With just six rounds remaining in the 2016 NRL Telstra Premiership season, we have a look at the five most important games between now and the finals.
Sharks v Raiders, Round 22 – Saturday August 6, 5.30pm
If both games involving these teams go as planned this weekend, two of the league’s longest winning streaks will be put on the line when the Sharks host the Raiders at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
The Sharks will come into the match with a club record 16-game winning streak, while the Raiders will have won their past five and will have cemented their position in the top four.
Both teams have impressed this season – particularly the Cronulla club – and will be out to continue on their red hot form of late in this important clash.
This match is far more important from the Raiders’ point of view, with Canberra in a battle for a top four position with the Cowboys and the Bulldogs, and a win against the Sharks would do wonders for their top four bid.
The Sharks came away with the 40-16 win back in Round 7 when these two sides last met, and would have to start the favourites, heading into this game with a 10-0 home record on the season.
Titans v Warriors, Round 22 – Sunday August 7, 2.00pm
Gold Coast have without a doubt been one of, if not, the best club story of the year to date.
Widely tipped as the side to finish last at the beginning of the season, the Titans have defied all odds to currently sit in 7th place, currently two points ahead of their Round 22 opponents New Zealand.
The Warriors are one of the most exciting teams in the competition on their day, and this game will go a long way in determining the top eight chances of these two sides.
Broncos v Bulldogs, Round 24 – Thursday August 18, 7.50pm
The Broncos have lost six of their past eight games, and now face an uphill battle to finish inside the top 4 come season’s end.
This game is one they simply must win, as the Bulldogs are their closest rivals to fourth position, as a win for either side could put a severe dent in the loser’s hopes at a double chance.
Apart from facing the Cowboys again, Brisbane are the only other current top eight side the Bulldogs play in the final six rounds.
If the Dogs are able to overcome the Broncos, they should fancy themselves as a real top four chance with home games against the Dragons, Sea Eagles and Rabbitohs favouring Canterbury’s top four charge.
Cowboys v Warriors, Round 24 – Saturday August 20, 7.30pm
Two weeks after their huge clash with the Titans, the Warriors are once again primed for a massive match crucial to their finals hopes, as they travel to North Queensland to face the Cowboys.
Games against the Panthers and Tigers, as well as their Gold Coast fixture surround the Warriors’ trip to North Queensland, in what his a massive month of football for the New Zealand club.
If the Warriors are able to snatch a win over the Cowboys and add victories over their closest rivals on the table, that should be enough for them to see some finals football action.
Storm v Sharks, Round 26 – Saturday September 3, 7.30pm
As it stands, this game will decide the minor premiership.
The Storm currently have the favourable points differential between the two sides, although the Sharks have a two-point lead on Melbourne with six rounds to go.
Even if the minor premiership is already decided before the Round 26 clash, with the way these two sides are travelling this year, it may just be a grand final preview.