CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - JULY 23: Joseph Leilua of the Raiders celebrates after scoring a try during the round 20 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the New Zealand Warriors at GIO Stadium on July 23, 2016 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

With the Bulldogs in fourth place and two games clear of the Cowboys and Broncos, it looks as though the top four is almost set just three weeks out of the finals series.

Since the NRL changed the competition to its current eight team finals series in 1999, no team outside the top four has won the premiership, meaning that history states last season’s finalists will both miss out on this year’s decider.

Melbourne, Cronulla, Canberra and Canterbury hold spots in the top four and look set to occupy those positions heading into the finals series, so we look into why each team will and won’t win the 2016 NRL Grand Final.

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 06: James Graham of the Bulldogs leads his team out onto the ground during the round 22 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Canterbury Bulldogs at Hunter Stadium on August 6, 2016 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 06: James Graham of the Bulldogs leads his team out onto the ground during the round 22 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Canterbury Bulldogs at Hunter Stadium on August 6, 2016 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

Canterbury

Why they will win – On their day, the Bulldogs can beat any side in the competition. Led by the strongest pack in the league featuring James Graham, Aiden Tolman and David Klemmer, the Dogs lead the league in most runs per game and will be a dangerous proposition for opposing packs deep in the finals.

Why they won’t win – Inconsistency. Despite losing just seven matches this season, the Dogs have scraped through matches against bottom four clubs Newcastle and Sydney in recent weeks, and will be caught out quite quickly if they aren’t at their absolute best at any stage during the finals.

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CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - JULY 23: Joseph Leilua of the Raiders celebrates after scoring a try during the round 20 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the New Zealand Warriors at GIO Stadium on July 23, 2016 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – JULY 23: Joseph Leilua of the Raiders celebrates after scoring a try during the round 20 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the New Zealand Warriors at GIO Stadium on July 23, 2016 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Canberra

Why they will win – The Raiders’ attack is unmatched across the league, and they have the firepower to beat any side. Jordan Rapana and Jarrod Croker are two of the league’s top four try scorers, and Rapana leads the league in line breaks and tackle busts. Canberra have scored the most tries in the competition and have scored over 22 points each game during their current seven-game win streak, so the Green Machine have the ability to match it with anyone come the final day.

Why they won’t win – Whether they like it or not, the Raiders have become the team to beat heading into the NRL finals series. Seven wins on the bounce including victories over Cronulla and Melbourne has the Raiders as the benchmark, meaning all eyes will be on them for as long as they remain in the competition. This is pressure the club hasn’t felt in a number of seasons, and it very well could get to them.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 24: Jack Bird of the Sharks celebrates at full time following the round 20 NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Newcastle Knights at Southern Cross Group Stadium on July 24, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JULY 24: Jack Bird of the Sharks celebrates at full time following the round 20 NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Newcastle Knights at Southern Cross Group Stadium on July 24, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Cronulla

Why they will win – The Sharks have been the best team for the majority of the season. A 15-game win streak that broke a club record has the Sharks positioned well heading into the finals as the second best attacking team and third best defensive team in the competition.

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Why they won’t win – History. Cronulla have been in the competition for 49 years but are yet to win a premiership, reaching only three grand finals in their history. The Sharks are known to rugby league fans as a team that can’t win in on the last day, and the club will need to jump over the 49-year hurdle if they’re to come away with the trophy this year.

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 17: Cameron Smith of the Storm walks out to warm up before the start of the game during the round 19 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Melbourne Storm at Hunter Stadium on July 17, 2016 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA – JULY 17: Cameron Smith of the Storm walks out to warm up before the start of the game during the round 19 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Melbourne Storm at Hunter Stadium on July 17, 2016 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

Melbourne

Why they will win – Defence wins premierships. The Storm have conceded just 11.5 points per game, and are on track to be the best defensive team in the NRL era. They miss the fewest tackles and make the least amount of errors per game, as all these areas of the game will be especially tested during the heat of the finals.

Why they won’t win – Attack. The Storm have scored the lowest number of tries amongst top four sides, and they didn’t threaten Canberra too much last Monday night, managing to score just eight points. Combinations are still coming together with what has been a makeshift team for most of the season due to injuries, and the Storm may not have what it takes should a game become a high scoring affair.

