Words by Tom Connor
To mark the final round of the inaugural NRC, this week’s round nine will officially be recognised as #mentalhealthround. RUPA together with NRC naming right’s sponsor, Buildcorp, together with the State Unions are raising funds and awareness for Lifeline. See how you can help.
As we head into the final round of the inaugural NRC, we take a look at a few of the different scenarios and likely outcomes as teams jockey for position in the chaotic race to the finals.
The Rising are Finals Bound
The Melbourne Rising are one of two teams guaranteed a place in this year’s NRC finals series heading in to the penultimate Round of the competition, and no one can say they don’t deserve it.
As the only team that remains unbeaten in the competition you’d be forgiven for mistaking them for a cricket team, given some of their recent score lines.
Having played seven games and secured seven bonus points for scoring three more tries than their opponents, the Rising are a well oiled attacking machine. Don’t expect complacency to be an issue heading in to the knockout rounds either, in a team laden with Super Rugby experience and likewise Super Rugby heartbreak, the Rising will be desperate to make a statement and claim some silverware for the still infant Melbourne rugby setup.
The Sydney Stars can start planning Mad Friday
One thing we can say with absolute certainty is that the winless Sydney Stars will not be playing in the Finals this year. Much was expected from The Stars following a strong year in Sydney’s Shute Shield, but the side has been unable, albeit unlucky, to notch a win in the tournament, with the one draw the closest they’ve come.
The Stars will be looking to post their first ever win against their Northern neighbours this Thursday night. Regardless of the result though, it will be Mad Friday for the Stars in Four days’ time; cue the crazy costumes.
Joining the Stars will most likely be Queensland Country. Whilst still mathematically a chance, it’d take nothing less than a miracle and a record breaking score line from Queensland Country against an unbeaten Melbourne side to see them play next week.
Likewise, the Rams are all but done with the bye this weekend. They’re essentially relying on the Perth Spirit to lose by more than 60 points and securing no bonus points, and every other team below them losing – an unlikely outcome to say the least.
The Rays could sneak in
The Rays have been flying well under the radar this year, and could just sneak in to the finals with a bonus point win against the Stars this Thursday night. Currently sitting seventh on the ladder, they’ll need to win and rely on the NSW Country Eagles (2nd place) defeating the Perth Spirit (4th place), and Brisbane City (3rd place) defeating the Canberra Vikings (6th place).
Given the form of the Eagles so far in the competition, you would expect them to get over the line in front of a home crowd, although Brisbane City will be without Quade Cooper this week who has been called in to the Wallabies squad.
One thing is for certain though; teams will be leaving it all out on the field this weekend as they search for a maiden Finals berth.
Young Guns battle for Top Try Scorer
While the race for the top four rages on, so too does the battle to finish top of the Competition Try Scorers list. Record breaking Australian U20’s try scorer Andrew Kellaway currently leads the pack on nine meat pies, although hot on his heels is Rising star Telusa Veainu on eight.
Rams surprise package Jarome Mackenzie will call it a day with seven tries, and Brisbane City Winger Chris Kuridrani will have him in his sights on six pies.
The leading point scorer for the competition is Jack Debreczeni on 113 points, which should come as no surprise given that he has the goal kicking duties for the Rising.
Our Predicted Top Four
The Rising are uncatchable in top spot and deservedly so, they’ll finish as the Minor Premiers in the inaugural NRC competition.
The NSW Country Eagles are currently in second place, and that’s where they are likely to stay. Up against the Spirit this weekend this will be a tight, tight game. Expect the Spirit to throw everything at them in an attempt to hold on to their fourth spot. Prediction: NSW Country by a try.
Brisbane City are in third and that’s where we think they will stay, BUT, don’t be surprised to see an upset this weekend from a hot and cold Canberra side. Quade Cooper was relentless last week, and although City has got the job done without him in the past, the Vikings are well overdue to recognise and finally hit there potential.
We’re going out on a limb and tipping Canberra for an upset here. Provided NSW Country get the job done against Perth, it would setup the table perfectly for the UC Vikings to sneak in to Fourth spot and book a mammoth clash with the Rising next week. Prediction: Vikings by 12.