Our top eight sides were already determined last week, but some positions remain up for grabs with the final round of the season to be played next weekend.
Already, this year’s finals will be the first to not feature a Queensland club since 1991, before even the ARL years. We’ve also already seen the Panthers pick up their first minor premiership since 2003, while the Knights will make an appearance for the first time since 2013.
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Here are the likely scenarios after Round 20 for each team that’s secured a finals position.
Penrith Panthers (1st)
Plenty of Panther Pride out west with Penrith having already secured first place and the minor premiership by defeating North Queensland on Friday. The Panthers have only lost one game, which was against Parramatta back in mid-June. They’ll finish their home-and-away campaign against the Bulldogs next Saturday.
Melbourne Storm (2nd)
They’ll miss out on a minor premiership this year, but the Storm should be pleased with themselves after yet another impressive season. They guaranteed themselves a “home” final for the first week with their triumph over Wests. Melbourne play the Dragons in the last game of the regular season.
Sydney Roosters (3rd-4th)
The defending premiers have been outstanding once again, and their high point difference means they will have themselves a second chance in the finals. Whether they take on Penrith or Melbourne, however, comes down to how both they and the Eels perform in Round 20. The Roosters will guarantee themselves third place if they defeat South Sydney on Friday, but a loss could allow Parramatta to sneak past them on competition points depending on how they perform.
Parramatta Eels (3rd-5th)
They held top spot early, but some of their more recent performances leave questions to be asked about whether they can be considered genuine premiership contenders. Beating Wests Tigers on Saturday could put them into third if the Roosters lose, but if the Eels lose, a win for Canberra would push them down to fifth and force them to take the long route to the Grand Final.
Canberra Raiders (4th-5th)
The Raiders have kept alive their hopes of a top four berth, which would ease some of the pressure in finals. Due to point difference, if they win next week and the Eels go down, Canberra will book a game against the Panthers. They take on Cronulla on Saturday.
Newcastle Knights (6th-7th)
Newcastle can thank the Bulldogs for keeping them in the race to host an elimination final. The Knights now sit in one of the most contentious positions in the ladder, and can guarantee that position with a win over an improved Titans side on Friday evening. A Rabbitohs loss later that night would guarantee them sixth spot regardless.
South Sydney Rabbitohs (6th-7th)
Souths blew a chance to secure a home final last week in a game they should have won. They could still have another chance, but only if the Knights lose. The Rabbitohs would then need to defeat old foes the Roosters in the very next game to take back sixth place, but if they lose or the Knights win, South Sydney will find themselves stuck in seventh.
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (8th)
They did well to secure a finals berth against the Warriors last week but couldn’t back it up against the Roosters, leaving them unable to contest for a home final. Points difference sees them highly unlikely to climb any further up the ladder, and their Saturday game against the Raiders may determine their Week 1 opponents.