27 COMMENTS

  1. Wait a minute. So you mean to tell me that beating a side by 14 in the horrible weather conditions is a scraping victory but whenever another side beats them by 14 it’s a big victory. I love the flawless logic, and the same thing applies if we get beaten by 14. Apparently we get smashed. The score was flattering the Knights, same thing with the Roosters. They were lucky to get 20 points. We have beaten all the top sides except for the Raiders, Sharks (unlucky to lose that game) and the Cowboys (will get good revenge next week). I can’t wait for this side to hit top gear and destroy everyone in their sight. No matter how we win there is always someone to complain about it. When we destroyed the Broncos when they were premiership favourites everybody made the excuse that they were understrength and continuously ignored that we were missing 4 key first graders and had a 50% B Moz, who was extremely lucky to pass the fitness test, but nah as long as we get a great win, there still has to be an excuse as to why the other team was destroyed, not because we played a perfect game of football or nothing. God I love the bias against us. Cannot wait for the excuses for the other team when we beat them in the grand final…

    • Des will have us primed for the semis. Good that a few players are leaving too. Makes it even more motivation for the boys.

      • If we beat the Broncos tomorrow and play a good game, what’s the bet there will be excuses yet again? I am so sick of the crap we cop.

        • That’s how we want it mate. Who cares if credit is given by media and opposition fans? If we win the comp it makes it sweeter. Even just knocking out pretenders that everyone gives more of a chance will be sweet.

          I’m not as confident as you, especially after the Cows game, but I am excited for the finals because no one is giving the Dogs a chance and they are sitting in a nice position.

          One thing about the Dogs is they’ve never been the type to put lesser teams to the sword. They usually just do enough to win, but at the same time are competitive with the top sides(that’s why cows game worries me). This was even before Dessie came and it’s even worse now.

          I’d like to see how they play against the Cows next week, but I’m pretty confident they’ll lift a couple of gears in the finals either way.

        • Yeah you have a fair point mate. Just ammo for the boys to prove everybody wrong. We should be putting everybody to the sword every week because we have a fantastic side. I think we will play a very good game against the Cowboys and beat them well for the game in round 20. A game in front of the local fans in our actual home and to get one back over the Cowboys will provide them with enough energy next week to get a win. Then we will proceed to beat on Souths again to finish 3rd and go hard in the finals.

        • I hope you’re right, we only need to beat the Cowboys to confirm a top 4 spot, we can lose the other two it won’t matter.

          And yeh, just ammo for the boys. It was funny watching the Matty Johns show last week and everyone was carrying on how Dogs don’t deserve to be in top 4; basically saying it’s a shame that 2 teams out of Warriors, Panthers, Titans & Tigers have to miss out on finals when they deserve to be there more, lol it’s gold. Dessie would be loving it.

        • They’re all just jealous because their teams try their hearts out to finish 10th while ours doesn’t even have to try to finish in the top 4 HAHAHA. Also jealous because we have bashed their teams around endlessly.

      • You have to ask the doubters mate. Apparently we don’t deserve to be 4th according to them.

        • Yeah so what if you win ugly? Winning is winning…and every team plays to their advantages, the Bulldogs like to grind out a win…So what?

        • That is true mate but I’m just sick of the criticism that we cop. Whenever we win ugly but grind it out people complain, when we destroy a team and blow them off the park, again people complain and make excuses for the losing team. Nobody can be pleased at all these days.

        • Meh, don’t let it get to you champ. Your a dogs supporter, be proud…wear the criticism like a badge of honer.

  2. There is a reason why Canterbury fly under the radar, cause they can’t win the premiership, everyone know’s it, it is as simple as that, have your fun in the semi’s but that will be it

    • I can already tell your team’s season is over and we have already bashed them this season? Enjoy the Mad Monday while my team will be a chance for the premiership.

    • @penso See that’s were your wrong. Any team that finishes top 8 can win it…that’s a fact. It’s harder for the bottom teams, but they can still win it…

    • Lol Raiders only just won in Canberra by scoring two late tries. Pretty competitive.
      And let’s be honest, opposition teams weren’t taking the Raiders seriously at the start of the season 😛

  3. that stupid comentator darren locker opened his mouth last week declaring the bulldogs are there on 4th place making up the numbers BUT what happens when the bulldogs beat his gronkgos
    the bulldogs have the recording to fire them up

  4. I hate the Bulldogs and their fans – quick to put down other teams but can’t take it– arrogant f**ks

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