Inside the NRL: Top-eight race hots up as NSW confirm Daley departure

With just one round left of the regular season, Jenna Brooks has the latest from the NRL as the race to make the top eight hots up – plus NSW make their decision on Laurie Daley.

All to play for

With just one round to go, there is still one place in the top eight up for grabs.

Parramatta Eels v South Sydney Rabbitohs
HANDICAP BETTING
Parramatta Eels
10/11
-12.0
Tie
16/1
-12.0
South Sydney Rabbitohs
10/11
+12.0

St George Illawarra overcame a controversial start to beat Penrith by two points on Sunday to keep their finals hopes alive. England international Gareth Widdop continued his good form this season, and Paul McGregor was impressed with his captain.

“I thought Gaz’s control was exceptional and as a team we done what was needed,” said McGregor.

Kangaroos Test centre Josh Dugan was named in the 17, but an hour before kick-off was withdrawn after missing the team bus, and McGregor wouldn’t guarantee Dugan would return for this Sunday’s must win match.

Josh Dugan was dropped from the Dragons' 17 for the match against Penrith
Josh Dugan was dropped from the Dragons’ 17 for the match against Penrith

“Next week is next week,” said the Dragons coach. “Let’s worry about celebrating tonight. Discipline is important to our footy team and on game day especially.”

St George Illawarra are currently in ninth place, two points behind the Panthers, Cowboys and Manly, but they have a superior points difference and a win against the Bulldogs next week will secure their place in the top eight.

The Sea Eagles play the Panthers, with the loser in danger of missing finals football, while the Cowboys must beat Brisbane on Thursday to guarantee their place in the finals.

Burgess Horror

Sam Burgess returned from injury last week, only to lead South Sydney to a 64-6 defeat to Minor Premiers Melbourne.

The Rabbitohs missed 52 tackles and Burgess admitted Melbourne were just too good.

“I didn’t get much of a reaction, which is disappointing,” said Burgess. “We’ve got a great set of guys in there. I know how hard we are working and I know what it means to everyone. That’s why it’s disappointing.”

“[I said] just to do our job. Individually we were just missing tackles and not in the right spots at times, and [missing] a bit of focus in certain moments.”

Cameron Smith of the Storm is congratulated by his team-mates  after scoring a try against the Rabbitohs
Cameron Smith of the Storm is congratulated by his team-mates after scoring a try against the Rabbitohs

With 11 minutes left, Burgess was placed on report for a tackle on Felise Kaufusi, who was forced from the pitch.

South Sydney, who are 11th, equal on points with the Bulldogs, play Parramatta on Friday in their final game of the season.

Daley Dumped

Laurie Daley has not been offered another contract to coach the NSW State of Origin team.

Daley, who took charge of the Blues in August 2012, signed a five-year deal which came to an end this year, and the NSWRL announced they will begin searching for a new coach.

“I have spoken with Laurie and he understands the decision,” said NSWRL chairman George Peponis. “He is obviously disappointed but he has enjoyed the journey and appreciated the opportunity.”

Laurie Daley has not had his contract extended by New South Wales
Laurie Daley has not had his contract extended by New South Wales

Daley said he had enjoyed his time working for New South Wales Rugby League.

“I understand that the business is results-driven and I respect the decision of the board to go in another direction,” said Daley.

In 15 games in charge, Daley led NSW to six wins, nine losses and one series victory in 2014.

Brad Fittler is favourite to replace Daley, but Geoff Toovey has also been linked with the role.

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