The popular ‘Power Rankings’ returns this week, after a positive reception by NRL News readers. You wanted more of ‘Mr Grubber’ – you got it! The Grubber hits us with his expert analysis and the brutal truth about all things NRL.

1. (Equal) Melbourne: Stayed with the Sea Eagles for 77 minutes and other than a field goal there was nothing to split the two sides. Should bounce back strongly this weekend at home to Souths. Power score: 9/10, Odds of salary cap audit now that Client Newton has been signed: 3-1.

1. (Equal) Manly: Amazing defence set up victory against last year’s minor premiers. Have a core group of talented, committed players with solid NRL experience. Turn up every week and do what needs to be done. Opportunities to improve in attack. Power score: 9/10, Odds of Laurie Daley conceding that Manly will (in all likelihood) make the finals: 50-1.

3. Wests Tigers: Exciting enterprising attack and good control of ruck area has the Tigers in best form since ’05. Young forward pack continuing to improve with every outing. Power score: 8/10, Number of Tigers fans who have conveniently forgotten their previous complaints after losing in controversial circumstances: at least 50,000.

4. North Queensland: Belted out of sorts Canterbury side when it mattered. Thurston reportedly politely enquired of team-mates “do I [ expletive] have to [expletive] make every [expletive] tackle as well as set up every [expletive] try?”. Power score: 7.5/10, Odds that the Bulldogs will take another game to Brisbane any time soon: 100-1.

5. Brisbane: Very impressive with their talent back on deck, even if they were playing a Newcastle pub team. Need to capitalise on the occasions where stars are available. Bennett positively animated in press conference even offering whole sentences in response to questions. Power score: 7/10, Odds that Ben Ikin will now back Broncos for rare premiership double: 2-1.

6. Parramatta: Smith and Finch showing signs of a combination developing. A big test this weekend against the Tigers. Have the forward pack to match them but may lack speed around the ruck. Power score: 7/10, Odds that Parramatta will rename the “Cronin Stand” to the “Vatuvei Stand”: 3-1.

7. Cronulla: Current uncertainty regarding Kimmorley deal may have led to shock loss to Roosters. A tough assignment this weekend with road game against Cowboys. Power score: 7/10, Odds of Brett Kimmorley playing for any NRL side other than Cronulla: 30-1.

8. New Zealand: Teflon now desperate to beat out rival bidders in quest for Vatuvei’s crucial endorsement. Front office keen to investigate Manu’s suspicious purchase of $1000 worth of lubricant prior to Monday night game. OK, I’m done. That’s enough for “new Steve Mavin”. Power score: 6/10, Odds that Auckland Lions will be down a winger this Sunday: 2-1.

9. Gold Coast: Found a way to win without Preston Campbell though innovative ball handling, a compressed squeeze defence and clutch plays at end of match. Power score: 6/10, Odds of Brett Delaney being “mysteriously” benched in round 20 encounter with South Sydney: 2-1.

10. Canberra: Alan Tongue always dangerous around ruck area, especially when combining with Zillman and Withers. Probably one franchise player away from being a consistent top 8 threat. Power score: 5.5/10, Odds of Neville Costigan becoming Todd Carney’s 12-step sponsor: 200-1.

11. Canterbury: Forwards must find a way to fire up and bring back the intimidation. Accordingly, management have asked for tape of Folkes altercation with North Queensland fan to provide aggression training to Hickey and others. Power score: 5.5/10, Odds that we will see “Dogs of War” (what does that even mean?!) headline after next Canterbury victory: 2-1.

12. South Sydney: Poor structure in defence. Forwards appear to lack commitment. Coaching staff not helping by blaming losses on external factors. Power score: 5/10, Odds of Jaiman Lowe appearing in cameo role in “Cinderella Man” sequel: 2-1.

