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Opinion: Chris Walker predicts Cup finalists

In my mind, there are only three teams I can lock in for the 2018 Intrust Super Cup finals, with four rounds remaining in the competition.

All but two teams in the competition are a mathematical possibility of qualifying for the finals.

To me it's a credit to the Queensland Rugby League that a competition of this quality, intensity and anticipation can be made possible when you consider the geographic and budgetary hurdles that need to be overcome.

Sending teams of all ages around not only Queensland, but into northern New South Wales and PNG on a weekly basis is a logistical feat worth applauding.

And with only one game televised per week, the clubs and the league work their hides off to gather sponsors and support to keep it all afloat.

So firstly, hats off to that.

Secondly here are my predictions for the how the season will play out.

Currently the ladder looks like this:

1. TOWNSVILLE – 30pts (+234 points differential)
2. REDCLIFFE – 28pts (+177)
3. BURLEIGH – 26pts (+98)
4. NORTHERN PRIDE – 24 pts (+40)
5. EASTS – 22pts (+91)
6. SUNSHINE COAST – 22pts (+32)
7. PNG – 22pts (+2)
8. NORTHS – 22pts (-22)
9. SOUTHS LOGAN – 20pts (+51)
10. IPSWICH – 20pts (-13)
11. TWEED HEADS – 20pts (-151)
12. WYNNUM MANLY – 18pts (-81)
13. CENTRAL QLD – 12pts (-168)
14. MACKAY – 8pts (-290)

Straight away we can draw a line through Central QLD and Mackay who are a statistical impossibility of playing on past the next month unless a zombie apocalypse wipes out South East Queensland.

Wynnum Manly, I'm sorry, I don't believe in miracles on this occasion and I think they're too far gone to honestly vie for a spot.

As much as it pains me to say this, with my brothers coaching in Ipswich, but they've probably had one loss too many this year and will miss the finals.

They'll rue some of the games they let slip when they had the upper hand.

That's footy.

It's a similar story for the other teams on 20 competition points – Tweed and Souths Logan.

Tweed will look back on the start of the year where they lost five games on the trot from Round 1 and know that was the part that cruelled their efforts.

Them and Souths Logan will only miss out by the narrowest of margins in my mind – and there'll be some clubs that breathe a sigh of relief when they do.

I'm tipping the Magpies to beat PNG this weekend, but after two successive losses, the margin to the top six. will be too much for them to chase.

Okay, that leaves us with eight teams to go into six spots.

Looking at the other end of the ladder, Townsville is sitting pretty, with Redcliffe in second.

They'll make the finals, but I don't believe either team will end up raising the premiership trophy.

To me, the team who will win it all will be third-placed Burleigh.

They have class and depth, and a club structure and atmosphere that has them primed for the run home.

I believe it will be a Burleigh-Townsville grand final.

Anyhow, we still have five teams to squeeze into 4th, 5th and 6th on the ladder.

I'm predicting the Northern Pride and Sunshine Coast Falcons will occupy two of those spots.

Which leaves you with Easts, PNG and Norths in a three-way scrap for the remaining position.

For me, I believe Norths are going to be the side that steps up and powers home to defy the disbelievers.

They've got a tough assignment on Saturday against Townsville at Bishop Park in the Channel Nine televised game, but I think they've still got something to offer.

Easts and PNG will be unlucky to miss the cut, and I know Hunters supporters will be up in arms in particular, but it's been a fair effort from them.

Premiership teams really feel the pressure the year after lifting the Intrust Super Cup.

We're at a level that players get recruited straight away by the NRL or Super League if they are on fire in the Intrust Super Cup.

Other players will retire and remember the premiership as their crowning glory.

Rebuilding is part-and-parcel of being a good administrator in the Intrust Super Cup. It's inevitable really.

I do think there's some measures the Intrust Super Cup could implement to ensure all clubs have a regular and equal chance at finals.

But that topic is one for another column...