Almost every season there’s a common cry about the NRL. It goes along the lines of: “This is the closest the competition has ever been.”

It’s hard not to agree this year.

After 17 rounds just four points separates the leading 10 sides with three teams on top on 24 and the next seven all on 20. Just two points off the eighth place total are St George Illawarra and Gold Coast.

Extrapolate things just a little more and only 12 points covers the entire 16 teams with three sides holding up the bottom end on 12.

At the same time last year South Sydney was seemingly running away with things on 30 points four clear of the Roosters and a whopping 12 points ahead of three sides filling sixth, seventh and eighth. There was a 20-point spread from first to last (Parramatta on 10).

After 17 rounds in 2012, there was an eight-point gap between first and eighth and 18 points from first to last.

When the Vodafone Warriors last made the finals – and the grand final – in 2011 they were ninth at this stage on 18 points, out of the top eight on points for and against. Manly was 10 points ahead at the top.

Indeed in this, the Vodafone Warriors’ 20th season in existence, it can be stated this is the closest the competition has been since they debuted in 1995. There have been instances when only six points has separated first to eighth after 17 rounds but never four; and there have been occasions when 16 points has covered the field but never 12.

Here’s how the 16 teams line up after 17 rounds this season and a look at their run-ins to the finals:

 

1 PANTHERS (24, +81)

Broncos (h), Roosters (a), Sharks (h), Bulldogs (a), Dragons (a), Cowboys (h), Storm (h), Sea Eagles (a), Vodafone Warriors (h)

2 SEA EAGLES (24, +79)

Tigers (h), Dragons (a), Vodafone Warriors (a), Broncos (h), Rabbitohs (a – SCG), Titans (a), Eels (a), Panthers (h), Cowboys (a)

3 BULLDOGS (24, +64)

Storm (a), Tigers (a – ANZ Stadium), Cowboys (h), Panthers (h), Broncos (a), Eels (a – ANZ Stadium), Tigers (h), Rabbitohs (h), Titans (a)

4 RABBITOHS (20, +112)

Bye, Eels (a), Raiders (a), Knights (h – Barlow Park, Cairns), Sea Eagles (h - SCG), Broncos (h), Cowboys (h), Bulldogs (a), Roosters (a) 

5 ROOSTERS (20, +104)

Bye, Panthers (h), Knights (a), Dragons (h), Titans (h), Tigers (a), Vodafone Warriors (a), Storm (h), Rabbitohs (h)

6 BRONCOS (20, +77)

Panthers (a), Vodafone Warriors (h), Storm (h), Sea Eagles (a), Bulldogs (h), Rabbitohs (a), Knights (h), Dragons (h), Storm (a)

7 VODAFONE WARRIORS (20, +22)

Eels (h), Broncos (a), Sea Eagles (h), Raiders (a), Sharks (h), Knights (a), Roosters (h), Titans (h), Panthers (a)

8 STORM (20, -32)

Bulldogs (h), Raiders (h), Broncos (a), Tigers (a), Knights (a), Sharks (h), Panthers (a), Roosters (a), Broncos (h)

9 EELS (20, -34)

Vodafone Warriors (a), Rabbitohs (h), Titans (a), Sharks (a), Raiders (h – TIO Stadium, Darwin), Bulldogs (h – ANZ Stadium), Sea Eagles (h), Knights (a), Raiders (a)

10 WESTS TIGERS (20, -48)

Sea Eagles (a), Bulldogs (h – ANZ Stadium), Dragons (h – ANZ Stadium), Storm (h), Cowboys (a), Roosters (h), Bulldogs (a), Raiders (a), Sharks (h)

11 DRAGONS (18, -54)

Bye, Sea Eagles (h), Tigers (a – ANZ Stadium), Roosters (a), Panthers (h), Raiders (a), Titans (h), Broncos (a), Knights (a)

12 TITANS (18, -58)

Raiders (h), Knights (a), Eels (h), Cowboys (a), Roosters (a), Sea Eagles (h), Dragons (a), Vodafone Warriors (a), Bulldogs (h)

13 COWBOYS (16, +60)

Bye, Sharks (a), Bulldogs (a), Titans (h), Tigers (h), Panthers (a), Rabbitohs (a), Sharks (h), Sea Eagles (h)

14 KNIGHTS (12, -97)

Sharks (a), Titans (h), Roosters (h), Rabbitohs (a – Barlow Park, Cairns), Storm (h), Vodafone Warriors (h), Broncos (a), Eels (h), Dragons (h)

15 RAIDERS (12, -119)

Titans (a), Storm (a), Rabbitohs (h), Vodafone Warriors (h), Eels (a – TIO Stadium, Darwin), Dragons (h), Sharks (a), Tigers (h), Eels (h)

16 SHARKS (12, -157)

Knights (h), Cowboys (h), Panthers (a), Eels (h), Vodafone Warriors (a), Storm (a), Raiders (h), Cowboys (a), Tigers (a)