NRL Round 18 will go down in 2008 as the round of upsets. From the young Gold Coast Titans running down the highly fancied Roosters, Newcastle Knights winning despite a hammering by referee Gavin Badger at one stage 8-1 against them, the Bunnies marching on for 5 straight wins, the Green Machine winning away from home and the baby Bulldogs beating a Lockyer ladden Brisbane side in front of 35,000 locals.
NRL Power Rankings, Round 18 2008
1. Manly Sea Eagles: Too hot to handle, the Eagles ran riot at Toyota Park and have sent their stocks into overdrive. Should have an easy win again on Friday night against the lacklustre Eels at Brooky. Des will find it hard to keep a lid on things now as punters start to talk the Sea Eagles up.
Grubbers Comment: Truth in the rumour that Des Hasler has given players and their familes fake names and has them in witness protection after hours to keep the media at bay and help them fly under the radar? Strong to Certain.
2. South Sydney Rabbitohs: Young fresh faces are taking the Bunnies to new heights. Have bottled enthusiasm and have some nice attacking combinations on hand. Defence has improved and they are playing without a care in the world, should finish the year on a good note.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that key players unable to make the first grade side for Souths earn more than the current top squad combined? 5/1
3. Melbourne Storm: Took a while to get going, but when they did – it was impressive. Flashed the desire and flair we expect from the championship side. Billy Slater is without question the best fullback in the game, Slater can create his own linebreak and finish it; where as comparable fullbacks such as Brett Stewart need to be setup by others and put into gaps.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of the NRL converting any Melbourne locals to Rugby League supporters even if the Storm win a 2nd consecutive title? 100/1
4. Gold Coast Titans: The youngsters did the Coast proud. Rookies had the fitness to overpower the much fancied Roosters in the back end. Coach John Cartwright has really confirmed his credentials as a top class coach, he had the rookies primed and came up with the aerial assault to dethrone the Sydney Roosters.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of the Titans coming up with another impressive outside back with the first name of ‘Jordan’? 250/1
5. Canberra Raiders: Are traveling nicely and most importantly under the radar. The Green Machine are a team that could really rattle some cages if they can make the NRL Top 8. They fear no side and play an adlib, uptempo game that can blow an opposition away. Have a handy 5 home games in the run home, somebody stop them.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of workhorse Alan Tongue taking his pain threshold to a new level and playing with one of his legs in a cast? 25/1
6. Newcastle Knights: Brian Smith has crafted a rock solid defence backbone for the Knights. Survived a real belting by referee Gavin Badger; some calls were not justified either. Knights weathered it all and got the win. Kurt Gidley played every position except prop, but he is working on that for next week. Super game from the man they call the Groper.
Grubbers Comment: Brian McMannus remains the most underrated player in the NRL. Bulletproof in defence, has speed and skill, plus knows how to find the line.
7. Bulldogs: Had a bunch of rookies mixed in with several experienced players carrying injuries. Sonny Bill Williams had his game of the year, really rolling his sleeves up in other areas. The Dogs have some exciting new talent on their books and their win provides some hope for Kevin Moore and the team for next year.
Grubbers Comment: Reports suggest Sonny Bill Williams was playing injured; chances of this being the first time ever? 3/1
8. NZ Warriors: A small glimmer of hope in whats been a poor year for the Kiwi contingent. In the end they got the points, but the Cowboys were pretty woeful. Might be something to build on, but virtually need to win all their remaining games to sneak into the Top 8.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of the NZ Warriors getting any NRL headlines in Australia anytime soon? 50/1
9. Penrith Panthers: Lost at home, but weren’t totally embarrassed. The Panthers can’t seem to win at home, but showed enough promise from their rookies to give them hope for the remaining rounds. Plenty to build on and could still nab a low Top 8 spot if they get some luck. Petero Civoniceva still in stunning form and ever consistent, will Jarrod Sammut ever be seen again?
Grubbers Comment: Odds that the Penrith Panthers will ask the NRL for referee Gavin Badger again this week? Even money.
10. Brisbane Broncos: Had a huge home crowd and welcomed the return of Darren Lockyer but probably took things too easy. Missed a golden opportunity to firm up their Top 8 spot. Brisbane forwards left a bit to be desired in this match, naturally Wayne Bennett has played the loss down – but this could come back to bite the Broncos. In saying that, the Broncos were still nearly able to steal this match at the death.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that the Brisbane team doesn’t train all week, when Darren Lockyer is in the side? 10/1
11. St George Illawarra Dragons: Their dream run had to come to an end some time. Of more concern was the poor defence on their fringes. Mark Gasnier must be carrying an injury or has his mind on a villa in France, as he missed a few tackles in their loss. Soward copped criticism, but probably unfairly; did enough behind a pack that didn’t dominate for long periods.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Dragons Leagues Club running a poll; “Who do Red Vee fans hate the most: Ryles of Gasnier?” Slim to none.
12. Sydney Roosters: Faced a team of rookies, but couldn’t get the job done. Might be a concern for Brad Fittler, while it may have been distracting to mentally prepare for a Titans side missing a tonne of regulars; the Roosters have faded badly in 2 or 3 games this year. Need to pinpoint the problem before the finals.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Willie Mason talking things up this week after coming away from Titans rookies with tail between legs? 25/1
13. Wests Tigers: Hung in there with the Storm for 3/4 of the game, but their inexperience eventually showed. Beau Ryan penalty with 20 minutes to go changed the whole game; dumb footy. Had the chance to jump the gun with results falling their way, but missed the boat. Could miss the finals for the 3rd straight year.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Brett Hodgson getting through a single NRL game without a black eye? 25/1
14. Cronulla Sharks: Were totally dominated at home, never got a look in and paid a huge price. Face a massive test this week, if confidence is shot down again – they can write off another NRL year. They can try and play down the importance of this weeks game, but it is their season against the Knights at Toyota Park. Full stop.
Grubbers Comment: Numbers of times the word ‘Premiership’ has been mentioned in Cronulla this week? Zero.
15. Parramatta Eels – Lack any form of enthusiasm, can’t deal with setbacks and have now lost their game breaker. While two astonishing incorrect video ref calls took the early wind from their sails, the Eels look old and tired. Hagan needs to wield the axe now before it’s too late for the Parramatta crew.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of Eels CEO Denis Fitzgerald using his mouth to dig Parra out of their form slump? 250/1
16. North Queensland Cowboys: Rudderless and equalled their worst ever losing streak of 10 games. Take some consolace from the fact they play at home this week and surely must be due for a win against their Queensland cousins the Brisbane Broncos. Made the wrong decision in booting Graham Murray and they are paying for it dearly.
Grubbers Comment: The knives are out for the Cowboys or is it the spoons?