Warriors in position to win: Brown
Any genuine premiership claims will get a thorough examination when they meet the Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Sunday but former Dragons coach Nathan Brown believes the Warriors have got the balance right to win the club's first premiership.
Although the Broncos and Cowboys have opened up a handy four-point buffer at the top of the table, the Warriors are now just one win behind the third-placed Roosters and within reach of securing a home final either in Week One or Week Two of the Finals Series.
Seeking a top-four finish for just the third time in the club's history, the Warriors have not figured in a Finals Series since 2011 but in this week's issue of Big League Brown says they can go all the way.
"The Warriors round out the top four at the moment, which is incredible considering they were sitting 13th at the end of the representative round," says Brown in the Heritage Round issue of Big League.
"Since then the Warriors have won six of their last eight and are now in their best ever position for a title tilt.
"They've got more depth than most sides and they have the most powerful backline with Tuimoala Lolohea, David Fusitua, Konrad Hurrell, Solomone Kata and Manu Vatuvei.
"The form of Shaun Johnson is obviously key, but the addition of Chad Townsend and the experience of Sam Tomkins and Ryan Hoffman – who are both real competitors – further strengthens their claim."
In the past five years the team that has finished in eighth position has done so with 28 competition points with Newcastle squeaking in ahead of Canterbury in 2011 on for and against.
That would mean the 10th-placed Raiders would need to win at least five of their remaining eight games, a task Brown believes is by no means beyond them.
"Looking at the bottom half of the competition the Raiders are the most likely to put on a late charge towards the finals," says Brown.
"They're playing with such confidence at the moment and scoring points in attack is a common denominator in all teams who have made a late run. No lead is too large for the Raiders to overcome and they back themselves never to be played out of a match.
"Their season could come down to how Blake Austin plays without Sam Williams. They've lost the two games they have played without Williams since he joined the team in Round 5 and his control and composure provide a great balance to the running of Austin."
The Round 19 Heritage Round issue of Big League is on sale now at newsagents and at the ground. Digital version also available via Zinio.