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1. Coach of the Year consideration

While every side in the VB NSW Cup is forced to handle regular line up changes, the Penrith Panthers have been dealt a significant number of changes throughout the season with injuries, not just in their own side, but also a severe injury crisis in their NRL team.

Despite multiple weekly changes, the Panthers are tied for first-place and are guaranteed of a vital top-four finish after gutsy back-to-back wins against Mounties and Newtown Jets this week.

It’s a credit to Garth Brennan on his side’s courageous performance all season long despite the difficult challenge.

With everyone back for the finals, the Panthers are on track to defend their premiership.

2. Will Manly stay in the eight?

The Manly Sea Eagles moved into the top eight after a resounding 26-12 win over the Canterbury Bulldogs.

The Sea Eagles host both the last-placed Wentworthville Magpies and sixth-placed Newcastle Knights in their final two games.

Manly now sit in eighth place, two points ahead of the Cutters, who suffered a devastating blow with a narrow 24-20 loss against Mounties.

It’s a tough ask for the Cutters in their last two matches on the road against the Bulldogs and Panthers, placing Manly in firm control of their finals placing.

3. North Sydney are the real deal

The Bears kept the end-of-season steam train powering along with another impressive display, dismantling the fifth-placed Knights 52-20.

It’s the Bears’ fourth-straight victory and it’s hard to see anyone stopping them.

North Sydney have morphed into a unlikely juggernaut after languishing at the bottom of the ladder, and will be the Cinderella fairytale of the finals.

4. Worrying Warriors

Although the Warriors are tied for first place, their form has not been overally convincing.

In their past four games, the Warriors lost to Manly and the Bears. They narrowly held on for a 30-28 win over the Newtown Jets and squeezed a 20-16 victory against a lackluster Wests Tigers outfit after trailing 10-0.

They also possess the fourth-worst defence which they need to drastically improve before the finals.

The Warriors need to step their game up if they are serious premiership contenders before they get caught out.

5. Most open race in VB NSW Cup history

For the second consecutive week, Mounties, Wyong Roos, Penrith Panthers and New Zealand Warriors are in a four-way deadlock for first place with two rounds remaining.

There has never been a tighter race as anticipation builds for a climatic finals series.

It’s set to be a enthralling conclusion to the season with the competition up for grabs.

View full NSW Cup highlights from Round 23 here

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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