The Grubbers back – to unleash hell. It’s getting serious now and a whole stack of NRL teams are fighting for their place in lower half of the Top 8. The Canberra Raiders have really put their hands up, turning on some vintage Green Machine to trash the Panthers in the worst possible way. The Eels bounced back from the depths to pip the Roosters and the Wests Tigers continue their merry run of late – dispatching the struggling Dragons.
1. Melbourne Storm – Proved again, they are the contenders on the big stage. Raided Brookvale Oval successfully and still have room for improvement. Weathered the early bash and barge from Manly and are building nicely for the NRL Top 8. Expected to nail the Minor Premiership from here.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Anthony Watmough winning ‘Players Player’ for the Melbourne Storm in 2008? 5/1
2. Manly Sea Eagles – While the Eagles lost their big match up, they proved they can muscle up when needed. Only a horror game from Anthony Watmough and some poor final tackle kicks from Matt Orford cost them the game. Won’t be too concerned with the loss and will now be able to ‘sneak’ up on the Storm rather than giving them a hiding too early.
Grubbers Comment: Truth in the rumour Brooky locals were chanting ‘Matt Awful’ after several kicks missed their mark on Friday? Strong to Certain.
3. Cronulla Sharks – CoppedÂ a bashing at the hands of NRL Referee Ben Cummins, but not even the Referee nicknamed ‘Diesel’ was going to derail the Cronulla train. Their defence moved perfectly in unison and frustrated the life out of a possession winning South Sydney team. The Sharks are also starting to capitalise on their slim attacking chances, prepared to chance their arm a little and taking advantage of broken field play. Growing nicely.
Grubbers Comment: Amount of people in the NRL world that believe Cronulla can win the Premiership? 3
4. Canberra Raiders – Could have possibly polled higher in the NRL Power Rankings this week after their staggering win over the Penrith Panthers; the remaining TC Terry Campese has hit top form and is guiding the Raiders along nicely. The old TC Todd Carney did his bit for Canberra, joining the Penrith camp the night before the game to get on the drink and have them with headaches on match-day. The Raiders have unstoppable attack when their confidence is high, the passes are sticking and they are a group of guys loving their footy at the moment. Have a very nice run home and should make the Top 8 from where they sit.
Grubbers Comment: Truth in the rumour Michael Monaghan could return to the Green Machine in the near future? Even Money
5. NZ Warriors – The New Zealanders welcomed back Wade McKinnon and patiently dismantled the unpredictable Brisbane Broncos. Are still well in the mix for the NRL Top 8 and have a fair draw heading into the end of the regular season. Stability from the forwards, most obviously Steve Price being the big key for the NZ Warriors – probably need a home final to be a serious threat in the Top 8 but would be happy to just make an appearance at this stage.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Ivan Cleary told the Warriors players that growing beards will help ‘scare’ opponents? 5/1
6. Wests Tigers – Are so far doing things in reverse order of past seasons, the Wests Tigers are actually hitting the better form at this late stage of the year which must be pleasing to coach Tim Sheens. Have dealt ably with injury all season and if they can keep players fit, will be a real handful for opponents in the weeks ahead and the NRL Top 8 finals series. Possess the only attack that can seriously worry the likes of the Melbourne Storm on their day, forwards are currently doing a superb job and allowing their entertaining backs to weave their wonders.
Grubbers Comment: Amount of the weekends game that Corey Payne can remember after being polaxed by Setu? 5-10 minutes
7. St George Illawarra Dragons – The red and whites have been absolutely luckless in the past few weeks, they haven’t been terrible – but just aren’t winning at the moment. Missed their big men badly against the Tigers and probably lost their cool at critical times. With a few key members of this team moving on at the end of the NRL year, they could bring a brand of ‘roll the dice’ footy if they make the finals and certainly won’t play with in themselves. Have a tough draw in the run home and will need their luck to start turning around or risk an early finish.
Grubbers Comment: Jamie Sowards ‘Little Drummer Boy’ dancing routine prior to conversion attempts is an embarressment to the NRL and football players everywhere.
8. Sydney Roosters – Having trouble getting the victory in games they are expected to win, however their attacking movements have improved and the Roosters rely less on kicks which is a positive. But as frustration creeps in they are not working as well on their defensive line and falling into the trap of debating the referee. Got a few lucky calls in terms of early tries and probably should have thanked the the officials for keeping them in the match. Have a chance to prove themselves almost immediately, facing the top contenders in the Storm and Sharks back to back. Good luck, Freddy’s men will need it.
Gubbers Comment: Amount of people outside the Roosters camp that thought the referee cost them the game? Few to none.
