What a way to finish NRL Round for 2009, the Panthers turning it on over the Titans in a highly entertaining game as the consistent heavy-weights, Broncos, Dragons and Bulldogs remain atop the Grubbers Weekly NRL Power Rankings; this week the Grubber gets some expert tips from old friend and former referee Percy Le Blanc –
1. Broncos – Faced a focus test against the lowly ranked Eels and we’re helped along by Karmichael Hunt returning to form in a big way. Still possess possibly the best backline in the NRL with Folau, Hodges, Hunt and also Winterstein able to slice teams to bits. Confidence returning to Lockyers game and forwards are starting to believe much more than the earlier rounds.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Broncos officials are now camped outside Karmichael Hunt’s house, ensuring he only signs with them? 8/1
2. Dragons – A big occasion on Anzac Day and they didn’t flinch, Soward continues his blockbusting form with possibly the best kicking game in the comp at present. Jeremy Smith has grown enormously under Wayne Bennett and the relentless defence is now being aided by improving attack. Firming each week.
Grubbers Comment: What is it with Dragons goal-kickers; first it was ‘Chook-style’ Herron, then ‘Hittler-style’ Riddell and now ‘Drummer-boy’ Soward?Â
3. Bulldogs – A highly entertaining side, that now has the ability to attack from anywhere but also win ugly when needed. Had some scares in defence, but are certainly good enough to blast their way out of trouble. Suspension of Ennis is a setback, but with the depth they have in 2009, shouldn’t be the end of the world. When Eastwood gets more fitness under his belt, the Dogs have potentially the best forward pack in the game.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of KFC wanting to sponsor the Bulldogs after being impressed by the Michael Ennis chicken wing? 4/1
4. Panthers – Have burst back onto the scene in recent weeks, have been unlucky in their losses but put it all together against the Titans. Addition of Luke Walsh looks to be the answer to structure, stability and composure. The man that Brian Smith once said was better than Jarrod Mullen proved his worth almost immediately. Sammut had a blinder at fullback and Waterhouse/Pritchard are reaching peak form. Will be hard to contain in the weeks ahead.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of the Panthers keeping a halves combination the same for more than 1 week? 25/1
5. Cowboys – Were played back into form by a woeful Manly side. The Cowboys still have some improvement and their forwards are a yard short in pace, but the sparkle of Bowen, Thurston and Tonga had them humming along at various stages in this match. The North Queensland side tend to play much better when the likes of O’Donnell and Webb get fired up, need a rocket under them more often.
Grubbers Comment: Chances that Luke O’Donnell was told to ‘go the biff’ to boost his Origin chances for 2009?
6. Rabbitohs – Played a game of touch football, but was a great chance to tweak their attack. Used the occasion well to enhance combinations and basically have a training run against the struggling Cronulla side. Have the talent to do the job, just need to select the right positions and win a few consistently to get the confidence back to 100%
Grubbers Comment: Odds of South Sydney ever getting their Crowe-promised trip to the Playboy Mansion? 15/1
7. Tigers – Heartstopping effort against the NRL form leading Knights. Early on were woeful in defence and very shaky under the high ball. Again used their attack to get themselves out of trouble. Were helped by injuries to Knights players along the way, but scoring several tries down the Collis edge was ideal for confidence and improvement. Most of their points come from Lawrence/Tuiaki and the change was a positive sign.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Benji Marshall has had some coaching from David Copperfield in recent weeks? 15/1
8. NZ Warriors – Had the chance to snap a win in golden point against the Storm, but were out of luck. Are doing well considering the setbacks they’ve had in recent weeks, their attacking structure is still a little too adlib and reliant on Stacey Jones – but until they start losing consistently it’s hard to argue. Getting good service from Russell Packer and Manu Vatuvei. A solid away game showing from a team that used to travel poorly.
Grubbers Comment: Amount of field-goal practise to be done in Warriors training this week? Plenty.
9. Storm – With each week that goes by in 2009, they slip further back. Probably not getting the improvement rate that Craig Bellamy would like, although addition of Finch was a good sign. Were unlucky at times, but their forward back isn’t having the impact it should. Sorely missing Jeremy Smith it seems, along with Antonio Kafusi in some ways. Not only need a win, but need a big win to get them believing again.
Grubbers Comment: Chances that Bellamy will need anger management if losses continue? 6/1
10. Knights – From penthouse to outhouse in a week. They let this one slip and coach Brian Smith had every right to be furious. Jarrod Mullen’s form and ability to play injured was a real highlight, as was the consistent ability of James McMannus. Biggest worry in the next few weeks is niggling injuries and the upcoming loss of Kurt Gidley and possibly others to Origin.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that the Knights doctors ran out of needles during this game after injuries galore? 10/1
11. Titans – Were blown away in the opening stanza and sorely missed Luke Bailey and Mat Rogers, however not a massively worrying situation for coach John Cartwright. This was always shaping as a tough game and the positives came from Kevin Gordon who performed well and the consistent form of Preston Campbell in attack. Prince was guilty of trying too hard and frustration saw him try to milk too many penalties.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that the Scott Prince / Shane Elford cuddle rivalled the Benji Marshall / Scott Prince kiss? 10/1
12. Raiders – Were maybe guilty of trying to get too fancy against the Bulldogs. Their defence was very ordinary in the backend, however they did send a scare through the Bulldogs camp early on with some good play. Lack the ability to play a grinding set and kick style, seem to want to attack from every play. Highly entertaining, but not the kind of footy that can see them climb the ladder.
Grubbers Comment: Chances that Raiders players use ‘snow chains’ on their cars to get to and from home games? 15/1
13. Roosters – Were beaten in every department on Anzac Day and are guilty of not improving on a weekly basis. As mentioned yesterday, their forward pack is not allowing the likes of Anasta and Pearce to weave their magic with enough time. Mason and O’Meley need to lift a gear and similar to the Cowboys, these guys tend to go better when fired up or under the pump. Trick for Freddy is how does he motivate them? Apparently the grog is back on the agenda now after the blanket ban turned out to be getting them no where fast.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that by the look of Mitchell Pearce’s eyes, he’d gone 10 rounds with his girlfriend during the week? 12/1
14. Manly – Their own worst enemies at times, bombed so many tries in this match and missed plenty of tackles. Shane Rodney had a good game as did Chris Bailey who in the opinion of the Grubber, could be a good pick for NSW Origin pivot. He is tough and talented, just what the Blues need. Jamie Lyon had a shocker and bombed several chances, needs to learn to pass. Watmough too many arm grabs and the Ox was totally outclassed by JT. Bring back the snake, fast.
Grubbers Comment: When considering Manly, if there is no Brett, don’t place the bet.
15. Eels – Were totally outclassed, but the coach will be happy with improved effort on previous week. Let several chances slip that could have improved the score and made things look a little better. Only positives for this club are the changing of the guard at the Leagues club and the upcoming home game that may give them some tiny advantage against the improving Cowboys next week.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of coach Daniel Anderson quickly joining the likes of Denis Fitzgerald and Alan Overton? 4/1
16. Sharks – The no try for David Simmons typifies the Sharks at the moment, they simply can’t do anything right. Bottom line is this side is lacking confidence and needs a heart transplant quick smart. Only a win can help these guys and a victory doesn’t look likely anytime soon, unless their opposition miss the bus to the ground on matchday.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Paul Gallen renting a unit right next door the NRL Judiciary Offices? 10/1