Andrew Voss, NRL.com
Andrew Voss makes his final top eight prediction, questions golden point extra time, and argues why the Cowboys' next big chapter is here.
1) So how will things unfold in Round 26?
Let me take a stab.
I'll stand by my prediction of last week that the Roosters will claim the minor premiership courtesy of a win over Souths and a stronger points differential than Manly.
That means I am tipping the Cowboys to beat the Sea Eagles this week. The win by Paul Green's side will lift them into the top four after the Warriors account for Penrith on Sunday night.
Melbourne will recover from their Roosters defeat to knock out Brisbane. I am not confident about Canterbury, but they should be good enough to down the Titans.
Taking all of the above into account this is the order I am fearlessly predicting the teams will finish:
1. Roosters 2. Sea Eagles 3. Rabbitohs 4.Cowboys 5. Storm 6. Panthers 7. Bulldogs 8. Warriors.
Incredibly, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th would all finish on 32 competition points.
The Broncos and the Eels will just miss out.
But I have been wrong plenty of times in the past.
2) Will there be a full house at 1300Smiles Stadium on Saturday night?
I would certainly hope so.
I've been fortunate enough in my commentary career to call some of the biggest occasions in the 20-year history of premiership football in Townsville.
I was there for opening night in 1995.
I will forever remember that first finals appearance in 2004 when the Cowboys toppled the Broncos.
The fans have always come – literally – from far and wide, some driving many hours to be in the crowd.
And while there have been other big matches and finals I recall fondly, the next grand chapter is written this Saturday night and I consider myself lucky to be attending for Fox Sports' live coverage.
At stake is the minor premiership for Manly, and a possible top-four berth for the Cowboys.
Two mighty teams. Some of the game's best superstars in Thurston, Cherry-Evans, Scott, Foran, Lyon…
It deserves a big stage and a magic atmosphere. My wish is that the first capacity crowd of the season at the ground will provide it.
And for those who can't make it to the game, cancel all your plans for Saturday night. The only place to be will be on the couch watching the footy!
3) Any more thoughts on the proposed referee bunker system?
Yes… and they're not overly positive.
Are those pushing the cause absolutely convinced this would be millions of dollars well spent?
I totally understand the theory that greater consistency is a better chance of being achieved with fewer people involved in the process.
However we could basically do that now.
We had a perfect opportunity in Round 25 to see if the game really would be better off, and do so without spending extra millions.
What was stopping the same video referee going to ANZ Stadium last Thursday night, Suncorp Friday night, Allianz Stadium Saturday, Brookvale Sunday and Townsville on Monday?
Let me go on the record as saying I am not confident the bunker system or command centre will be all it is built up to be, or eliminate the controversy. It will still be humans making the decisions, after all.
4) Do you still support golden point extra time?
I am seriously questioning my support.
I have always been happy to run with a majority on this one, however Monday night's effort by Cronulla didn't deserve the team to end the game with nothing.
There had already been the field-goal shootout in regulation time, with Daniel Holdsworth nailing his long bomb. Had he missed, the Sharks obviously lose the game fair and square.
I am now leaning more towards playing a full 10 minutes if we have to have extra time.
However I will not argue the case if we go back to the old system of play being over at the end of 80 minutes and a draw being a draw during the first 26 rounds.
When we get to the finals play a full extra 10 minutes in drawn matches and then if required go to golden point after that.
I'd be interested to hear from those who like me have supported the golden point concept, whether your thinking has now changed.
5) What's former Rooster Adrian Morley up to?
Plenty it would seem.
Adrian is far and away the oldest player still playing at the top level, and he has just signed on for 2015… but what about the twist?
At Salford in the Super League Morley, who will turn 38 next May, has been appointed general manager of the club to coincide with his playing duties next year.
What about this paving the way for similar roles in the NRL?
Cameron Smith for Storm operations manager? Greg Inglis development manager at Souths? Daly Cherry-Evans assistant manager at Manly? Or Michael Ennis assistant referees boss in his spare time? Maybe that's going a little too far.
6) Do you want to hear a good league story?
I have a beauty.
Last weekend I had the great pleasure of going along to North Sydney Oval to watch the North Sydney Junior League grand finals.
The NSJRL is not big. As a matter of fact it boasts just seven clubs. However three years ago that number was only six.
In what is not known as league heartland on the lower north shore of Sydney, the Lane Cove Tigers had died off at the end of 1999. That year the club had just one team – its under-13 side which won the premiership.
For the next 12 years the club ceased to exist, until one man, passionate league supporter Matt Girvan, revived the Tigers with a small band of parents' assistance.
They started with three teams in 2012. That grew to five in 2013, and seven in 2014.
Last Saturday Matt stood proudly holding the club's first premiership plaque since '99, after the under-11s won the decider against Asquith.
The coach, David Best, for mine represents all the parents who give up so much of their own time to help the kids playing this great sport.
So long as there are dedicated men like Girvan and Best, rugby league will always have a future.
Enjoy what should be a gripping final round of the Telstra Premiership folks.
Giddy up up up!