9. Newcastle Knights – Have really stamped their claims in the past few weeks, oozing confidence now and while their ever improving defence is the result of the Brian Smith regime – their attacking weapons in Kurt Gidley, Cooper Vuna and even Adam McDougall are proving the clinchers. Are able to turn on the points from anywhere on the field now and growing in stature each week. Have a few toughies in the weeks ahead, but their current mindset suggests they are more than capable.
Grubbers Comment: Likelihood that Adam McDougall will start talking to his ‘arms’ not his legs after they caused him to be put on report twice in the space of 1 minute? Strong to Certain.
10. Brisbane Broncos – Hard to gauge exactly where the Brisbane boys are. Like any team, they look much better at home and must obviously be happy Darren Lockyer is now fit and guiding them around – but they are lacking that spark at various times. Opponents are now putting more pressure on Peter Wallace and Darren Lockyer for final tackle plays; it seems to be working. Missed Justin Hodges, but in saying that they also seem to fall into the Hodges mindset with him around – debating referees and getting frustrated. Yet to define themselves only a few weeks out of the finals.
Grubbers Comment: Amount of penalties coming the way of the Broncos this week after Godfather Wayne Bennett called on referees to protect his kickers Darren Lockyer and Peter Wallace? Plenty.
11. Parramatta Eels – This years underachievers are somehow still around. Turned up when no one gave them hope and roughed out a win over the fancied Sydney Roosters. Defence remains an issue, still leaking a fair amount of points on their line – but a few sparkles in attack netted them enough points to get home. Are a long shot to make the finals, but with confidence creeping in and a few ounces of luck dropping their way – you never know. Have a favourable draw in the weeks ahead and the chance of redemption is still there for them.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Michael Hagan faking a heart attack in the weeks ahead in the hope it again motivates his troops to make the NRL Finals? Strong to Certain.
12. Gold Coast Titans – Performed admirably considering their predicament. The Titans are still reeling from missing superstars, but showed faith in the future – blooding 16 year old Jordan Rankin in the big time. Played above their weight to give the Knights a shake, but were always long shots to pull off the win even at Robina. Depth looks to be their killer again in NRL 2008, even with the return of Scott Prince and other stars in the weeks ahead – will probably be too underdone to make an impact.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that John Cartwright will have to throw a few Under 12’s players into the mix at the Titans in the weeks ahead? 15/1
13. South Sydney Rabbitohs -While it was a tough ask heading to Shark park and trying to fight for oxygen against the suffocating Sharks side; the Bunnies had heaps of help from Ben Cummins and didn’t make the most of try scoring situations on offer. In the end probably frustrated themselves out of contention; after so many chances went begging. Sources say the Rabbitohs are travelling with a fair amount of niggling injuries at present and that obviously wouldn’t have helped. Need to muscle up for remaining rounds to keep confidence high for next season.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Russell Crowe wants to sign NRL Referee Ben Cummins to the Rabbitohs after a huge performance on the weekend? 20/1
14. Penrith Panthers – Went missing badly. Somehow managed not only to get beaten, but absolutely flogged at a crucial time of the year. While they still remain well poised to snatch a lower NRL Finals Spot; may have just mentally written themselves off. Have a tough draw in the weeks ahead and needed every point on offer against the Raiders. Only bit of good news is that they face the Bulldogs this week, the only side travelling worse than them after last weekend. Might be a bit of confidence on offer here if they can grab it.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Matt Elliott and Panthers officials having a drink with Todd Carney again anytime soon? (Subject to legal battle and TC’s availability for NRL 2009)
15. North Queensland Cowboys -Â May have pulled a Rabbit out of their hat and given themselves a shot at avoiding the NRL Wooden Spoon. Not only did they manage to beat fellow strugglers the Bulldogs, they turned on some impressive attacking plays and the points came flowing back. Have a lot of things to look forward to; such as the end of the year and coaching guru Neil Henry heading their way for 2009. Keep it up boys.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that new coach Ian Milward and Cowboys players were handed lyrics sheets for the teamsong after finally breaking their horror loss streak at the weekend? 3/1
16. Bulldogs – Can’t beat an egg at the moment. Spare a thought for these guys; not a superstar left in sight after SBW shot through, they haven’t had a home ground for years and their coach is just a temporary boss until a new face comes in next year. But where there is a heartbeat there is hope; Benny Barba is proving to be a star of the future and new recruits in Ben Hennant, Michael Ennis, Josh Morris, Michael Hodgson and Brett Kimmorley will be huge assets to this club.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that even the Bulldogs rioting fans have quit this year, along with Sonny Bill Williams and NRL victories? 10/1