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NRL top four devalued by Sydney success

Canterbury aren't about to give up on the top four - but the the success of the NRL's Sydney-based clubs is negating the value of home-field advantage.
NRL top four devalued by Sydney success
by AAP

By Steve Jancetic

SYDNEY, Aug 9 AAP - Canterbury aren't about to give up on the top four - but the the success of the NRL's Sydney-based clubs is negating the value of home-field advantage.

Three points outside of the top four with five rounds remaining, the Bulldogs and Cronulla (both 26 competition points) need results to go their way in order jump ahead of either Manly and Melbourne (both on 29 points).

The Sydney Roosters and South Sydney, who are both on 34 points, look likely to occupy the top-two spots.

History has proven that a top-four finish is essential to mounting a serious premiership tilt given the last team to win a title finishing lower down the ladder were the Bulldogs from sixth in 1995.

But the struggles of the three Queensland sides and doubts over the ability of the Warriors to sneak into the finals picture may have reduced the impact of missing the coveted top four.

With Canberra and Newcastle occupying seventh and eighth on the ladder, there is the prospect that should finals matches follow the script of ladder positions, there will be just one post-season match outside Sydney.

That would soften the blow of missing the top four for the Bulldogs.

"I definitely think there is the capability in the Bulldogs side to cause an upset," Bulldogs coach Hasler said.

"I guess with top four you get two bites of the cherry - that's probably the best thing.

"When it gets to that stage, top eight ... I've seen sides come from sixth spot and play in grand finals.

"The finals is a whole different competition - let's leave it at that."

The home side won every game during last year's finals series up until the grand final when Melbourne beat the Bulldogs.

But along with the Storm, North Queensland and the Raiders both earned the right to host finals in 2012, the latter two both losing when forced onto the road.

The Bulldogs host Gold Coast at ANZ Stadium on Monday, both sides with plenty to play for with the Titans just one point outside the top eight.

"I don't think the top eight is in any way settled," Hasler said.

"We need sides above us to lose and in order to do that we've got to keep winning to put pressure on, and obviously the Titans are in a similar position."

Canterbury skipper Michael Ennis admitted the possibility of staying in Sydney would aid his side if they failed to land a top-four finish, with the squad taking plenty of confidence out of good recent run of form.

The Bulldogs have won three games in a row, with just the round-24 clash against South Sydney the only top-six opponent in their run home.

"I'm confident in the group regardless of where we finish," Ennis said.

"But we just need to make sure that we're building each week without looking too far ahead."

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