Well what a weekend, sensational to have NRL back on the agenda for another year and we’ve already had a good selection of games and results served up for us after the completion of Round 1.
The Premiers Manly getting trounced by lasts years spooners the Bulldogs, Souths giving it to their arch rivals the Roosters – with big Russell Crowe giving us all the ‘Gladiator’ gesture as he called for the kill. The Warriors paying their respects to the fallen Sonny Fai and the new look Dragons pushing big-guns the Storm all the way to golden point.
Here’s how the Grubber saw your team over the weekend, ranked accordingly:
1. South Sydney: After 80 minutes they are leading the NRL competition. What a difference 12 months makes, this time last year they were flogged by the Roosters in Round 1 and Craig Wing was sitting in a hospital emergency ward after copping a prowler tackle. New halves combination of Sutton and Sandow look well suited, kicking game has improved out of sight and new attacking weapons Colin Best and Rhys Wesser fired on all cylinders for their new club.
Grubbers Comment:Â Chances of George Piggins being seen or heard in the next 2 weeks? Slim to None.
2.Â Bulldogs: From the outhouse to the penthouse. New coach and a host of new players saw a new attitude from the Belmore boys. Brett Kimmorley marshalled troops well and looks a good fit with the surrounding players. Have some good motivators in Kimmorley and Ennis and plenty of enthusiasm to boot from David Stagg and Bryson Goodwin who also stood out. If they can achieve some consistency early on, who knows where this roll will end.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of coach Kevin Moore ringing the Idris family to find out if Jamaal has anymore brothers that can be signed up for 2009? 4/1
3. Melbourne Storm: Had to battle hard to hold-out the Dragons at Olympic Park, but after losing some talent over the last few years – the Storm have done well to hold it all together. Inglis looks much more at home on the fringes and his collision with Jamie Soward will be long remembered. Have enough talent to remain Top 4 this year – however depth maybe a concern after years of spoils. Cameron Smith test at pivot wasn’t a major success, with the rake spending more time at dummy half than anything else.
Grubbers Comment: Chances that Cameron Smith will be given a refresher course at training this week after asking the referee ‘Whats a Chicken Wing Tackle’ during the game on Friday night? 10/1
4. Gold Coast Titans: Took a little while to fire up, but when they did the result was impressive. Local conditions probably suited them much more than Newcastle so early in the season with the heat playing a part. Zilmann looks to be a great buy and with their front line roster fully fit – they look to have a formidable side. Any concerns about Nathan Friend being distracted were quickly dismissed after the nuggety rake again performed strongly. Expect a finals berth here.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that the Titans have the most expensive player-injury insurance policy in NRL history for 2009? 2/1
5. Dragons: The the new look St George Illawarra side have finished very highly considering they lost, but after going to the ‘Graveyard’ and only losing by 1 point – they deserve a mention. A Ben Hornby mistake was the only reason they dropped this game, their forwards were admirable and once the halves have time to develop under Wayne Bennett the sky is the limit. After 3-4 weeks this side should be humming along nicely.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of Wendell Sailor strapping an oxygen bottle to help his fitness levels during a game? 20/1
6. Brisbane Broncos: With a team list virtually unrecognizable, the new Broncos surprised many. Coach Ivan Henjack enjoying his first win and Israel Folau looked dominant for his new club. With the exception of Dave Taylor, their front row stocks probably don’t strike fear into opponents like they used to – but with a halves combination of Lockyer and Wallace, don’t discount this mob. Will be looking forward to the experience of Hodges returning, however injuries could really cripple this club during 2009 – as their depth isn’t what it used to be.
Grubbers Comment: Chances that Sam Thaiday uses the same hairdresser as Jamaal Idris (Bulldogs) and Dane Laurie (Tigers)? Strong to Certain.
7. NZ Warriors: Started explosively in this game and probably only ran out of steam due to losing several players to injury. Burnt the Eels through quickfire attack early and with new buy Joel Moon proving exceptional at pivot – they now have the key positions of 1, 6, 7 and 9 all covered well. Throw in some representative props like Steve Price and strike weapons like Vatuvei and Tate on the edges – these guys are lethal. Combinations worked well and they looked well developed from pre-season. Guaranteed Top 8 this year.
Grubbers Comment:Â What did Warriors coach Ivan Cleary say about Michael Luck’s attempted tackle on Fui Fui Moi Moi – “Bad Luck!”
8.Â Wests Tigers: While they had some nervous moments early on, the Tigers showed what they can do when on a roll. With Tuaiki firing there is none better and new import Gareth Ellis was a relevation in the backrow. Benji needs more time to improve at halfback and with respect to John Morris, he is probably better suited to hooker or utility positioning as opposed to pivot. Sheens needs to try either Farah or Chris Lawrence at five-eighth for this side to seriously trouble the big teams in the NRL. Next few weeks crucial to determining how their season will pan out.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that the NRL will look to ban the use of ‘Kava’ by players, after Taniela Tuaiki’s barnstorming display in this match? 10/1
9. Cronulla Sharks: While the Sharkies won, they are placed just outside the Grubbers Top 8 for Week 1. As they always do, they win ugly. Plenty of dropped ball and disrespectful play in such wet conditions. I had very high hopes for this side after their off-season recruiting and while Trent Barrett and Anthony Toupu didn’t disappoint, depth is already a problem with Brett Kearney gone and Ben Ross in a bad way too. Ricky’s coaching style will have this side winning more times than not, but I can’t see them being a genuine challenger for the premiership.
