The Grubber is NRL News’ newest team member. With years of media experience in League circles, the Grubber has all the inside contacts to know what’s happening with your club. Here is his new ‘Power Rankings’ column.
1. Melbourne: Could probably field two sides and still sit atop the table. Great depth, solid offensive execution. Will be tested this Saturday at Brookvale, but should benefit from a longer turn-around than the Sea Eagles. Power score: 9/10, Odds of cracking it for a mention in the sporting pages of the Melbourne papers by 2050: 20-1.
2. Wests Tigers: Getting it done without Marshall through opposition specific game plans and solid completion. Young forward pack have met tough challenges in recent weeks and have come through nicely. Supporters finding it increasingly hard to continue talk of “NRL conspiracy” against them. Power score: 8/10, Odds of Brett Hodgson relinquishing fullback spot for Benji upon return: 100-1.
3. Manly: Solid defence and high completion rate has set up top of the ladder position. Need to improve offensive production and execute better when opportunities present themselves. Need all the points they can get at the moment with tough 6 game road stretch at end of season. Power score: 8/10, Odds of Laurie Daley being able to correctly pronounce “Nick Bradley-Qualilawa” during game commentary 30-1.
4. Cronulla: Mobile pack with outstanding back row and reliable, if not brilliant, half combination. Completion was outstanding against weakened Dogs. Kimmorley’s manager desperate to talk up price with ludicrous suggestions that other clubs are interested in signing him. Power score: 7/10, Odds of Sharks supporter being seen at away fixture: 100-1.
5. New Zealand: Play well in patches but consistently let themselves down at crucial stages. Will probably struggle for consistency for most of season. Teflon keen to reopen sponsorship discussions with Manu Vatuvei after talks stalled during ’06 Tri-Nations series. Power score: 7/10, Odds that local “NZ Sky” commentators would be employed by any other media organisation: 1000-1.
6. North Queensland: May lose premiership points for mistakenly fielding Queensland Cup team in NRL fixture vs. Parramatta. Club has vowed to check kick-off times more carefully in future. Power score: 7/10, Odds that Cowboys could win a game without Thurston 25-1.
7. Parramatta: Continue to rack up big scores against mediocre opposition. Smith and Finch may be beginning to settle down behind underrated forward pack. A great effort given that heart and soul of the club, Nathan Hindmarsh was missing. Power score: 7/10, Odds of Luke Burt being asked to endorse shoulder pads: 500-1.
8. Canterbury: Poor effort without stars. On the positive, SBW has finally begun to stand up when needed. Will struggle during Origin series but will surely improve when representative players return. Power score: 6.5/10, Progress report on number of chants Canterbury supporters have stolen off the Barmy Army so far this year: 1 (“We are the army, the Bulldog Army”).
9. Newcastle: A chance every week with Gidley’s current form. Mullen will no doubt come back to them an improved player no matter how badly he tanks the Blues in Origin. Power score: 6.5/10, Percentage of NSW selectors who mistakenly believed they were selecting former Newcastle #7 Andrew Johns for Origin: 75%.
10. South Sydney: Enjoyed much needed BYE with extensive Origin commitments. Supporters will hope that current slump is only temporary and not a hangover from losing culture. Well poised to pick up victories during the next couple of months. Power score: 6/10, Odds of John Sattler and George Piggins being seen enjoying the carvery at Souths Leagues: 60-1.
11. Penrith: Lean forward pack who may be beginning to turn the corner. Will battle without Gower though. Matt Elliot must find a way to improve completion rate and discipline or may soon find himself under pressure. Power score: 6/10, Number of pre-emptive warnings from Panthers director Greg Alexander to Craig Gower regarding the consequences of speeding from Police: 5.
12. Brisbane: Seem to be suffering the premier’s curse this year. Tough to gauge their true form during Origin period, however young players stood up well against Sea Eagles. Power score: 5/10, Number of words used per answer by Wayne Bennett during press conference: 1.
