With State of Origin put to bed for another year, the focus returns to the NRL this weekend. And the countdown to the finals is officially on.

With eight rounds to play, Paul Crawley looks at the run home for every team, while The Daily Telegraph's team of experts name their top eight.

James Maloney, left, and Sosaia Feki of the Sharks are expected to qualify top ahead of the playoffs. Photo / Getty Images
James Maloney, left, and Sosaia Feki of the Sharks are expected to qualify top ahead of the playoffs. Photo / Getty Images
Josh Reynolds of the Bulldogs is tackled by the Titans defence. Photo / Getty Images
Josh Reynolds of the Bulldogs is tackled by the Titans defence. Photo / Getty Images

The team virtually no one expected to be in the eight are in the four, and getting more dangerous by the week. Have won their last four since going down 20-18 to Cronulla in round 13.

The big questions going into the season were how their forwards would handle the reduced interchange and whether their halves Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye could cope without Trent Hodkinson. Have a pretty tough run home but look up for it.


Run home: Cowboys (A), Dragons (H), Knights (A), Sea Eagles (H), Broncos (A), Cowboys (H), Rabbitohs (H)


Have scored more points this year than any team (432) but heading into round 19 had also conceded the second most points (350) of the top eight behind only the Warriors.

Right there is the debate about Canberra's title credentials. Still going a lot better than anyone expected.

Will be on 25 competition points by the end of the round with the bye, which means they probably only need one win in seven games to be guaranteed a top eight finish.

Run home: Warriors (H), Rabbitohs (A), Sharks (A), Storm (H), Eels (H), Sea Eagles (A), Tigers (A)


Bounced back to form with a much-needed win over the Rabbitohs at the weekend.

Before that they'd lost five of their last six games and even more worryingly conceded 40-plus in their previious two matches against Bulldogs (40-14) and Storm (48-6).

In fact, after winning seven of their first eight they then dropped six of their next nine.

Get a pretty good run home with Canterbury and Melbourne the only teams above them on the ladder.

Run home: Panthers (H), Roosters (A), Dragons (A), Eels (H), Bulldogs (H), Storm (A), Roosters (H)


Coach Andrew McFadden deserves some praise for overcoming what he has this year.

Almost everyone thought he be the first coach sacked, and losing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for the season was massive.

McFadden had to deal with the fallout from the club's prescription drugs issue but he has them well-placed to make a late charge.

Heading into the weekend had won four of their last five, the only loss by one point to Cronulla at the Sharks home, before Saturday's golden-point hearbtreak against the Sea Eagles.

Run home: Raiders (A), Panthers (H), Titans (A), Rabbitohs (H), Cowboys (A), Tigers (H), Eels (H)


If Neil Henry can get the Titans into the finals he'd just about deserve to be named coach of the year. Almost everyone had them and the Knights battling it out for this year's wooden spoon. Still have four home games coming up in their final seven matches.

Remember, they have been without their number one half Kane Elgey all year.

Can't wait to see him line up with Ash Taylor next year. Not that Henry would be thinking about next year just yet.

Run home: Eels (H), Sharks (A), Warriors (H), Tigers (A), Knights (A), Panthers (H), Cowboys (A)


Of all our tipsters only Paul Kent has the Dragons to finish in the eight. Given Kenty is leading our tipping comp, that's one positive.

But losing Josh Dugan to a broken jaw certainly doesn't help their cause. Even though they sit mid-table, they have only scored 227 points, the NRL's second worst attack ahead of only the Knights (221), following Friday night's demolition by the Titans. Also have a tough run coming up over the next month with Tigers, Bulldogs, Broncos and Sharks.

Run home: Tigers (A), Bulldogs (A), Broncos (H), Sharks (H), Roosters (A), Eels (A), Knights (H)


While everyone pointed out the Sharks were without five Origin players last weekend, Penrith had nine missing from the top squad they started the year with. Peachey, Moylan, Mansour, Whare, Hiku, Soward, Segeyaro, McKendry and young Te Maire Martin.

Not all were injured but to be still in the top eight chase is a pretty fair effort all things considered.

On 20 competition points after Sunday's win over the Eels, only face two current top eight teams in remaining eight games.

