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Good luck as teams jostle for best shot at premiership glory

The top eight has yet to be decided in the NRL, but the AFL’s finalists are set in stone.
The NRL minor premiership is up for grabs. If the Bulldogs lose and the Storm win, then the boys from Melbourne will finish on top. The fifth-placed Cowboys can finish third if they down the Sharks and the Rabbitohs (3rd) and Sea Eagles (4th) lose. The Sharks and Raiders are battling it out for sixth and a home final, while the Broncos or Tigers will finish eighth.
In the AFL, the Hawks, Swans or Crows will capture the minor premiership, while finishing in second place is also an incentive as it will guarantee a home final. The Eagles or Magpies will finish fourth, with the Eagles likely to face the Dockers in an elimination final should they wind up in fifth spot. It appears as though the Cats will face the Kangaroos in Week 1 of the finals — which will pit the Scott brothers up against one another in a sudden-death contest.
Good luck if you’re in the running to win your NRL or AFL tipping competition. Significantly, all home teams were victorious in the NRL for the first time this season last weekend and there have been 13 one-point victories in 2012.  In the AFL, how can you expect to pick the card if the Dockers can beat a red-hot Kangaroos in Melbourne and the Blues can succumb to the Suns?

 NRL (Round 26)

11-KNIGHTS v 3-RABBITOHS: It’s “Old Boys” day for the Knights and they boast an impressive winning record when they line up for their final game at home for the year. In the corresponding match last year, the Knights claimed eighth spot when they blitzed the Rabbitohs. Since then, the Knights have headed south, while the Rabbitohs have headed north. The Bunnies will secure a spot in the top four with victory. The Knights won’t lie down, but if the Rabbitohs can’t win this game it’s hard to see them making an impact as from next week. Tip: RABBITOHS.
8-BRONCOS v 15-PANTHERS: The Broncos have lost six straight, but surely they will lift for Civoniceva’s last game at Suncorp Stadium. If the Broncos go down and the Tigers topple the Storm, then the Brisbane boys will miss the finals. The Panthers have finished a disappointing season with a wet sail with wins over the Warriors and Titans, so they must be respected. The Broncos haven’t been far off the mark despite their poor run, but they cannot afford another slip up as the Panthers have sprung the odd surprise in Brisbane in the past. Tip: BRONCOS.
10-TITANS v 4-SEA EAGLES: A win over the Panthers last weekend and the Titans remained in the hunt to secure a finals berth. However, they failed to lift when it mattered, which came as a surprise as they were among the better teams during the second half of the year. The Titans got the Sea Eagles at Brookvale in Round 7, but the Sea Eagles are flying and should complete their preparations for the finals in convincing fashion. The Sea Eagles are the premiership favourites, so falling to a side who have caused them problems in the past is unimaginable. Tip: SEA EAGLES.
9-TIGERS v 2-STORM: The Tigers were awful against the Roosters last weekend. Had they won that game they would be sitting in the top eight. It’s now desperation stakes for the Tigers, but it’s hard to see them recovering and having Farah and Fulton sitting on the sidelines doesn’t help. The Tigers have won 10 of their past 12 games at Leichhardt, but the Storm are renowned for producing big efforts on the road. Fighting back to get the Broncos in Brisbane two weeks ago is hard to ignore. Surely the Storm won’t rest players because they’re still in line to finish first. Tip: STORM.
1-BULLDOGS v 13-ROOSTERS: Was the loss in Canberra an aberration for the Bulldogs or is there more to it? It was a shocking result for the Bulldogs, especially as a win over the Raiders would have assured them the minor premiership. The previous week, the Bulldogs were considered lucky to overcome the Tigers in golden point. The Roosters made the Tigers look second rate last weekend and wouldn’t they just love to hand the Bulldogs another unexpected loss. No love lost between these two clubs, but stringing two good games together has been an issue for the Roosters all year. Tip: BULLDOGS.
14-WARRIORS v 7-RAIDERS: The Warriors are legless and it’s still hard to comprehend that as grand finalists last year they have failed to make the top eight. The Raiders were legless at the start of the season, but are finals-bound and may secure home ground advantage for an elimination final if they get the cash in Auckland and the Sharks stumble at the hands of the Cowboys. The Warriors and Raiders drive tipsters crazy on a weekly basis, so anything could happen in this match. The Raiders have tasted victory once in their past eight visits to Auckland, while the Warriors have conceded 26 tries and 153 points in their past four games. Tip: RAIDERS.
6-SHARKS v 5-COWBOYS: A crucial game for both teams. The Sharks will secure a home final if they win, but it’s hard to get a handle on how they will perform after a sickening loss in Melbourne on Monday night. The Sharks have won seven of their past 10 games at home and 10 of their past 12 against the visiting Cowboys, but haven’t won a final-round game since 2008. The Cowboys pushed the Bulldogs and Sea Eagles in honourable defeats before stringing wins over the Warriors, Dragons and Knights. There’s no reason why the Cowboys shouldn’t win, but the statistics don’t lie and the boys from Townsville have lost nine straight in Sydney. A toss of the coin with Carney and Thurston to feature in the spotlight. Tip: COWBOYS.
16-EELS v 12-DRAGONS: Can the Eels salute for Hindmarsh and Burt? And will the Dragons lift after sending Hornby and Young off in style in a big home win over the Warriors? It’s the only game that won’t affect the formation of the top eight, but both teams would like to end the season with a win. The Dragons are the better side and have won eight of their past nine games against the Eels, so posting victory will be no easy task for Parra. The Dragons got the Eels 14-12 at Kogarah in Round 12, but can the Eels bounce back after a heavy defeat the hands of the Rabbitohs last weekend. In recent weeks, the Eels have toppled the Storm, Broncos and Roosters, so anything is possible if the Dragons aren’t on their game. Tip: EELS.

