He is back! The Grubber returns from overseas in time to cast his eye over NRL Round 24 – presenting his now famous ‘NRL Power Rankings’. Be sure and stay tuned to NRL News every Tuesday for the Grubbers expert review and coverage of the NRL Finals series. No one talks Rugby League like our very own Grubber!

NRL Power Rankings Round 24, 2007:

1. (1) Melbourne Storm: Have solidified the most outright premiership favouritism in probably a decade. Seems that the only team capable of beating them at this stage is themselves and the knowledge that they failed from the same position last year. Will look to finish the season on a high this weekend before getting down to business. Power Score: 9/10, Last team to win back-to-back minor premierships and fail to capture the ultimate prize on either occasion: Manly-Warringah, 1982-1983.

2. (8) NZ Warriors: Their solid second-phase play and forward mongrel has them poised for a home ground advantage in week one. Capable of upsetting one of the front runners at the week two or week three mark in the finals. Have overcome their at times shaky halves combination to become highly productive offensively. Power Score: 8.5/10, Number of years before Warriors sell out another home game: 8.

3. (6) North Queensland Cowboys: Continue to improve their form and now have the luxury of resting players from Friday night’s clash against Canterbury. Guaranteed home final puts them in an excellent position of winning week one and giving themselves a slim chance of moving straight through to the week before the grand final. Big match players Thurston and Bowen appear to be in great form. Power Score: 8.5/10, Number of teams which News Ltd still retains an economic interest in: 2 (Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos), oh, and of course they run the whole show over in NRL HQ.

4. (5) South Sydney Rabbitohs: Doing everything asked of them at the moment and Sunday’s demolition of the Tigers answered the criticism about their previously maligned attack. If they
can maintain their enthusiasm and ruthless defence they may be a bolter out of 6th or 7th place. Loss of Merritt a tough blow however. Power Score: 8/10, Number of dormant fans who have conveniently rediscovered their love of Souths: 10,000.

5. (3) Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles: Two losses in a row has the critics-in-waiting writing them off as a premiership chance. Regardless of their significant injury toll last weekend the Sea Eagles didn’t really come to play and they will need to focus on maintaining possession and completing sets, rather than ball playing if they are to secure an important pre-finals victory against the Dragons this Sunday. Power Score: 7.5/10, Consecutive matches that Manly lost under Paul Simpkins up to round 2 of the 2005 season: 11.

6. (12) Brisbane Broncos: Have it all in their own control this weekend against the Eels and certainly showed last Sunday that they are capable of lifting when there is something to play for. Will need all of their big game experience to come to the fore against an equally desperate Parramatta side. Power Score: 7.5/10, Last time Brisbane needed to win to earn a place in the finals: I can’t even remember. Aren’t they just guaranteed a spot every year?

7. (2) Canterbury Bulldogs: Poor effort on Friday night is pretty irrelevant to this mob. Come the finals, regardless of where they finish you just know that they’ll bring their A-game. Invariably they play better when the odds are stacked against them and will predictably conjure up some perceived victimisation from the NRL, media, society at large etc. to fuel their motivation to win. Power Score: 7/10, Irony of Bulldogs CEO Malcolm Noad accusing Manly-Warringah of poor sportsmanship after Eagles rested 5 players against the Warriors? Well, given the Bulldogs past 5 years of shame: A little too ironic, yes I really do think.

8. (4) Parramatta Eels: 3rd loss in a row has hammered thoughts of a home final finish and their final NRL Table placing is now out of their hands. Like the Sea Eagles they need to go back to basics. Must also get greater productivity from their halves if they are to be a serious threat in the finals. Power Score: 7/10, Odds of Parramatta recording another narrow 12-6 scoreline were they to finish 8th and meet the Storm in week one: 100-1.

9. (10) Penrith Panthers: Playing to their potential right now and were able to finish the Roosters off for the year with a consistent and determined performance. Look like better things may be ahead however loss of Gower will be felt by young halves coming through the ranks. Power Score: 7/10, Odds of Craig Gower behaving himself next year in a country where 1) the media couldn’t care less about him 2) he doesn’t speak the language: 1000-1. Odds of Amanda Flynn being convinced that the French media does care about her and Craig: 2-1

10. (11) Sydney Roosters: With everything to play for they couldn’t quite do what was needed and will rue their missed opportunity to make the finals in their 100th season. Power Score: 7/10, Odds of the Roosters belting Souths on Saturday night and condemning them to an 8th place shot against twice minor premiers Melbourne (pending other results): 2-1.

11. (15) St George-Illawarra Dragons: A good win against Parramatta last night, however they have been condemned to another lowly power ranking given their inability to put the hapless Eels away after a solid half time lead. The football that they played in the second half is probably far more indicative of their overall performance this season. Will be keen to go out on a solid note this Sunday however against a faltering Manly side. Power Score: 6.5/10, Odds of Peter Doust ever admitting that his position in jeopardy a la Nathan Brown: 100-1.

12. (14) Cronulla Sharks: Managed to grind out another victory with mediocre injury ravaged side. Must get points for their mental attitude given that the season has gone south in a pretty unceremonious fashion. Clash against Canberra this weekend is probably the least inspiring match-up since the Gold Coast Chargers last met the South Queensland Crushers. Power Score: 6/10, Percentage of fans in an online poll who thought the Sharks would be the first Sydney team to collapse or fold: 29%.

13. (7) Wests Tigers: Put in probably their worst performance of the last 5 years in their Leichhardt Oval loss to the fairytale Rabbitohs. Hard to see them making any impact in the finals even if they do defeat the Knights and the other results swing their way. Power Score: 5/10, Number of articles written in the lead up to the Souths v Tigers match which featured the phrases: “glory days”, “back in the day”, “halcyon days” or “80’s”: 2,395.

14. (13) Canberra Raiders: Were their own worst enemy against Brisbane, however they weren’t helped by a number of home town calls. Need to concentrate for sustained periods and improve defensive attitude if they are going to win away from Canberra in 2008. A pretty ho hum year really. After round 15 will turn their attention to the upcoming Federal Election. Power Score: 5/10, Odds of any other side being sponsored by a trade union: 200-1.

15. (9) Gold Coast Titans: Looked like the Gold Coast of yesteryear (and that’s not a good thing) in their error plagued loss to the Sharks. Their finish is probably a fair result given their season and most fans would be pretty happy with this kind of debut from a new club. Power Score: 4.5/10, Coach who was least justified in blaming the ref at the weekend: John Cartwright – you didn’t really expect a fair shake from the ref at Shark Park did you John? How unreasonable.

16. (16) Newcastle Knights: Brian Smith may want to expand his rebuilding time frame from 3 years to about 10 years. Looks like it’s going to take that long to get things sorted at the Knights. Can derail the Tigers this Friday night though and surely that’s gotta be something to play for. Power Score: 3/10, Number of clubs who would pay Kirk Reynoldson $196,000 a season: 0, including the Knights of course.

Yours in Rugby League,
The Grubber

By ricky

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