Some things never change; Melbourne continue to camp on top of the NRL Power Rankings and The Grubber continues to tell it how it is. This week has seen the Titans fall by the wayside, Cronulla left with no hope except the stats book and a Brisbane side perched up high but really to come back to earth after losing Locky. Here’s how the Grubber sees things after Round 18:
1. Melbourne: Simply brilliant in their win against the hapless Knights. Could do nothing wrong in scoring their 9 tries and will be hoping that this victory wasn’t the high point of the season for them. Probably the most dominant team in the last decade. Hand ’em the premiership now? Power score: 9.5/10, Odds that Cameron Smith will be the next Australian captain: 2-1.
2. Brisbane: Have taken a massive hit with the loss of Lockyer and therefore will take little comfort out of their excellent victory on Friday. Still boast a devastating forward pack though and their fate in well within their control heading into the crucial stages of the premiership. Power score: 8.5/10, Odds of “All Golds” now calling Brett Finch to replace Lockey: 1000-1.
3. Manly: Negative press reporting provided ample motivation against Tigers. Will be flat out securing second spot ahead of a fast finishing Parramatta and North Queensland though and have a tough stretch home. Defence solid and attack getting better with each game. Power score: 8/10, Odds of Manly overcoming the “Curse of the Cement Truck” and beating Cronulla at Cronulla for the first time since 1986: Slim.
4. Parramatta: Bounced back well from shock loss to Newcastle to record a good victory against a resurgent Souths. Look every inch a top 4 side and will back themselves to knock Manly out of second place. Power score: 8/10, Odds that Russell Crowe will challenge Denis Fitzgerald and Michael Hagan to a pub fight: 2-1.
5. New Zealand: Looking like a top 4 side at last and seem to be developing the consistency desired by all sides. Halves pairing will be key to their late success. Wade McKinnon is one of the form players of the NRL right now. Power score: 7.5/10, Odds that the Warriors will find some way to lose enough competition points to keep them out of the finals: 5-1.
6. Penrith: Took advantage of a Mason-less Bulldogs to show what their attack is capable of. May be able to claim a few big scalps before the season is over. Their forward pack can be devastating on their day. Power score: 7/10, Odds that Greg Alexander will take over coaching role in manner of Brad Fittler: 10-1.
7. Canterbury: Run home looks to have been slightly derailed with key injuries. Probably cannot win at the business end of the season without Mason. Still boast an excellent forward pack though and are far from out of this race. Power score 7/10, Odds that Canterbury will stage a miraculous run and wind up in the top 4 despite the injuries: 3-1.
8. Wests Tigers: Suffered a real setback against Manly and desperately need more experienced talents such as Marshall and Hodgson to return. Need to concentrate on setting up go forward first and then spreading the ball to the edges. Have an easy run home and should be able to take advantage of that. Power score: 7/10, Odds that Robbie Farah will continue at number 7 this season: 50-1.
9. North Queensland: Top 4 hopes still looking good despite loss to Broncos, however as mentioned last week Thurston will need to be 100% fit. Will be hoping for a resounding win against Souths this weekend to give weight to their premiership claims. Power score: 7/10, Odds that Russell Crowe will really struggle for something to insert into his “Book of Rivalries” before the North Qld clash: Pretty high.
10. South Sydney: Could have been flogged against Parramatta and were certainly well below their best. Completion rate needs improvement as does attacking flair. Halves don’t quite seem to be doing the job at the moment. A loss this weekend will have them battling to be in finals contention. Power score: 6.5/10, Odds of Brian Smith weighing in to ego battle between Hagan and Taylor: Would be great, but realistically, it ain’t gonna happen.
11. Roosters: Change of coach had immediate impact in terms of communication and attacking prowess. Not a finals chance (despite only being two wins outside the eight), but will look forward to belting a few high flyers, and the Bunnies. Power score: 6.5/10, Odds that there really were 8,000 people at Saturday night’s game against Cronulla: 100-1 (admittedly it was cold).
12. Canberra: Got things back on track with devastating victory. Could sneak into finals if they can continue to replicate home ground form however still have trouble backing up from wins and playing on the road. Power score: 6.5/10, Odds of Canberra winning in week 1 if they do make the finals: 10-1.
13. Cronulla: Really battling at the moment and current spate of injuries and suspensions has not helped their cause. Will no doubt get their season back on track this Friday night with a “backs-against-the-wall, season-deciding, haven’t-lost-to-them-at-home-in-21-years” victory against Manly. Power score: 6/10, Who is enjoying the Sharks slump more? Gus Gould or Stuart Raper: Tough call. Probably Raper.
14. Newcastle: Were woeful against Melbourne and never really looked like scoring. Will battle without Buderus if he isn’t fit and may need to consider recreating their premiership winning performance enhancing program from the mid to late 90’s. Power score: 5/10, Odds that Clint Newton’s family will probably need to leave Newcastle very shortly: 2-1.
15. Gold Coast: As predicted last week, the Gold Coast were understandably drained from last week’s golden point effort. Lack of depth is now hitting home and it is hard to see them claiming enough victories necessary to push into the 8. Power score: 5/10, Odds of “Remember the Titans” headline surfacing if losing streak continues: 2-1.
16. St George-Illawarra: Were as bad this week as they were good last week. Season is beyond salvation but will hope to form some useful combinations for next season when Gasnier returns. Power score: 6/10, Odds that the Dragons will still start the 2008 season premiership as favourites: 2-1, they always do.