13. Gold Coast: Seem to have trouble winning away and now missing Preston Campbell like a fat kid misses cake. Power score: 5/10, Odds of newspapers dragging out “Remember the Titans” headline when losing streak is eventually broken: 2-1.
14. St George-Illawarra: Improving marginally week to week as rookies gain valuable NRL experience. Head may be returning to decent form and will be a crucial part of a rebuilding effort to try and salvage the season. Power score: 4.5/10, Number of weeks before Dragons board announce they have “full confidence in Nathan Brown”: 5.
15. Canberra: Just a young squad struggling to find their feet. Todd Carney may yet reinvent himself as race car driving instructor to Australian Idol Dean Geyer. Power score: 4/10, Odds of Canberra major sponsor CFMEU preventing Carney from switching careers without appropriate Race car Drivers Union membership: 13-1.
16. Roosters: Have now written off season by conceding that this year is a “rebuilding” one. Struggling for go-forward with senior citizens in front row. A tough ask to lose 4 players when propping up the ladder. Power score: 3/10, Odds of a second Roosters player bagging a Miss Universe contestant: 800-1.
And…some quick “around the grounds”:
1. Warren Smith: Who else read Warren Smith’s whine (he calls it a rant) in Big League last week? Just when I thought Smith’s op-ed pieces couldn’t get any less relevant, he chose to spend this week’s 300 words on the “success” of the Melbourne Storm. Specifically, a slap to the face of anyone who happens to disagree with, to put it bluntly, the existence of the Storm. Now we all know that Warren Smith is News Corp’s cabana boy, but isn’t even he stretching it a little far to suggest that the on-field performance (and modest growth in crowd figures) is somehow the final word on whether a team should exist in Victoria? OK, so Melbourne may be a great football team (and one that has certainly been consistent for a extended period of time), but wouldn’t we expect that?! I mean, this is an organisation which is effectively been financially underwritten by News Ltd. You’d think that they’d be able to construct a good football side considering that they don’t have the financial concerns and stresses of pretty much every side in Sydney. As for the crowds, I can’t say I’m that impressed with what they’ve achieved. We’re talking about the most solid (and at times exciting) side of the last five years. You’d be deeply concerned if they couldn’t draw the 15,000 they tend to get given the promotion the game has had in Melbourne in the last 18 months AND the fact that they have now been in the NRL for 9 seasons. I’m not calling for the demise of the Storm, but let’s put their “success” in perspective. Even Warren Smith should be prepared to admit that Melbourne exists solely as part of the Bigger Picture Ideology being pursued by the NRL and its boss News Ltd.
2. The Footy Show: I used to love the Footy Show like Phil Gould loves a Sharks loss. But now? Spare me from that drivel they serve up on a Thursday night. Why do I feel when I’m watching it that I’m sitting in the dressing sheds after a Newcastle Knights game circa 1997? Could it be because this program has become completely dominated by the Red and Blue? The Merewether Mafia have even found a way to work in Andrew Johns. Andrew Johns?! A man who has all the onscreen personality of a goal post. He even made Brett Kimmorley look like Rodney Dangerfield. Is anyone out there seriously prepared to argue that just throwing on an old tape of a game from say 1987, would rate any worse than the Footy Show? A lot of supporters would love to relive the old days of the 5 metre rule, no blood bin and a world without “The Chief”, “Matty” and “Barge-arse”.
3. Eric Growthe: Give us some respect Eric. Just a slight nod to our collective intelligence. The cellular telephony age has been with us long enough now that most of us know the difference between when a mobile phone is switched off and when it is “out of range”. Yours was clearly switched off. Can’t say I’m really that upset with you though. I know how the conversation would have gone with Denis Fitzgerald. “Listen Eric, I know Jamie is your mate, and you just wanted to help him out, but when it comes to the hearing, just switch your phone off son. We don’t help Manly, alright?”
Yours in league,