A bandwagoner’s guide to the 2018 NRL finals

With the top eight now clear-cut for the finals, supporters of the bottom-eight clubs will be looking to jump on a bandwagon for this year’s premiership.

If your club is no longer in contention, who would you like to see win the competition?

While many fans of the bottom-eight clubs will choose to remain neutral and may not have any interest as to which team goes on to claim the premiership, let me make a case for each of the top eight clubs as to why you should choose them as your September team.

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Melbourne Storm

They’re the current premiers and have a chance to become the first team in 25 years to win back-to-back titles. Melbourne’s been the benchmark club for the past decade. Every other club is in awe of the Storm’s system, their success and their professionalism.

Back-to-back premierships would raise the bar even higher for every other club in the competition to strive for, which would make for a higher quality competition in the future. It would also be great to see Billy Slater, arguably the greatest fullback of all time, go out with another premiership.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

South Sydney are the most successful club in Australian rugby league history, with 21 premierships, but they’ve won only one title in the past 47 years. Sustained success is very important for a foundation club with a long, proud history, and history is very important for rugby league.

The 2014 season was the fairytale story for the Rabbitohs, but a title in 2018, when they were widely tipped to once again miss out on playing finals, would make a great comeback story after a couple of dismal seasons.

Sydney Roosters

Another foundation club with a long, proud history. The eastern suburbs-based team is arguably one of the best run clubs with one of the best playing rosters in the competition.

It’s amazing to think that fullback James Tedesco has never played finals football, so it would be fitting for a player of his quality to earn a premiership ring. Winning a title without immortals-in-waiting Billy Slater and Cameron Smith would also cement Cooper Cronk’s legacy.

St George Illawarra Dragons

Premiers in 2010, the Dragons have been unable to put together a complete season since, consistently starting seasons well only to suffer late-season fade-outs, much to the despair of their fans. The Dragons are again experiencing the wobbles, but they still find themselves in the hunt.

Speaking of the hunt, Ben Hunt is still haunted by his horror performance in the 2015 grand final, and it would make for one of the greatest individual redemption stories in grand final history if he’s able to lead the Dragons to this year’s premiership.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

They produced their own fairytale two short years ago, ending their almost 50-year title drought to claim their maiden premiership. But it still doesn’t seem right that a 50-year-old club that’s produced so many great players has just the one title.

The club has worked hard to build a winning culture and another premiership would see all that hard work pay off – and it would be the perfect send-off for retiring great Luke Lewis.

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Penrith Panthers

A club that’s teased with so much potential over the past few years yet haven’t turned that potential into premierships. It’s fair to say a season of high drama between football manager and coaching staff has taken a toll on the playing group.

Despite this, the team has shown tremendous fighting spirit all season with several come-from-behind wins, which demonstrates a never-give-up attitude. A premiership will finally repay the faith of their loyal fan base after so many empty promises in recent seasons.

Brisbane Broncos

The NRL’s ‘glamour club’, with six premierships since their inception in 1988, have a prestigious and proud history and are the most supported club in the competition. It’s hard to fathom that a club of such ilk hasn’t won a competition in 12 years.

A premiership would be a fitting addition to the legacy of rugby league’s most successful coach and legendary figure, Wayne Bennett, and the perfect send-off for one of game’s most lovable characters, 300-game one-club veteran Slammin’ Sam Thaiday.

New Zealand Warriors

Rugby league fans have been blessed with premiership fairytales over the past few years, including the Rabbitohs’ drought-breaking title in 2014, the Cowboys’ dramatic maiden premiership in 2015 and the Sharks ending 50 years of failure in 2016. The Warriors are one of just two current clubs that’s never won a premiership.

Established in 1995 and having finished runner-up twice, a Warriors premiership would deliver the NRL with yet another fairytale story. It would also make the Warriors the third club in the past four seasons to win a maiden premiership and would help rugby league make significant inroads into rugby union-mad New Zealand.

Whichever club goes on to win this year’s competition, there will be a feel-good story attached to it. If you’re a supporter of a club that won’t be featuring in this year’s finals series or if your finals-bound club is eliminated before the grand final, it’s up to you which feel-good story appeals to you most when deciding which bandwagon you wish to jump on.