We are virtually at the mid point of the NRL season, 12 rounds have been played and not a heck of a lot separates 1stfrom 9th. The referees and a smorgasbord of penalties have been a continual discussion and unfortunately will continue to be. Let’s run through the ladder and see how your team is travelling and try to work out how the final top 8 may look.
There’s a murmur in the force
The ripple effect is happening, it’s real. The Cowboys and Storm, perennial powerhouses of years past are struggling. The loss of Cooper Cronk has hurt the Storm and Craig Bellamy’s men are losing games they would never have in years past (see 4-24 drubbing to a wildly inconsistent Manly at home), this time last year they were on 22 points and running 1st. The Cowboys have fallen off a cliff, nobody saw this coming, their season lies in Smokey ruins with a 4-9 record, last nights win over Manly helped but their hometown fortress is literally burning to the ground.
At the end of 26 rounds last year the Dragons suffered a late season collapse and finished 9th, the Panthers had 2 more points and snuck into 7th. Last weekend they battled it out at Panthers Stadium for top of the table honors. Running 1stand 2ndthese 2 teams have turned home field advantage into an almost certain victory (Dragons 7-0, Panthers 6-1). It would take a monumental collapse for either team to miss the finals.
The year of the Rabbit
Is this 2014 all over again? The Bunnies flogged a good Warriors team last weekend 30-10 in New Zealand and word is spreading this is looking an awful lot like the Premiership winning team of 4 years ago, they’ve won 6 of their last 7, Greg Inglis, John Sutton, Adam Reynolds, Sam Burgess and especially live wire hooker Damien Cook have all been firing, they’ve got the nucleus to go all the way, Russell would be happy.
Get a move on
The Raiders are 10thand 4 points off the 9thplaced Broncos, after that there is cluster of teams (Knights, Sea Eagles, Titans, Bulldogs, Cowboys, Eels) who can essentially ramp up their end of season Las Vegas trips if they don’t make something happen within the next few weeks. None of these teams are trending up although the Raiders are 3-2 out of their last 5 games.
The Top 8 plus 1
As it stands the Top 8 plus another team will battle it out for 8 finals positions. The Raiders are the most likely to challenge these teams but Ricky’s men have only 5 home games left and they are woeful away (1-4). Of the 9 teams Wests have been heading in the wrong direction of late (2-3) but stopped the bleeding with a gritty 14-10 victory over the Doggies last weekend. The round 24 clash of the Roosters v Broncos and round 25 game between Souths and Wests could go a long way to see who makes the finals and who doesn’t.
My pre season hits and misses
Would you believe I had a Cowboys vs Eels Grand Final, yep I’d like that one back. I also had the Warriors winning…the wooden spoon; I’ll give myself an upper cut for that one. At least I had the Panthers finishing in the Top 4, which still could happen.
Ok, time to predict where the Top 8 ends up after 25 rounds; watch me get these wrong too.