13. Penrith: Poorest ball control in the NRL at the moment (nowhere near as good as the Tigers outside backs). Created multiple opportunities for themselves to come back against the Tigers but couldn’t hold the pill when it counted. Will do well to forget “controversial circumstances” and realise they weren’t the best team on the day. Power score: 5/10, Number of Penrith “2003 Premiers” t-shirts starting to fade like Marty McFly’s photo at the end of Back to the Future: 10,000.

14. Roosters: Rep players carried on solid Origin form to post major upset win. Probably capable of a few more victories in this fashion. Performance in first ever golden point match in club history bodes well for future extra time encounters. Power score: 5/10, Odds that Jamie Soward will change his surname to that of a former league legend when negotiating next contract: 2-1.

15. St George-Illawarra: Expected to lose four more first-graders to injury and in addition to undertaking search for more Morris siblings have now published details of “fan try out day” on their website. Power score: 4.5/10, Percentage increase in “Oust Doust” signage for next home game: 150%.

16. Newcastle: Paul Harragon seems to have interpreted his directorial duties as requiring him to be some kind of stand over man and is shortly expected to confront Brian Smith behind the dressing sheds. Power score: 4/10, Odds of Josh Perry negotiating a contract that doesn’t include the words “match payments only”: 1000-1.

And…some quick “around the grounds”:

1. Wayne Bennett: What more is there to be said about this bloke? Seems like every journo in the game has taken a crack at him since his press conference at Brookvale last week. Perhaps most surprisingly one of his acolytes, Shane Webke, used his op-ed piece in last week’s Big League to subtly suggest that it was time for Bennett to move on. Webcke’s column included the line “he (Bennett) may well have to make some tough decisions yet”. Read between the lines and you find a strong undercurrent that it is time for Bennett to move on, and as the prevailing wisdom seems to suggest, for Craig Bellamy to step in. From where I’m standing, the moment Bennett even spoke to Nick Politis and the Roosters it was all over. The news of his negotiations with the Roosters made it obvious that everything was not as it seemed at Brisbane and that Bennett’s 20 year stranglehold on the position had weakened. Bruno Cullen seems well and truly sick of the old man’s antics.

2. Chris and Sticky: Ricky Stuart really doesn’t belong in a suit. He looks like a labourer who gets by with King Gee Monday to Friday and then has to don the bag of fruit for his best mate’s wedding. As soon as things start to get stressful the tie gets loosened, the jacket comes off and all of sudden he’s sweating like the guy in the Subway Sandwich suit at a Bulldogs home game. Well, he looked even worse last Saturday night. The nightmare was coming true. The club who negotiated behind his back with his old rival Wayne Bennett were solidly measuring up against his Cronulla side in probably the best Roosters performance of the season. As for the Sharks board? Well, they’re still feeling the financial headache of having paid out Chris Anderson’s unfair dismissal claim and would have relished the opportunity to get one over him. The set-up seemed perfect. But, as history will show, Cronulla couldn’t deliver a knock out punch and now Sticky and the Sharks will have to wait for another opportunity to trump Chris Anderson.

3. Ben Ikin: I was going to use this opportunity to get stuck into Laurie Daley, but that’s worth an entire column in itself. Instead, I thought I’d settle for having a crack at “Bennett’s Boy”, Ben Ikin, a man who tried to turn himself into the thinking man’s Julian O’Neill by donning a pair of spectacles. Now, I wouldn’t normally dream of hitting a man with glasses, but if Ikin thinks that the league loving world is even considering taking him seriously as an analyst, well then he better think again. Here we have a pretty mediocre player (who benefited from the Superleague war to get picked for Origin) who has been thrust upon us by the Nine Network despite him lacking limited talent as a commentator or analyst. Now, that might be fine for Fox (see Laurie Daley, Gordon Tallis) but with Nine’s budget couldn’t they do a bit better? The immediate concern however is that he requires urgent and extremely risky surgery to have his head removed from Wayne Bennett’s rectal cavity.

Yours in league,
The Grubber.

By ricky

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