Â Grubbers Comment: Odds that Cronulla star Brett Kearney will ever get through an NRL season without an injury? 250/1
10. Canberra Raiders: They continue to impress every year after being written off so early. Before a ball was kicked, they were again way down the bottom of tipsters charts. New coach David Furner would have been happy with the first showing, they were dynamic in attack and looked to be expansive whenever possible. If they continue this style, they will seriously scare even the Top line teams in the NRL. Their forwards are big yet mobile, and all don’t mind the hardwork. With Campese a fully developed, competition leading five-eighth now – this side could do anything on their day. Keep your eyes on Justin Carney and David Milne.
Grubbers Comment: Amount of head and nose bandages estimated to be used by Raiders captain Alan Tongue during 2009? Several tonnes.
11. Newcastle Knights: Looked exceptional in the opening 20 minutes, but went from being a Ferrari to a VW Beetle in minutes. It may have been the weather, but things just wouldn’t click for the Knights as the game wore on. Frustration set in as 50/50 calls went against them and they couldn’t regain composure. Will want to write this off as a bad day and will be interesting to watch in the next few weeks. Kurt Gidley is obviously the key to this side, he can spark something from anywhere – so if their defence can remain solid, they’ll be there in most games.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Kurt Gidley calling a referee ‘Sir’ anytime soon? Slim to None
12. Parramatta Eels: Were ambushed in the opening minutes of this match. Always expected a torrid affair with the Warriors wanting to honour Sonny Fai and deliver a win to Steve Price on his 300th NRL outing. Their defence was a major concern during the first 50 minutes, almost turnstyle like as Hohaia cut them to shreds and the confidence drop for Eric Grothe remains a focal point. Showed touches of class from Hayne, Inu and Mateo in the latter stages but will need improvement before meeting the Bunnies this week.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of Eels CEO Denis Fitzgerald buying his players a beer anytime soon?Â 450/1
13. Manly Sea Eagles: How the mighty have fallen, few would have believed the club could be travelling so badly so early into the year. I’m not just talking about their first loss, or make that their first flogging for the year – but their off-field sagas are seemingly endless. Couldn’t hold on to any ball and didn’t work as a team at all. Their mindset was evident in Ballin when he lashed out with his knee then threw a flurry of punches at Ben Roberts. Lost Menzies and Bell at seasons end, now have Brett Stewart and Matt Ballin sitting on the sideline, along with David Williams and Tony Williams. Interesting to see how these guys bounce back.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of Manly coach Des Hasler using the NRL’s new GPS technology for tracking players after hours? 5/1
14. North Queensland Cowboys: While they picked up a sprinkle of new players, they are essentially the same side that nearly collected the Wooden Spoon last year. Even with Billy Johnstone being recruited back from the Titans as conditioning coach, this side still looked unfit. Way too many errors and too many players working as individuals. I see this being a long year for the Cowboys on this performance. Shannon Hegarty had a night to forget and Willie Tongas outing was a mixed bag. Major question marks on this squad.
Grubbers Comment:Â Chances of Neil Henry having a cake-walk at the Cowboys this year? Slim to none.
15. Penrith Panthers: I am sure it’s Groundhog Day out at the foot of the mountains. Penrith played exactly like they did last year, totally disorganised and seemingly unwilling to follow coaches orders. Dropped ball, early tackle kicks and questionable defence were the order of the day. Coach Matt Elliott took the safety first option of dropping Lewis in at pivot and leaving Wade Graham in the cold – this move was always going to backfire after the combination of Graham and Sammut that was tested in the trials and seemed ok. The SOS to Luke Walsh is probably a smart move, but this team needs to pick a team of 13 and try and stick with it – too much fiddling over the past 18 months to have any cohesion.
Grubbers Comment: Odds the Panthers will invite Anthony Mundine to assist at training, after Penrith team-mates Romello, Waterhouse, Woolnough and Pritchard all wanted to fight each other. 20/1
16. Sydney Roosters: Apart from Braith Anasta, virtually all of the Roosters were woeful in this game. They were out-enthused, out-played and out-muscled. Desperately need the muscle and motivation of Willie Mason back. At times their seemed to be no communication and you could have thrown a blanket over their entire side, they were so bunched in attack. This current crop of Roosters have the talent, they have proved it at various times – but they also seem to have a carefree attitude that creeps up at times, remember this side is not too different from the one that fell apart under Chris Anderson; save for a few new faces such as Mason and O’Meley.
Grubbers Comment:Â Chances of Freddy donning the Roosters colours once more and taking the field again to show his players how it’s done? 45/1