elect, the Sydney Roosters, by 26 points.
The Knights similarly need the Cowboys to beat the Sharks and the Rabbitohs to beat the Raiders as well the Roosters to beat the Eels. The Knights would need to beat the Tigers by 49 points or more in their last home game. It?s possible, but highly improbable.
If you?re a bit of a statistics freak and you are a neutral supporter in the race for 8th, then you might be cheering for the Knights at 5:30 pm on Saturday against the Tigers. It would really open up a whole series of possibilities.
On the other hand if all these different sums and scenarios are forcing your brain into overload, then maybe you?d prefer if the Tigers sealed their first ever finals berth to save us from all the anguish.
Whatever the outcome may be, I am glad the focus appears to getting back to the action on the field. The NRL could be in for its closest finals series on record.
Michael Allen Freelance Journalist [email protected]