And then there were four. A mere 80 minutes away from a coveted grand final berth, the very quartet who led the way all season can now dispense with the charade and get down to playing for sheep stations.
The Raiders confront the Bunnies and the Storm play the Roosters in a 2018 grand final replay. Red hot.
It's great to be alive and kicking, even if the further you progress, the more it hurts when bundled out. Still, I can think of 12 other clubs who would give anything to risk everything in the season's penultimate challenge.
This week's top 8
1. Poor old Brad Arthur. Toast of the great state of NSW after steamrolling the Brisbane silvertails two weeks ago, his team crashed and burned under the blowtorch intensity of the minor premiers last week.
The huge swing on the respective scoreboards is impossible to fathom, causing Arthur a sleepless off-season searching for answers for what went wrong. No rush. Plenty of time.
2. Against the Eels, the Storm were clinical in posting a first-half effort that even pleased coach Bellamy.
Cameron Munster claimed it was their best footy all year and was looking forward to the "hostile reception" in Sydney. Cameron Smith assured it was all about "the start", while Dale Finucane was focused on doing his job better.
Experienced campaigners all, when it comes to the preliminary final, they know to take nothing for granted. Special mention for Josh Addo-Carr's impersonation of Immortal Reg Gasnier last week, giving his mob the thrill of a lifetime carving up the Parramatta defence. About the only headache for Bellamy will be his team's goalkicking duties after Smith's rare off-night last week, which was surely an aberration.
3. Reed Mahony swears he only asked Cam Smith for his autograph last week after the Australian captain misinterpreted the advance and slapped him down. Following the Cody Walker lettuce-leaf slap the night before that drew some "time out", the refs had little choice, after, it must be said, some frantic exchanges through their "two-way".
From a distance, neither warranted a 10-minute rest in such a big game given the decent provocations. But if you can't punch, but are allowed to slap, it's likely to end up a three-ringed circus. These breaks in discipline along with, say, defensive red-zone hold-downs by persistent perpetrators, seem the perfect arguments for the re-introduction of a five-minute sin-bin.
4. The Raiders lay patiently in ambush for the Bunnies to enter the nation's capital. Nestled comfortably in anticipation, their isolation affords an edge, preparing in relative peace.
Last week's R and R was manna from heaven for the Canberrans, gifting respite for the battered bodies and time to recharge enthusiasm. Going the long way around, their opposition by comparison are battered and bruised, suggesting the older the match, the more deeply Bennett's boys will draw from finite reserves. A bridge too far one thinks, but Bennett hasn't been successful because he shirks from insurmountable odds. Never write off the Bunnies or their coach.
5. Good luck getting a ticket to the footy in the nation's capital tonight. Their biggest league game, ever, will only intensify hopes of a return to the winners' circle after a drought of 25 years.
More recently, plenty of fans are still to get over their 14-12 preliminary final loss to the storm in 2016, after the controversial sin-binning of Raiders star Jack Wighton. Unlikely to let another chance go by, there remain nine determined players and a coach who were present that fateful night in Melbourne. Enough said.
6. Last year it was the Cooper Cronk shoulder injury. This year it's the enforced absence of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves that has Roosters fans jittery.
So much so, punters are warming to the Storm after their masterful return to form. Truth is, there's not a struck match between them. The bigger picture is the Roosters are rested. Against that the Storm are hardened and remarkably, rarely ever lose "away".
To quote Benji Marshall recently, neither side "beat themselves". Too skilled, too well drilled, too disciplined and too encouraged to be their best, to allow anything smelling of mediocrity to insult their senses. Should be a massive game.
7. In reports from the long since vanquished, Benji Marshall will give fans one more year. The evergreen excitement machine just needs to stay healthy.
Further south, Phil Gould's review of the Dragons revealed the conjoined club doesn't yet have a "culture", and that coach "Mary" McGregor could use a "trusted" backroom genius/advisor like a Ron Massey or an Allan Bell.
Well, couldn't we all?
Unfortunately, Ronny's not with us, and Belly's "Grey Nomad" tour of the Barossa next autumn could rule him out. I wonder if Gus has anything on? Meanwhile, on Sydney's northern beaches, the locals are still calling for, you guessed it, an investigation, after their best player, Jake Trbojevic was given a 10-minute time-out with their season on the line. Saw it. You get that.
8. In closing, and talking about lettuce-leaf slaps, the Sam Burgess "kangaroo court" comments caused a stir that we're told risked offending our esteemed judiciary.
Heaven forbid! A meeting with Todd Greenberg agreed a suspended fine would assuage the masses. True to form and nothing if not honest, Burgess defiantly declared "it's important to be yourself" and "be honest", noting his comments "made a difference".
One wonders whether Israel Folau or any other mere mortal player will be extended the same latitude when it comes to future "honesty" statements?