Where are the Warriors going? How today's Broncos result determines who the Kiwi club faces in the NRL playoffs

With just one game of importance left, the Warriors know they're off to Australia for the NRL playoffs but the Broncos' game against the Sea Eagles will answer one very important question - where.

With both the Panthers and Dragons winning their final round robin game, the Warriors are stuck in the seventh / eighth bracket for the NRL playoffs, meaning their road to the Grand Final is filled with road games.

However, the Broncos can still claim a home playoff next week. And in doing so, completely change how the bottom four will play next week in the first round of the playoffs.

Here's how each result affects the Warriors:

Broncos lose: Warriors v Dragons in Wollongong

Ken Maumalo on attack. St George Illawarra Dragons v Vodafone Warriors. NRL Rugby League. WIN Stadium, Wollongong, Australia. 4th August 2018. Copyright Photo: David Neilson / www.photosport.nz
Warriors winger Ken Maumalo on the attack in a NRL match against the St George Illawarra Dragons. Source: Photosport

Should the Broncos somehow blow it against the 15th-placed Sea Eagles, the Warriors will lock in seventh place and meet the Dragons in Wollongong.

The last time the Warriors played there in round 21, they ended a 22-year drought at WIN Stadium with a gutsy 18-12 win.

They also beat the Dragons earlier this year at Mt Smart with a 20-12 win in round seven, meaning the Dragons are yet to earn a win against the Kiwi club in 2018.

Broncos win by less than 33 points: Warriors v Panthers in Penrith

Nathan Cleary of the Panthers is tackled by Bodene Thompson of the Warriors.
Nathan Cleary of the Panthers is tackled by Bodene Thompson of the Warriors. Source: Photosport

If the Sea Eagles avoid a blow out, the Broncos will finish seventh and head to Wollongong instead.

As a result, the Warriors will finish eighth and head to Penrith for their third clash with the Panthers in nine weeks.

The last time the two sides met in round 24, the Warriors put them to the sword with a convincing 36-16 win at Mount Smart.

But prior to that in round 17, the exact opposite happened with the Panthers dominating in a 36-4 win.

While the two sides' trajectories have changed since that clash at Panthers Stadium, it still remains an exciting encounter with the Panthers finding some form and upsetting the Melbourne Storm this week.

Broncos win by 33 or more points: Warriors v Broncos in Brisbane

Korbin SIMS. Broncos v Vodafone Warriors, NRL Rugby League, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia. 15 July 2018. Copyright Image: Patrick Hamilton / www.photosport.nz
Broncos forward Korbin Sims in action against the Warriors. Source: Photosport

Should the Broncos go on a rampage at Suncorp Stadium today, they'll get the honours of hosting the Warriors at the same venue next week by rocketing into the fifth seed.

That would see the Panthers drop to sixth and therefore host the Dragons.

This outcome could prove the most interesting, with the two sides earning one win each against each other this season - both when they were at the other's venue.

The Broncos drew first blood with a 27-18 win at Mount Smart in round six but the Warriors bounced back in round 18 with a 26-6 win in Brisbane.

Vodafone Warriors Tohu Harris.
Vodafone Warriors v Canberra Raiders, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand. 31 August 2018. © Copyright Image: Marc Shannon / www.photosport.nz.
Warriors forward Tohu Harris in action against the Raiders. Source: Photosport



Jared Waerea-Hargreaves says Roosters in fine form without enforcer Dylan Napa ahead of NRL finals

The numbers show Jared Waerea-Hargreaves won't rest without front-row starting partner Dylan Napa, but the Sydney Roosters hard man insists it's not a one-man job to uphold a perfect record without the Queenslander this year.

The Roosters will play without Napa for a third straight game in Saturday night's grand-final qualifier against South Sydney, after he was suspended last month for the knock out blow on Brisbane's Andrew McCullough.

Having battled injuries both during and after Queensland's State of Origin campaign before the latest suspension, Napa has missed six games this year - of which the Roosters have won all six.

And he largely has Waerea-Hargreaves to thank for it up front.

