Well, it’s been a long time coming – but the Green Machine returned this week and the Grubber had no hesitation in slotting them into Top spot on the NRL Power Rankings. Their no.1 supporter, Mr Akuma would be a happy man as his side turned on the after-burners to leave the Bulldogs in a whole heap of trouble.
Over at Toyota Park, the Sharks got their gritty win – but has Paul Gallen become the new Geoff Toovey? Already at odds with the NRL public earlier in his career over grubby tactics, the work-horse forward has now become a consistent voice in the referees ears. Come on Paul, you’re driving referee’s and those with ‘sports-ears’ mad! Give us a rest.
1. Canberra Raiders: The Green Machine flexed some major muscle in Round 15, playing against a rudderless Bulldogs side the Canberra boys grew in confidence after every try and simply blew the Belmore boys off the park. Colin Best getting back to career best form combined with a good showing from the Raiders forwards. Will be interesting to watch in the run to the Top 8 Finals.
Grubbers Comment: Truth in the rumour that Michael Weyman got fired up for this game, after his coach for next year Wayne Bennett sent him a ‘Tony Ferguson’ diet pack to prepare him for the Dragons in 2009. Strong to Certain.
2. Melbourne Storm: Took a while to get into full swing, but the high flying Melbourne side copped a rocket at half time from NSW coach Craig Bellamy and returned to the field to put the struggling Cowboys to the slaughter. Could have scored even more points if not for the North Queensland slowing tactics. Consistent motivation remains the a hurdle for the Storm, along with possible injury damage coming out of State of Origin 3.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Craig Bellamy bargained with his side at half-time; saying “Ok, you win this game well guys and I will let you Queenslanders win Origin 3?” 100/1
3. St George Illawarra Dragons: Didn’t win in style, but the Dragons are well and truly back. Slotting into the Top 8 and winning games in the grind when they have to. Still have a great side on paper and have beaten all the top teams on the ladder so far in NRL 2008. Coach and players must be reveling in this season now the pressure of next year has been lifted off their shoulders. Could prove a real handful in the finals.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that the Dragons have a cut-out of Wayne Bennett in the dressing sheds before and during the game, which has helped them win over the past month? 5/1
4. Manly Sea Eagles: Only won by a small margin, but got the goods on a tough road trip to Aukland, NZ. The Warriors put up a massive fight, but the Eagles had the late counter punch to snatch the 2 points. Have shown in recent weeks they can win the tough, gritty games – something they weren’t doing earlier in the year. A question mark remains over their halves, but while they are winning – Des Hasler and Co probably don’t care.
Grubbers Comment: Chances that Manly and their supporters have finally forgotten who Michael Monaghan was, now they are sitting atop the NRL Ladder? 10/1
5. Sydney Roosters: Another heart stopping game, the Roosters ram-raiding Newcastle to jag another victory. While they are oozing confidence, it seems coach Brad Fittler is the key to their NRL success this year. Fittler’s ability to get their attitude right and ‘lift’ them before and during a game seems to be a regular occurrence. With Mitchell Pearce and Braith Anasta set to join the NSW State of Origin ranks, the game breaking halves pairing could grow even further in confidence.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Brad Fittler will suit up and play Captain-Coach of the Sydney Roosters in the absence of his prodigy Braith Anasta? 250/1
6. Cronulla Sharks: The Shire lads played out the ideal game-plan to beat the Eels, Paul Gallen leading from the front and putting his team in a position to snatch victory after the bell. Look lost at times in attack with only their kicks threatening, but Ricky Stuart has this side battle-hardened and they continue to win in close encounters. Have virtually guaranteed themselves a Top 8 finish. Hold on to your hats Cronulla, you’re going to the finals – can your team win the comp?
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Brett Kimmorley was going to ‘wink’ in the style of Paul Gallen as he lay on the ground waiting for video referee intervention? 1000/1
7. Brisbane Broncos: Were lucky in their victory over the Wests Tigers, the Broncos never looked likely and will be happy to have snagged a win given their shocking injury toll at present. Their spare parts side did enough to stay in touch with the NRL entertainers; Wests Tigers – and they got the bounce of the ball late in the action. When their stars return in the coming weeks, could be a perfect refresher coming into the finals. Should be a contender at seasons end.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Ivan Henjack getting cold feet at the last minute before going from water-boy to having to fill the biggest coaching shoes in NRL and Rugby League history in 2009? 25/1
8. South Sydney Rabbitohs: The Gladiators touch. Was it Russell Crowe in the sheds before the game that gave the Bunnies the power? Regardless, they got the chocolates. A spirited performance albeit against an injury hit Gold Coast Titans side. Surely Jason Taylor has found the halves pairing he can stick with on a weekly basis, Chris Sandow the 7th choice half for the year looks to have the goods. Issac Luke and John Sutton would be State of Origin representatives if they played for a top 8 side this year.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Jason Taylor was going to mention John Lang in the post-game interview if the Bunnies won? 150/1
9. Gold Coast Titans: Still have a problem with away games, but given their performance with no reserves – they can be excused. Never stopped probing all night and while Nathan Friend had several key defensive misses, his livewire, scheming attack was impressive. Mark Minichiello was an absolute machine, punching out big metres and tackling consistently. Probably only a speed bump for John Cartwright at the Titans, but injuries must be a concern in the weeks ahead. Have some tough games coming up.
