After another weekend of byes in NRL Round 14, the table again copped some shudders with some movers and shakers mid field. The Dragons shooting up to 6th spot in the NRL, something unthinkable only a few weeks ago. The Tigers were punted by the Eels, but Parramatta were quickly replaced by the Knights as they won Monday Night Football. The Panthers and Broncos drop back as the rest of the field awaits their additional byes and the year for the Cowboys goes from bad to worse.
1. Parramatta Eels: Put the injury riddled Wests Tigers side to the sword and finally flexed some muscle after an average season start. Similar to last year, in the corresponding Round 14 clash with the Tigers – the Eels were played into form and gained the confidence to eventually challenge Melbourne in the finals. Have a favourable draw over the next few weeks and need to bag some wins to cement their upper table position.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of Eric Grothe forcing his way back into the in-form Eels side anytime soon, after young gun Tony Williams continues to blaze a trail of destruction? 50/1
2. Sydney Roosters: Were a little bit flattered by the end score on Friday night, but regardless of the walking wounded for Penrith the Chooks still had to play what was in front of them. Halves continue to dominate and the experience gained by the young forwards after spending time with Willie Mason and Mark O’Meley seems to have worked well. Minichiello is critical to the Roosters going the distance this year.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that the Roosters have ordered a 24/7 PR manager for Willie Mason in fear of headlines similar to the ‘redneck’ ones might derail the Chooks in 2008? 5/1
3. Canberra Raiders: Produced a slick half of NRL to totally wipe the floor with the wounded Broncos. The Raiders on their day in Canberra can take apart any team, but they did this in calculating style. Strong dominating forwards and sleek, hungry backs were evident. As i’ve said before, the Raiders have a makings of a championship team if they can keep the same group together and learn to travel.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Canberra have invested in a cloning device in the ACT that keeps producing Carney based footballers, after another Carney appears on the scene and dominates? 15/1
4. Newcastle Knights: Brian Smith has the Knights humming along nicely. While they didn’t put the Cowboys away until late, the road trip to Townsville is always a tough one. Enterprising attack was evident, but even more impressive was the committed defence from the Knights which ultimately won them the game. Seem to persist with Adam McDougall when the MadDog is probably a year or so past his best, they could gain even more potency by injecting younger talent. May be forced to stick with OldDog after Cooper Vuna went down hurt late in the game.
Grubbers Comment:Possibility that Shayne Hayne’s brain-snap ‘penalty’ call which cost Danny Buderus a certain try has moved him ahead of Ben Cummins as the worst referee in the game? Slim to Possible.
5. Cronulla Sharks: Were ultimately patchy in their win over the NZ Warriors, but again they pull out something to get them home. Their set plays remain the envy of the NRL and their defence is still rock solid. Bash Brothers Greg Bird and Paul Gallen will either take this side all the way, or cost them dearly. Their temperament is on a knife edge and can so easily go either way. Look to have escaped this time, but the sheriffs are watching closely at NRL HQ.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of finally seeing a Toyota Park Crowd above 10,000, even if the Sharks manage to finally win a Premiership in 2008? 100/1
6. Brisbane Broncos: Without a whole host of stars, the Brisbane boys were pretty impressive considering. Obviously lacking direction centre field with the young bucks Stagg and Moon trying to run the show, but the forwards rolled their sleeves up and they were unlucky to strike a red hot Raiders side on the day. Merely a speed bump for the Raiders and they will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing a similarly wounded Tigers side at Suncorp this Friday night.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Wayne Bennett managing any sort of smile or laugh before leaving the Broncos at seasons end? 1000/1
7. Penrith Panthers: Fighting a mid-game injury toll, the Panthers did OK in enemy territory. Had they kept troops healthy may have snuck away with a win. Regardless, they have built that missing confidence and the Panthers again seem a fairly happy camp. Are capable of anything in the right mood and could just sneak into the Top 8 if things fall their way. Losing Priddis might be a blessing disguise as the Panthers mount their charge in the final half of the season.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of Matt Elliott penning a best selling book called ‘Game Plans for Dummies’, after finally getting his side to interpret his complex instructions? 5/1
8. Wests Tigers: A week is a long time in NRL, again the old cliche comes true. Wests were cruising on top of the world last week, now injuries and a red hot Eels side have brought them back down to earth. Kings Cross troubles involving Benji Marshall can’t be good for morale and should the Tigers lose to the Broncos this Friday night, they might find it hard to stop the late season rot as has happened the last 2 years. Questions being asked about their smaller forward pack, need to get their confidence back right now.
Grubbers Comment: Truth in the rumour; that the Kings Cross brawl involving Benji Marshall was started when a jilted fan told Marshall that the Tigers were now called “Yesterdays Hero’s” in reference to the Tigers not making the finals since their joyous Grand Final win way back in 2005. Strong to Certain.
9. NZ Warriors: Had a couple of impressive patches in their loss to the Sharks and were probably without luck, however the NZ Warriors are rarely winning away from home and could leave their run too late if they don’t get things together. Had a tonne of possession, but lacked spark and creativity in attack. Are struggling to score tries and probably should have put Michael Witt straight back into the team rather than run him in the feeder side. Need to make changes soon.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of the NZ Warriors eventually becoming another ‘Cronulla’ and never winning a Premiership after 50 years? 20/1
10. North Queensland Cowboys: Showed glimpses of their attacking best in this match as Thurston revved up a few times, but quite simply their defence is shot to bits. Their on-line defence is quite possibly the worst in the NRL, never before have such big gaps been seen and run through with such ease. Big problems remain for the struggling club and Neil Henry will have a hell of a job on his hands next year. Carl Webb did however play out of his skin, remaining busy and putting his hand up for an Origin recall.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Jason Taylor was seen celebrating the Cowboys loss at Russell Crowes place, as Souths eye off their wooden spoon rival. 10/1
NRL Table Ladder after Round 14, 2008