With three rounds left, we take a look at how the Fourth Grade ladder is shaping up. Which teams are definitely making the finals? Which ones need other results to go their way just to have a chance? Here are the teams to look out for.
Sydney University (59 ladder points), Warringah (58), Eastern Suburbs (57), Eastwood (53)
With the next best team, Norths, trailing by two whole games, you can bet that these four will be the top four come finals time. The Students hold a slight lead based only on bonus points, their 12-3 record matched by Easts and slightlyworse than the 12-2-1 Rats. Eastwood is right behind, with a 10-5 record boosted by thirteen bonus points.
The Students would be short-priced favourites to win the minor premiership. They face Southern Districts, Randwick and Gordon in the final three rounds; only Randwick is in the top six. The Rats have slipped quite a bit from their amazing start to the season, so expect them to come out firing to try and reclaim top spot. The Rats and the Woodies play this weekend in a game that both teams will use as a great Finals rehearsal. Easts will appreciate the Round 18 bye but play two teams eager to lock in a Finals spot before then.
Sydney University: @ Souths, @ Randwick, vs Gordon
Warringah: vs Eastwood, vs West Harbour, @ Souths
Eastern Suburbs: vs Randwick, vs Norths, BYE
Eastwood: @ Warringah, BYE, @ Manly
Northern Suburbs (45), Randwick (44), Parramatta (41)
With only two of these teams likely to make Finals, all eyes will be on them to prove they can make the cut. All three have similar records – the 8-7 Two Blues just behind the 9-6 Shoremen and Wicks – and all three can claim some momentum leading to these clashes.
Randwick has by far the most unkind draw of the three. This weekend they travel to Woollahra for the Battle of the East, before hosting Sydney University next week. If they are still in contention after battling two top teams, their reward will likely be a do-or-die clash with Norths at North Sydney Oval. Not ideal for the Galloping Greens, but a perfect warm-up for a deep Finals run if they can pull it off. They were able to topple the Rats last week, showing that they certainly have the skills to do it.
Norths will be keen to have a spot wrapped up before the last round, but will likely have to beat the Beasties in Round 17 to do it. They have had a strong couple of weeks, including a good win against the Woodies in Round 12. Expect them to come out strong against the Pirates this weekend to lay a platform for those last two tough rounds.
Parramatta has had a stellar couple of weeks. They may have had close losses to the Students and Eastern Suburbs, but they beat the Woodies and the then-undefeated Rats in the weeks before that. They have proven they can mix it with the best. Now they have the luxury of a bye and two games against the out-of-contention Manly and West Harbour squads to try and overtake Norths and Randwick.
The Shoremen and the Two Blues definitely have the edge here, but Randwick may just turn heads with every game feeling like it is sudden death.
Northern Suburbs: @ West Harbour, @ Easts, vs Randwick
Randwick: @ Easts, vs Sydney Uni, @ Norths
Parramatta: BYE, vs Manly, vs West Harbour
MATHEMATICALLY A CHANCE:
With a 6-8-1 record, the Stags need nothing short of a miracle to sneak into the top six. If they win all their games with a bonus point, it would put them on 51 points. If Norths and Randwick are not able to win two games over the next three weeks – and they play each other, guaranteeing one win to one of them – Gordon could theoretically overtake them. Parramatta having the bye means they would likely only need to win one game to stay ahead of Gordon.
The good news for Gordon fans is that the next two games are winnable for the Stags. They host Manly and Souths; games that could net them two bonus-point wins if they play well. Their last game, however, sees them travel to Sydney University. Even if they are still mathematically in the running, that will be a tough game to win, especially with a bonus point.
Gordon: vs Manly, vs Souths, @ Sydney Uni