AFL ( Round 23)

1-HAWKS v 4-EAGLES: The Hawks get the Swans in Sydney and welcome back Rioli. It’s hard to see them losing against the Eagles, who need to win to secure fourth place. Incredibly, both teams could meet once again back at the MCG next weekend in a qualifying final. However, the likely scenario is that the Eagles will play either the Kangaroos or Dockers in an elimination final in Perth and the Hawks will face the Magpies in a qualifying final. The Eagles defeated the Hawks by five points in the rain in a low-scoring match in Perth in Round 4, but will have to play out of their skin to win on this occasion. The Eagles had 14 goal-kickers when they clocked the Magpies last weekend, while, in contrast, the Hawks have averaged 123 points a game in 2012. Tip: HAWKS.
6-CATS v 2-SWANS: A massive game. The Cats will host an elimination final — that’s a given. However, the Swans need to win to ensure a qualifying final will take place at the SCG. The Swans will most likely host the Crows if they can make it back-to-back wins in Geelong, while a loss will see them travel to Adelaide for the first week of the finals. Losing to the Cats may also see the Swans end up on the same side of the draw as the Hawks, where they could meet in a preliminary final. The return of Bolton is a boost for the Swans, who have been a force on the road in 2012. The Cats are virtually unbeatable at home and Hawkins is in line to win the Coleman Medal, but the Swans are a huge chance if they play as well as what they did last weekend. Tip: SWANS.
3-CROWS v 17-SUNS: The Crows will win. If the Hawks and Swans lose, the Crows will become minor premiers, which may see the Hawks host the Swans in a qualifying final. That would see the Crows host the Magpies in a qualifying final — the Magpies are the only team to get the Crows in Adelaide in 2012. If the Hawks win and the Swans lose, the Crows will take on the Swans at AAMI Stadium. The Crows will need to get their house in order because they will face much stiffer opposition next weekend. The Crows beat the Suns by 69 points in Round 1 and should win by a similar margin despite the Suns’ win over the Blues. Tip: CROWS.
18-GIANTS v 8-KANGAROOS: The Kangaroos are certainties as well. And after a shock loss to the Dockers that has perhaps cost them the chance of hosting an elimination final, the Kangaroos could have a day out against the Giants. Like the Crows, the Kangaroos will have to put four good quarters together as they prepare for a cut-throat final. The Kangaroos crushed the Giants by 129 points in Hobart in Round 2 and unless the Giants find something in defence they could suffer yet another three-figure loss and hand the Kangaroos a home final. Tip: KANGAROOS.
11-BOMBERS v 5-MAGPIES: The Anzac Day clash was a pearler when the Magpies prevailed by just one point. It’s incredible to think that this particular match has a “ho hum” factor about it. The Bombers were flying and looked set to make the finals but, like last year, the wheels have fallen off and they face the prospect of ending the year with seven straight defeats. However, they can condemn the Magpies to an elimination final if they rally and end the year with a bang. The Magpies just edged the Saints and were fortunate to roll an inaccurate Swans, so the fact they lost to the Kangaroos and Eagles may not have been a shock after all. It’s a game the Magpies must win with fourth place on the table, but unless they win convincingly it’s hard to see them making an impression in September. Tip: MAGPIES.
7-DOCKERS v 16-DEMONS: The Dockers are buoyant after sealing a finals spot last weekend. The Dockers are in the same boat as the Crows and Kangaroos. Yes, they will win. Yes, they need to play with zest with the finals looming on the horizon. And if all the favourites win this weekend, the Dockers will play the Eagles in what should be an epic elimination final. The Dockers will still play an elimination final in Perth, but could avoid the Eagles if the Swans beat the Cats and if they cover any percentage gain the Kangaroos will attain against the Giants. By the time this game takes place the Cats-Swans game will be over, so that could determine if the Dockers play Pavlich. Tip: DOCKERS.
10-BLUES v 9-SAINTS: The Saints won the Round 7 clash by 24 points and many argue that they will repeat the dose when both teams meet once again at Etihad Stadium. The Blues will be breathing fire when you consider the week they’ve had, so it will be no easy game for the Saints following their huge win over the Giants last weekend. Like the Tigers and Bombers, the Blues and Saints promised so much before letting it slip in a host of games they should of won. Two weeks ago, the Blues decimated the Bombers and the Saints couldn’t match it with the Cats, so, on that basis, Brett Ratten may exit on a winning note. Tip: BLUES.
12-TIGERS v 14-POWER: Had the Tigers kicked a lot straighter last weekend they would have whipped the Bombers by more than 45 points. The Tigers fixed up the Power by 37 points in Adelaide in Round 6, so you would expect them to end the year with a win. How different it could have been for the Tigers had they not suffered those three straight defeats at the hands of the Suns, Kangaroos and Blues. The Power haven’t won since Round 17 when they defeated the Demons, but if the Power show as much purpose as they did against the resurgent Lions last weekend they could make it back-to-back wins at the MCG. Tip: TIGERS.
13-LIONS v 15-BULLDOGS: The Lions are four games clear of the Bulldogs and should triumph at home after wins over the Crows in Brisbane and Power in Adelaide. You have every right to feel encouraged if you’re a Lions supporter because they look set to end the season with 10 wins. In contrast, it’s hard to feel optimistic if you’re a Bulldogs supporter because you’re team is on the verge of suffering its 10th straight loss. The Lions haven’t won three in a row all year, but that’s about to change. Tip: LIONS.
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