Fox Sports' Matt Russell previews round 26 of the Toyota Cup



Fox Sports' Matt Russell previews round 26 of the Toyota Cup
By Matt Russell
September 02, 2009 As we enter the final round of the Toyota Cup the top eight seems locked away but the finishing order is anyone's guess, writes Fox Sports commentator Matt Russell.

Sprint to the finish

One point separates the top three teams. One point separates teams four and five. One point separates seven and eight.

Manly should beat Gold Coast Titans on Saturday to seal the minor premiership, but St George Illawarra and Melbourne Storm are praying for the Titans to finish with a bang.

Wests Tigers should beat the Bulldogs on Friday night to wrap up a top four finish, but Brisbane Broncos are ready to pounce if there's an upset.

South Sydney can finish anywhere between sixth and eighth, depending on what happens to the Warriors and Canberra. Mathematically, the Raiders can still miss out but it would require them to be beaten by 40 and North Queensland Cowboys to win by 40.

Like the NRL, the National Youth Competition has six games in the final round that will have a direct bearing on the finals makeup.

Remember this name

Tigers fullback Jake Mullaney is having an unbelievable finish to the season. He's already won two Player of the Week mentions on Fox Sports and I reckon he's got another one coming after last week.

Mullaney scored three tries against the Titans and kicked six goals - his third haul of more than 20 points in four weeks. Mullaney has scored 14 tries in his last six games.

This form has taken him to the top of the league's point scoring list and has him second on the try scoring sheet - four behind Kane Morgan. His last try on the weekend - an 80-metre kick return - was breathtaking.

Looking back

Mullaney left his run a little late to make the 2009 Team of the Year. I've listed the players below, with a quick thought on each. But first, to give an indication of what we can expect from these players in the years to come, here is the 2008 team. A lot of these names are now familiar faces in the NRL:

Lachlan Coote, Jharal Yow Yeh, Justin Carney, Tony Williams, Kevin Gordon, Ben Barba, Chris Sandow, Russell Packer, Masada Iosefa, John Kite, Joel Thompson, Daniel Harrison, Shaun Fensom, Ben Hunt, Matt Mundine, Jordan Rapana, Ben Matulino.