Run home: Broncos (A), Warriors (A), Roosters (H), Knights (A), Tigers (A), Titans (A), Sea Eagles (H)


With the drama behind him, Jason Taylor has the young Tigers playing some good footy.

But is it good and consistent enough to win five of their last seven to make it to 28 competition points? That is usually the top eight cut off, although 26 might get you there this year.

Don't have the toughest run home with games remaining against the Dragons, Eels, Cowboys, Titans, Panthers, Warriors and Raiders.

Run home: Dragons (A), Eels (A), Cowboys (H), Titans (H), Panthers (A), Warriors (A), Raiders (H)


Maybe Geoff Toovey wasn't the problem after all. Not that it's Trent Barrett's fault either. It's just the way Toovey was shoved out the door didn't sit well with most fans, which probably only adds to the frustration now.

Like the Rabbitohs, mathematically, still in it - and bounced back to winning ways against the Warriors on Saturday. But star recruit Dylan Walker didn't do them any favours when he broke his hand punching a door this week, and is expected to be sidelined for a month.

Run home: Rabbitohs (A), Knights (H), Eels (A), Bulldogs (A), Storm (H), Raiders (H), Panthers (A)


Dane Nielsen and the Rabbitohs have had a horror season. Photo / Getty Images
Dane Nielsen and the Rabbitohs have had a horror season. Photo / Getty Images

Could have their worst result in a decade since they finished with the wooden spoon in 2006.

On 14 competition points, their finals hopes are all but over following Saturday night's thumping loss to the Broncos. Can only afford to drop one game in the seven remaining, if that. Good luck with that given they play five teams currently in the top eight.

Run home: Sea Eagles (H), Raiders (H), Storm (A), Warriors (A), Sharks (H), Knights (A), Bulldogs (A)


After copping their 12 competition points penalty for cheating the salary cap, now must win all remaining games - and a miracle - to make the finals. And who knows how long Corey Norman will be suspended after his dramas this week with drugs and sex videos.

Still, it is hard to say anything bad about the way Parramatta have performed on the field.

Their win last week over the Roosters was the gutsiest I've seen for some time, while they went agonisingly close against the Panthers on Sunday.

Run home: Panthers (A), Titans (A), Tigers (H), Sea Eagles (A), Broncos (A), Raiders (A), Dragons (H), Warriors (A)


After what happened with Mitchell Pearce on Australia Day and not having Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner for so long due to injury, I didn't have the Roosters in my top eight this year.

So it doesn't really surprise me they aren't in finals contention. Still, I didn't expect them to be second last. Could still provide some nuisance value in the charge to the finals with the big three back, if that's any consolation.

Run home: Sharks (H), Storm (A), Broncos (H), Panthers (A), Cowboys (H), Dragons (H), Sharks (A), Broncos (A)


Have a mortgage on the wooden spoon but still haven't lost any supporters this year.

Which says a lot about the loyalty of Newcastle fans, and also how they are understanding of the plan Nathan Brown has put in place.

Still, fans will be hoping they have seen the worst of it with some of the young players starting to stand up.

Run home: Storm (H), Sharks (A), Sea Eagles (A), Bulldogs (H), Panthers (H), Titans (H), Rabbitohs (H), Dragons (A)


Phil Rothfield:

Sharks, Storm, Bulldogs, Cowboys, Raiders, Broncos, Panthers, Warriors

Dean Ritchie: Sharks, Storm, Cowboys, Bulldogs, Broncos, Raiders, Warriors, Panthers

Paul Crawley: Sharks, Storm, Cowboys, Bulldogs, Broncos, Raiders, Warriors, Tigers

Paul Kent: Sharks, Storm, Bulldogs, Cowboys, Broncos, Raiders, Warriors, Dragons

Rebecca Wilson: Sharks, Storm, Cowboys, Bulldogs, Broncos, Raiders, Panthers, Warriors

Barry Toohey: Sharks, Storm, Cowboys, Bulldogs, Broncos, Raiders, Warriors, Tigers

Christian Nicolussi: Sharks, Storm, Cowboys, Raiders, Bulldogs, Broncos, Panthers, Warriors

Nick Walshaw: Sharks, Storm, Cowboys, Broncos, Bulldogs, Warriors, Raiders, Panthers