The Kiwi prop's top three running games this year have all come while Napa has been missing for either all or the majority of those games, including his herculean 215-metre effort against Penrith in round 15 when his Queensland front row partner had left the field early.

But he maintained it wasn't just he who had stood up this year during any absence in the pack.

"Obviously when you have players like Napa, Sio Siua (Taukeiaho), Zane (Tetevano) in the team with experience, you share the workload," he said.

"When you get these younger boys and they don't play as much time, obviously statistically you are going to do more work because you are out there longer.

"But we have guys in the team like (bench forwards) Lindsay (Collins), (Nat) Butcher and Ryan Matterson that I've really enjoyed their growth this year."

"To see them grow with the confidence they have now 26 rounds in, you build that relationship and trust."

Waerea-Hargreaves and the Roosters' pack have had their help too in terms of the territorial battle.

Cooper Cronk is ranked second in the league for average kick metres, while the 688 metres he booted against Cronulla in week one of the finals was the most by any player in any game this year according to Fox Sports Stats.

Blake Ferguson and James Tedesco are also the NRL's two leading metre-eaters in the competition this year, while Daniel Tupou is ranked sixth to make for the best running and most powerful back three in the NRL to kickstart their sets.

"For myself and Fergo we just love doing it," Tupou said.

"We know it helps the forwards out and puts them on the front foot.

"That helps out not just the forwards but the whole team, especially with Cooper and his kicking game."

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 18: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves runs the ball during a Sydney Roosters NRL training session at Kippax Lake Oval on September 18, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves runs the ball during a Sydney Roosters NRL training session at Kippax Lake Oval in Sydney. Source: Getty


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'The public's only heard one side of the story' - Bunnies coach defends Sam Burgess over ongoing sexting scandal

South Sydney coach Anthony Seibold says people will soon be able to make up their mind on the sexting scandal that has embroiled Sam Burgess, claiming they had only heard one side of the story.

Seibold was also adamant the off-field controversy had only made the Rabbitohs tougher ahead of Saturday night's NRL preliminary final against Sydney Roosters.

The NRL integrity unit's probe into allegations lewd images were sent to a young woman from one of Burgess' social media accounts are expected to conclude by Thursday despite reports of a setback.

An emotional Burgess addressed the scandal on Tuesday, repeatedly saying he would be "happy for the truth to come out" without going into specifics.

Seibold echoed Burgess' thoughts after saluting his team's resilience for overcoming the off-field distraction in their dramatic 13-12 semi-final win over St George Illawarra.

The allegations were made public on the eve of the Rabbitohs' clash with the Dragons although the alleged incident occurred back in May.

"The public has only heard one side of the story," Seibold told Sky Sports Radio.

"The investigation will hopefully conclude today or tomorrow and then people can make up their own mind on the story that has been out there.

"Obviously it wasn't ideal having the club on the front page and being the lead story on most of the news agencies across the country on Friday and Saturday last week but I thought the guys showed a lot of resolve."

The Rabbitohs may be expecting a verdict before the grand final qualifier however reports suggest the NRL's investigation hit a snag.

Fairfax reported the woman at the centre of the allegations had refused to speak with investigators from both the Rabbitohs and the NRL when contacted while on holiday in South Africa.

Either way, Seibold said the ongoing scandal compounded by back to back one point finals finishes had only steeled his side ahead of their clash with the minor premiers.

South Sydney No.7 Adam Reynolds' three field goals helped the Rabbitohs pull off a stunning one point win over the Dragons a week after falling short 29-28 to Melbourne in a qualifying final.

"I think the hard football is making us tougher," Seibold said.

"And we've shown we can handle pressure. I think we have shown a lot of resolve and resilience.

"We are not fatigued by any means. We are really confident heading into the Roosters game."

Sam Burgess of the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Source: Photosport


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Panthers set to stick with stand-in coach Cameron Ciraldo for 2019 NRL season

Penrith are set to install Cameron Ciraldo as head coach for next year's NRL as they continue to be linked to Ivan Cleary in the long term.

