Predicting the wooden spooners: NRL.com experts have their say

With four rounds remaining in the Telstra Premiership regular season, the battle to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon is on.

The experts at NRL.com have had their say on who they expect to finish at the foot of the ladder in 2018.

Chris Kennedy (NRL.com reporter)

Parramatta: While the Eels have now won two of their past three games, weekend victories to Manly and Canterbury ensure the goalposts keep moving further away. Their only hope now seems to be handing the spoon to round 24 opponents North Queensland but with a nightmare run home that also includes the Dragons, Roosters and Storm I can't see the Eels dragging themselves out of last place.

Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League)

Parramatta: It breaks my heart to say this, especially because I am an Eels fan. I still don't know where it went so horribly wrong for the Eels this year or what changed at half-time during their opening game against the Panthers. But playing finals last season seems so far away. This season has had it all - close losses, plenty of injuries and even a boil outbreak to top it off. Hopefully the opening of the new stadium next year is the start of some good times for Eels fans.

Paul Suttor (NRL.com editor)

Parramatta: With the Sea Eagles and Bulldogs showing signs of life in recent weeks, it will come down to the "SpoonBowl" in round 24 when the Eels host the Cowboys and Johnathan Thurston's will to win will get North Queensland the victory and give this year's biggest disappointments, the Eels, the dreaded bottom rung on the ladder.

Peter Jolly (NRL.com reporter)

Parramatta: In my opinion it's a race between the current bottom two; and it is hard to see the Eels getting any wins in the next two rounds, while the Cowboys are some chance against state rivals, Brisbane. Also being Johnathan Thurston's swansong, North Queensland will have enough when it counts so they don't send the master out with the dreaded title.

Margie McDonald (NRL.com senior reporter)

Canterbury: The Bulldogs have three top-eight teams to play, like the Eels do (the Cowboys have two). But in getting these last-gasp wins, I look to the halves and I feel Thurston, Moses and Norman can steer home a team far better than Canterbury duo Lewis and Marshall-King – because the pressure to find wins to take momentum into 2019 can be immense.

Steve Renouf (Broncos legend)

Parramatta: The Eels are on track to win their 14th wooden spoon. When I look at their draw they have an uphill battle, and the Cowboys are coming home strongly as JT plays his final games. Manly are far enough in front on points, and for and against, to stay ahead and I just think the Cowboys will beat the Eels in Townsville in round 24 to seal their fate.

Andrew Marmont (NRL.com reporter)

Parramatta: They never recovered from losing their first six games. And with Goliath assignments against the Storm and Roosters in the final rounds, expect some big loses to end a sorry season. Sorry Parra fans!

Tanisha Stanton (NRL.com reporter)

Parramatta: The Eels have the hardest run home facing the three of the top four teams on the ladder in the Dragons, Storm, Cowboys and Roosters in the concluding rounds. They don't have a good track record coming up against the current four competition leaders, having not won a single game this season against the any of the top contenders.

Neil Cadigan (NRL.com reporter)

Parramatta: Unless they can spring an upset against the Dragon this weekend, the Eels will be condemned to last place because – with all the emotion around Johnathan Thurston's last match – I think the Cowboys will win the wooden spoon play-off in Townsville in round 24. At best the two sides will finish equal on points with the Cows saving grace on for-and-against.

Dylan Morris (NRL.com reporter)

Parramatta: The Eels will complete their unhappy 2018 destiny of being the season's biggest disappointment when they lose to the Cowboys in Round 24, the boys from up North will simply want it more thanks to JT retiring.  

Jamie Soward (Former Blues five-eighth)

Parramatta: While a win over the Titans helped their cause, the Eels will win the wooden spoon in 2018. Coming up against two of the top four to end the season was always going to be tough. I saw more out of the Cowboys on the weekend to be able to stay away from last place. When they play in round 24 it will be the last time I will be ever able to say "you don't tip against JT in NQ".

Alicia Newton (NRL.com reporter)

Parramatta: There is a lot to be played out but the round 24 clash between Parramatta and North Queensland is likely to determine and I can't see the Eels claiming victory in Townsville.

Joel Gould (NRL.com reporter)

Parramatta: The Eels' tough draw in the remaining four rounds, current last placing on the ladder and the fact they travel to Townsville for Johnathan Thurston's final home game should see them finish with the wooden spoon. Manly appear to be finding some form and the Cowboys are also starting to fire ahead of a home clash with the depleted Broncos, which I expect them to also win.

Katie Brown (NRL.com reporter)

Cowboys: There's a thing called "trying too hard" and North Queensland are doing just that for JT, but it'll bite them in the butt – by round 25, they'll be sitting in 16th with the wrong trophy.

Scott Hazlewood (NRL.com reporter)

Parramatta: Unfortunately for Parramatta Eels fans I believe the club will finish with the dreaded prize in 2018. Both the Eels and the North Queensland Cowboys have horror runs home until round 25, but whoever wins in Townsville in the penultimate week of the regular season between North Queensland and Parramatta will finish 16th this season. As much as the Cowboys' season has not gone to plan, they will lift for the final home game of Jonathan Thurston's career.

Michael Chammas (NRL.com chief reporter)

North Queensland: The Eels showed they can still produce the occasional good performance when they beat Gold Coast last week and with Jarryd Hayne getting back to near his best, they can upset the Cowboys in round 24 and offload the spoon.

David Piepers (Big League editor)

Parramatta: They've been the 'form' side of the bottom half for most of the season, and despite some recent wins they might find it hard to close the gap on the equally-resurgent Dogs and Sea Eagles. Their only chance to close the gap is against the Cowboys in Round 24, but in JT's final game in Townsville it's hard to see them defying the narrative everyone will be hoping for. Combine that with games against the Storm, Dragons and Roosters and it's not looking good.

Dan Walsh (NRL.com reporter)

Parramatta: Fittingly this year's two biggest disappointments in the Eels and Cowboys will square off in round 24, the only game I can see Brad Arthur's team having a sniff in over the last month of the competition. Given North Queensland have Johnathan Thurston wrapping up his career and a game against the hot-and-cold Titans to round out their year, Parramatta are odds on to find themselves with the unwanted cutlery.

Brad Walter (NRL.com senior reporter)

Parramatta: The two teams I tipped for the grand final at the start of the year - the Eels and Cowboys - appear set to play off for the wooden spoon instead in round 24 after never finding form any stage this season. It would be fitting if Johnathan Thurston kicked a winning field goal or sideline conversion for North Queensland in his farewell home game.

Hayley Byrnes (NRL.com reporter)

Bulldogs: With Jarryd Hayne now back to his best and Corey Norman proving himself in the hope of a decent contact, the attention for me has now shifted from the Eels to the Bulldogs for last on the ladder.