A look at the NRL frontrunners

WITH THE NRL PREMIERSHIP BATTLE SEEMINGLY A RACE BETWEEN THREE, WE GIVE THREE REASONS WHY CRONULLA, MELBOURNE AND NORTH QUEENSLAND CAN ALL WIN THE TITLE AND ONE REASON WHY THEY CAN’T.

CRONULLA (1st, 16 wins, 2 losses)

Three reasons the Sharks can win the premiership

* The Sharks lead the competition with the best attack (26.7 points per game) and have emerged as the league’s most entertaining side.

* They have won 15 in a row – just the fourth team in history to win 15 or more in a season – and you don’t do that unless you’re the real deal.

* James Maloney. The Sharks five-eighth is on the cusp of winning his fourth straight minor premiership and has been the catalyst behind their title charge.

Why the Sharks can’t win the premiership

* Penalties. Shane Flanagan’s side have given away the most penalties of any side this year (8.2 per game) and the 11 they gave away against Newcastle on Sunday blighted a great win.

MELBOURNE (2nd, 15 wins, 3 losses)

Three reasons the Storm can win the premiership

* Their Fijian Flyers. Suliasi Vunivalu leads the league with 17 tries while Marika Koroibete isn’t far behind with 10. Their high-flying ability gives the Storm another dimension and when they’re unable to break down their opposition defence, they simply bomb for their big men on the wings.

* Defence. They have conceded a miserly 208 points in 18 games this year giving them the NRL’s best defence. They are also yet to concede more than 20 points in a match in 2016.

* With just three losses this year, they are on track to set a new club record for fewest defeats in a season. Their current club record, excluding years they were struck from the record books for salary cap cheating, is six losses in 2011.

Why the Storm can’t win the premiership

* Do they have enough of an x-factor outside the Big Two of Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk to lead them to a title?

NORTH QUEENSLAND (3rd, 12 wins, 6 losses)

Three reasons the Cowboys can win the premiership

* Clean sheets. They have held their opponents to zero on four occasions this season, making them just the sixth side in premiership history to do so. Three of those sides (2013 Sydney Roosters, 1982 Parramatta Eels, 1917 Balmain Tigers,) went on to win the grand final.

* Consistency. Amazingly Paul Green managed to keep his premiership-winning 17 together. And when they ran out against Canterbury last Thursday, only one player – suspended winger Kyle Feldt – was missing from last year’s grand final team.

* Jason Taumalolo. The New Zealand lock has been a beast, averaging 165 metres and playing all 18 of his side’s games. When the voting went behind closed doors, he was the co-leader for the Dally M Medal.

Why the Cowboys can’t win the premiership

* Sharks and Storm hold a mental edge. The Cowboys have lost to both sides this year, giving their opposition the ascendency.

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