Panthers boss Phil Gould suggested that Ciraldo would remain in charge in 2019 after guiding the Panthers through the final six weeks in a caretaker capacity.

The 33-year-old was handed the reins after Anthony Griffin's sacking four weeks out from the finals and Gould said the club had no reason to bring in anyone else.

"I don't see any need to change anything we've been doing for the last five or six weeks," Gould said on the Six Tackles with Gus podcast.

"I've been very impressed with Cameron Ciraldo and the academy staff and we threw everything in our academy at the NRL preparation.

"They did an outstanding job, I was really impressed with them."

Ciraldo is contracted for next season after serving as an assistant under Griffin.

On Wednesday it was reported that the club's board had rubber-stamped his ascension to the top job on a full-time basis.

The club's move to oust Griffin so late in the season resulted in speculation Cleary was set to exit the Wests Tigers, with two years still to run on his contract.

Cleary stated his promise to "honour" his deal with the joint venture, however, has since refused to answer questions.

It's believed that the Panthers are readying to offer Cleary the role for 2021 - which is viewed by many as an attempt by Penrith to force the Tigers' hand and release him.

Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe has been contacted for comment though the club has, until this point, flatly refused to entertain the idea of Cleary leaving early.

NRL clubs are not allowed to negotiate with players more than 12 months before their contract expires.

The NRL said that chief operating officer Nick Weeks was set to examine a request from some clubs to alter the laws governing coaching negotiations so that they be brought in line with those that regulate player rules.

Gould denied any knowledge of any negotiations between Cleary and his club.

"I have nothing to do with the Ivan Cleary situation at all," he said.

A return to the Penrith job, from which he was axed in 2015, would allow Cleary to team up with his son Nathan, who is expected to sign a rich multi-year contract extension.

The NSW playmaker has reportedly been offered a lucrative deal until the end of 2023 and has stated his desire to sort out his future in the next few weeks.

The 20-year-old returned to Panthers headquarters on Tuesday and Gould said he was confident of getting an agreement over the line.

"No confirmation but I'm confident we'll get a deal done and he'll be at Panthers for a fair while," he said.

Nathan Cleary. Vodafone Warriors v Penrith Panthers, Round 19 of the 2017 NRL Rugby League Premiership season at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand. 14 July 2017. Copyright photo: Renee McKay / www.photosport.nz
Panthers half Nathan Cleary in action against the Warriors. Source: Photosport


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Former Warriors hardman Motu Tony wants to restore 'Kiwis family feel' to team after taking new role at NZRL

Rugby league's administration is full of former players looking to give back in some way, but it's fair to say only few deserve to be there as much as Motu Tony.

Having helped transform one of the UK's powerhouse clubs, he's now looking to do the same as the high performance manager behind the Kiwis.

After an illustrious 11-year career, Tony took on some serious advice from former team manager Sir Peter Lietch in 2012.

"I remember the Mad Butcher saying to me, ‘you're not Stacey Jones,' so I knew that quite early [in my career] I wasn't the most talented player."

An embarrassed Sir Peter admits he doesn’t quite remember dishing out the harsh dose of reality but knows what he meant by saying it.

"I would've only said that to help him because some guys are going to have a big career in football and some aren't."

Remembering the Mad Butcher's advice, the 13-Test Kiwi ended his career in the UK and started a bachelor's degree.

Just months into study, he returned to his former English club Hull as the youngest ever senior sports administrator in the game.

"I was told that I was the only Pacific islander in senior sports administration," Tony said.

"I know it's flattering for me but it’s something I’m keen to sort of change."

The best recruiters make a name taking risks.

Last year, the 37-year-old packed up his family of seven to take a role as interim CEO of Baseball New Zealand before joining the NZRL as their general manager for high performance.

His first task - getting the Kiwis to restore pride against the Kangaroos next month.

"When you have the Junior Kiwis, the Kiwi Ferns and the Kiwis all playing on the one day, one venue, it promotes the Kiwi family feel again.

"That's something we haven't had in our sport for a very long time."

Tony will bring all his experiences as a player and sports administrator to the organisation. Source: 1 NEWS | Sky


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