Grubbers Comment: Likelihood that the shorts worn by the Gold Coast Titans are the most unfit colour for NRL that has ever been seen? 2/1
10. Parramatta Eels: Never looked comfortable against Cronulla, should have been able to adapt to the physical and slowing tactics of the Sharks. Nearly able to snatch a game they didn’t really deserve to win and don’t look too affected by injury at this stage. The Eels are still yet to prove themselves consistently in 2008, however the form of Feleti Mateo continues to propel them along at critical times. Halves pairing looks much better than earlier in the year.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Feleti Mateo is a lovechild of Jim Dymock from the former stars romps at Kicks Nightclub, Parramatta Leagues?
11. Penrith Panthers: The luckless Panthers can’t take a trick. They have improved out of sight in the past 2 months and were close enough again to grab this game. Injuries have really made it difficult for them, but in saying that – they are playing a carefree brand of football and once they cut out the simple errors they will win more games. Seemed to have freed themselves from the pressure of the season start and anything could happen from here.
Grubbers Comment: Likelihood of Luke Lewis now changing his mind again and trying to get back into his agreement with Souths after the Bunnies start winning and the Panthers start losing? 10/1
12. Newcastle Knights: Another side that could have just as easily won and given the game was at home, they probably should have. Managed to keep the high flying Roosters to only a handful of points and won’t be too disheartened by this loss. Results fell in their favour and the Knights don’t really lose their position on the ladder. Led well by Kurt Gidley and Danny Buderus, the Knights do however have a tough road trip to Brookvale Oval this weekend and winning there could be just the medicine to get things going again.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Wes Naiqama is really a relative of Noa Nandruku? 25/1
13. Wests Tigers: Have hit a major hurdle in the past fortnight, were traveling beautifully until injury, the Eels and Broncos struck. Biggest problem is their lack of go-forward at present, with so many of their engine room sitting idle – their entertaining backs are finding it impossible to make in-roads out wide. Chris Heighnington continues to amaze, simply in top shelf form for the club. The Tigers do however have a good draw in the next few weeks, facing the struggling Warriors at Leichhardt and then the BYE. Will need to beat the Warriors, as after the BYE they face the Melbourne Storm who will be over their Origin commitments and ready to get busy.
Grubbers Comment: Truth in the rumour that Tigers players have nick-named teammate Ben Teo “Scrooge” after the prominent forward has started ringing every other club trying to push his value up? 2/1
14. NZ Warriors: The ditch men did a lot right and nearly pulled off a major upset against Manly at Mt Smart. Have lost most of their confidence and losing games at home has really hurt them so far. Simple errors are unacceptable at this level, their dropping of the kick-off on two occasions is simply suicide in the NRL of today. Halves aren’t quite at the level they should be and Ivan Cleary has some tough decisions on his hands in the weeks ahead.
Grubbers Comment: Chances that all remaining NZ Warriors supporters have reverted back to watching local NPC Rugby Union after their Rugby League side struggles yet again? $1.05
15. North Queensland Cowboys: Not much is going right for the Cowboys, the players have a lot to answer for considering they fell out of love with their coach and had him booted; convincing management that Graham Murray was the issue. It seems the North Queensland players do a better job of selling a story to the back-office, as opposed to winning on the field. Looked interested for about 30 minutes, but when the going got tough they feigned injury and did what they could to limit the damage without having to play. Serious issues up North.
Grubbers Comment: Truth in the rumour that Graham Murray has mailed certain players a ‘feather’ in an envelope after they backstabbed him and have gone on to perform even worse under new guidance. 5/1
16. Bulldogs: All the predictions have come true. No wonder Sonny Bill Williams wanted to get out, he’s just spent 12 months in a leaky boat at Belmore as his mentors Willie Mason and Mark O’Meley jumped ship before things got too rocky. Years ago this side was known as a tough, defensively sound unit. Oh how times have changed, lack any star power to beat the major sides and it looks like coach Steve Folkes will have no alternative but to move on and let the new coach and players prepare for next year.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that would have been given to punters, on the the likelihood of both Willie Mason and Malcolm Noad being long gone from the Bulldogs come mid-2009? 750/1