BEHIND THE DESK: Who will win the 2019 NRL premiership?
RAIDERS MUST WEATHER THE STORM
RUGBY league finals have arrived so we thought it was time to place our bets on the front runner for the 2019 NRL premiership.
After another close battle at the top of the table, the top four for 2019 looks similar to that of 2018 minus one very notable addition - the Canberra Raiders.
Known as the "Canberra faders" for dropping off at the end of each year, Canberra are still well and truly in the hunt and despite a last round loss to the New Zealand Warriors they are more than capable of winning the lot.
Ricky Stewart's men will need to do it the hard way, taking on the Melbourne Storm in a qualifying final at AAMI Park before facing whatever tough test lay next ahead of them but with Canberra back to full strength they have the fire power.
Star fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was rested against the Warriors last weekend alongside Iosia Soliola, John Bateman, Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua who are all returning for the clash.
Melbourne Storm will go into the finals as favourites alongside the Sydney Roosters but Canberra have shown they are capable of beating Melbourne back in round 22 with a thrilling 22-18 comeback win and they can do it again.
Key for Canberra will be lifting to beat lower sides should they fall to Melbourne in Victoria, if they can show the resolve they are capable under Stewart, they can go on to claim their first premiership in 15 long years.
RABBITOHS HAVE WHAT IT TAKES
AFTER 25 rounds of rugby league action, only eight teams are left in the hunt for the 2019 premiership.
Before the finals kick off tonight there has been talk about the teams that didn't make it into the top eight, but now it's time to focus on who are contenders, and who are pretenders for the big dance come the first weekend of October.
While many punters will (rightfully so) have either the defending premiers Sydney Roosters or their 2018 opponents Melbourne Storm as the 2019 champions, for mine I think the South Sydney Rabbitohs have what it takes to make the grand final and win it.
Wayne Bennett teams (apart from that disastrous time with Newcastle) have a culture of winning, and he has got the Bunnies right where they need to be to go deep into this finals campaign.
The loss of Sam Burgess is big, but I think the Rabbitohs will take a lot of confidence from their 16-10 win over the Roosters last week, and with Cody Walker playing some of the best footy he has all season, and Damien Cook's speed from dummy-half, they're going to be a handful.
As for my outsider selection, I like the Raiders, but they're no longer outsiders considering they finished in the top four, so I'll go with Parramatta.
The Eels haven't had much success in recent years but playing the Broncos first up could give them a springboard into this finals series. I guess you never know what you'll get from the Eels, and that's half the fun. Bring on the finals.