Following another successful Representative Round, the NRL Telstra Premiership returns this weekend with a number of exciting clashes to headline Round 9 in what is shaping to be one of the closest seasons in the competition's history.
In the first eight rounds, five games were decided by one point, while 17 games were won by six points or less.
This season, the average winning margin through eight rounds is just 11.2 – the second lowest average winning margin since 1998 – and NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg believes the closeness of the Telstra Premiership is a testament to the strength and depth of the NRL.
"We have one of the closest competitions in the world," Greenberg said.
"Last year we had 17 games decided by one point, and 70 decided by a converted try or less. You only have to look at the current competition ladder; no one would have predicted that it would look like this after eight rounds.
"In Round 8, the team running last beat the team coming first. We're getting those sorts of results every week because the competition is so close."
Friday night sees the ladder-leading Broncos host last year's preliminary finalists the Panthers, while the Roosters will be looking to return to form against an exciting Wests Tigers side.
The in-form Raiders and Titans meet in the nation's capital on Saturday, while the Sharks welcome the Warriors to Remondis Stadium with the New Zealand side full of players brimming with confidence after the Kiwis' win over the Kangaroos. Rounding out Super Saturday, last year's grand finalists the Bulldogs head north to face the rejuvenated Cowboys.
On Sunday, Newcastle head to Brookvale Oval to play a Sea Eagles side fresh off their victory over Melbourne, while the Eels and Storm meet at Pirtek Stadium. Closing out the round on Monday night, the reigning premiers South Sydney tackle a St George Illawarra side in the midst of a six-game winning streak.
"The closeness of the competition means fans are glued to the game, whether at the ground or on TV, until the siren sounds," Greenberg added.
"This year we have seen teams come back from 20 points down to win games, so our fans know they need to keep watching right up until the end of the game."
Fans are urged to get out to games to support their team and be the "18th player". In such a close competition, every point counts!