IT HAS come down to four teams - Brisbane, Melbourne, North Queensland and the Roosters.
Yet even with four of the top eight teams eliminated, confidently predicting this year's NRL premier remains a tough assignment.
The 2015 season has been one of the closest for years and in a strange twist, betting agencies have quoted Brisbane and Melbourne, who had the weekend off and now have home-ground advantage in the preliminary finals, as the underdogs for their games against Roosters and Cowboys respectively.
Running through finals' statistics for the past 15 seasons shows the odds of getting into and winning the grand final do favour one of the two teams that have enjoyed a week's rest.
But those odds are not overwhelming.
Since 2000, teams with the week's break have won 19 preliminary finals, but lost 11.
On just five occasions, teams with the week's break won both preliminary finals (the last was in 2012 - Melbourne and Canterbury).
Only once have both teams who had a week's break been beaten in the prelims - St George Illawarra and Parramatta lost to Wests Tigers and North Queensland respectively in 2005.
In nine of the past 15 years, one prelim final was won by a team that had a week off, and one by a team that didn't.
Eleven of the past 15 grand finals have been won by a team that had a week off prior to the prelims.
No team has won the grand final after playing four finals matches since Brisbane in 2006.
Those key stats suggest Brisbane or Melbourne are best placed to win the grand final, leaving both the Roosters and Cowboys needing to become the first team since the Broncos downed the Storm in the 2006 decider to play every week of the finals and triumph.
It adds up to an intriguing final fortnight where injuries, luck, referees, video calls and the judiciary will play almost as big a part in deciding games as the players themselves.
Bookmaker Sportsbet has backed a repeat of 2005, quoting the Roosters at $1.75 to beat the Broncos ($2.10) at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, and the Cowboys at $1.80 to upset the Storm ($2.05) at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
It has also quoted the Roosters at $2.90 to repeat Brisbane's effort in 2006 and win the flag, ahead of the Cowboys ($3.75), Broncos ($4) and Storm ($5).
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