2015 NRC: Road to the finals
With three rounds remaining in the 2015 NRC, the UC Vikings and Brisbane City look set to battle it out for the minor premiership. Behind them, a host of teams remain in contention for the remaining two finals spots, with the competition a whole lot closer than the ladder makes it appear.
UC Vikings (1st, 24pts): Melbourne Rising (H), Brisbane City (H), QLD Country (A)
The UC Vikings are yet to lose in 2015 and appear to be cruising towards their first NRC finals berth, however the Canberra side has a tough end to the regular season.
Clashes against Melbourne and Brisbane at home will determine if the Vikings are a genuine premiership threat and should put them in good stead ahead of finals footy.
Brisbane City (2nd, 24 pts): Sydney Stars (A), UC Vikings (A), Greater Sydney Rams (H)
Brisbane City have been dominant again in 2015 and look likely to host a semi final at Ballymore in a few weeks time.
If City can beat a desperate Stars side this weekend, they’ll travel to Canberra to play for the minor premiership and the opportunity to host back to back grand finals, if they make it.
Sydney Stars (3rd, 19 pts): Brisbane City (H), Bye, Melbourne Rising (A)
After finishing last in 2014, the Stars have been the big improvers this season but face arguably the most difficult road to the finals.
With teams earning no points during their bye week (Rd8), the Stars will most likely need at least one more win to book a spot in the finals, meaning they’ll need to upset either Brisbane or Melbourne in the final weeks.
At the very least, bonus points in either match may be enough for the Stars to sneak in.
Melbourne Rising (4th, 12pts): UC Vikings (A), NSW Country (H), Sydney Stars (H)
Like the Stars, Melbourne sit comfortably in the top four with three rounds remaining, but after a disappointing showing in Perth, need to improve leading into a tough month of footy.
If the Rising return to their best, they are more than capable of taking out the NRC but have looked a shadow of the side they were last season so far this year.
Despite that, a host of big names have returned for Melbourne in recent weeks making it hard to rule the Rising out just yet.
Perth Spirit (5th, 10pts): NSW Country (H), Greater Sydney Rams (A), Bye
After an up and down start to the year, Perth found the form they were looking for last week in a big victory over Melbourne.
Last year’s grand finalists left their run late in 2014, but facing a bye in round nine, the Spirit must win their next two matches against NSW Country and the Greater Sydney Rams to be any chance of making the finals.
QLD Country (6th, 9pts): Bye, North Harbour Rays (A), UC Vikings (H)
QLD Country kept their season alive with an upset victory over NSW Country in Newcastle on Thursday, but will need to win their final two matches to make the finals after a bye this week.
Although last week’s effort was QLD Country’s best so far this year, it’s difficult to see them upsetting the Vikings in round nine.
NSW Country Eagles (7th, 9pts): Perth Spirit (A), Melbourne Rising (A), North Harbour Rays (H)
If NSW Country make the finals in 2015, they are going to have earned it. After a disappointing loss to QLD Country last Thursday, the Country Eagles must win at least two of their last three games to be any chance of making the finals.
They travel to Perth to play the Spirit on Sunday, then face Melbourne just four days later on Thursday, before heading to Bathurst for a final round clash against the North Harbour Rays.
North Harbour Rays (8th, 5pts): Greater Sydney Rams (A), QLD Country (H), NSW Country (A)
Although the Rays have one of the easiest draws in the final few weeks, they still may fall a few points short of the finals even if they win their last three matches.
Despite that, the Rays still have plenty to play for and will be eager to beat their rival NSW teams in round seven and nine.
Greater Sydney Rams (9th, 3pts): North Harbour Rays (H), Perth Spirit (H), Brisbane City (A)
2015 hasn’t quite gone to plan for the Rams and with matches against Perth and Brisbane in the final two rounds, the Greater Sydney side will play their grand final on Thursday night against the North Harbour Rays.