Now ‘It’s On!’, the end of the NRL Regular season has our famous Grubber excited about the finals and here is how the Grubber saw the games over the weekend. Phil Gould said it best in the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday, the best wrestling team will will the NRL Grand Final this year – and at the moment, Melbourne are still the experts at it.
1. Melbourne Storm: Turned on the afterburners yet again to claim a third NRL Minor Premiership. The Storm don’t seem to be phased by any sort of pressure and as everyone in Rugby League circles are saying “They’ll be extremely hard to beat again in 2008”.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of the Storm becoming the St George of the modern era and winning 11 straight NRL Premierships? 25/1
2. Canberra Raiders: What a ride for the new, revived ‘Green Machine’ faced massive odds in NRL 2008 and managed to not only make the Top 8, but grabbed 6th spot and overcame plenty of injuries along the way. Terry Campese in slick form and has really arrived as a top line player in 2008, may surprise a few teams in the finals, because the Raiders are filled with plenty of belief.
Grubbers Comment: Level of regret in Matt Elliotts mind for leaving the Canberra Raiders for the Panthers? Strong to Massive.
3. Brisbane Broncos: No one has been able to really gauge them of late, but the Broncos flex serious muscle and the forwards are starting to come on strong. Won the ruck comfortably and are perfecting the wrestle at the right time, will be a force in the coming weeks no doubt. Possess good experience from key players in the finals arena and other teams won’t want to face them at this time.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Joel Clinton had a photo of Gordon Tallis on his dart board at home during the week, after Gordy criticised the Broncos forwards? 5/1
4. Cronulla Sharks: Their victories keep coming and yet again they proved they can turn on the attack, unusually through unfashionable winger Luke Covell. As a flanker Covell might actually be slower than many forwards in the competition, but his creativity, kicking and bulletproof defence has him playing a key role for this Sharks side. Probably the only side possessing raw passion, desire and win-at-all-costs – which gives them a genuine chance in the NRL finals.
Grubbers Comment: Sharks supporters should prepare to ‘burn down Shark Park’ should they win the comp – a la the Eels when they broke their duck. A revamp of the playing ground, would be icing on the cake to a premiership win.
5. NZ Warriors: Outside backs are coming into some good try scoring form, will sorely miss Wade McKinnon but the Warriors are a team who can upset anyone on their day if they get a good early bounce. Don’t write them off completely for Week 1 of the finals, they might give the Storm some of their own back.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that the NZ Warriors training sessions this week involved ‘Spitting Technique’? 25/1
6. Manly Sea Eagles: Ran over the top of the in-fighting Penrith club, the Sea Eagles have managed some good wins in recent weeks but I just think they are lacking the X-Factor to go all the way this year. Need to bring the bash and barge back into their forwards, that is their key to dismantling Melbourne. First few weeks of the finals will be interesting for Manly and will set the tone for their GF re-match if they make it.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Max Delmege pulling the pin on Manly if they screw up another Premiership chance? 10/1
7. Sydney Roosters: Might have been just the type of game they needed, shocking conditions and a gritty slug fest. OK, it wasn’t pretty – but the Bondi boys needed some tough stuff and they held out the in-form Dragons. The loss of Willie Mason will prove crucial both mentally and physically for this side, their defence is improving but they will need to score plenty of points to out-attack any finals opponent, more than focusing on a defence based game.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Ronnie Palmers form carrying the water and positive talk, affecting the Roosters result? Possibility
8. St George Illawarra Dragons: While they’ve played some nice Rugby League in recent weeks, even coach Nathan Brown admits their fitness and physical presence needs to be stepped up to be any chance. Were probably fooled by the win over the Eels last week and made to look better than they were. Probably a good chance to re-assess where they are at before the finals, will need a big lift to make an impact on the finals.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of long suffering Dragons fans disowning their club forever should they again fail to secure an NRL Premiership? 20/1
9. Wests Tigers: When this team fire, there are few as exciting to watch. Where was this form and style a few weeks ago? Just when Tim Sheens wanted to start the clean-out the players click into gear and secure a strong away win. A good positive to finish the season on, farewelling Brett Hodgson in style. However, will be a tough off-season as they assess their problems and work out solutions.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Benji Marshall becoming the permanent no.7 at the Wests Tigers next year? 5/4 on.
10. Newcastle Knights: Sad end to what was a promising year, the new brigade at the Knights had highly impressive defence but fell at the final hurdle. Will continue to grow in the off-season after a fairly positive year and will no doubt be a weekly force in 2009 providing injuries are kept at bay.
Grubbers Comment: Odds the White Knights are breathing a sigh of relief after their team didn’t manage to make the finals, which would have left egg on their faces? 3/1
11. North Queensland Cowboys: The gun slingers managed to put in a credible performance this weekend and while they went down, they still managed to avoid the wooden spoon. Will be glad 2008 is over, and will be awaiting the arrival of super coach Neil Henry to breathe life back into this once powerful club.
Grubbers Comment: Chances that Ian Millward enjoyed coaching the Cowboys for the interim period in 2008? 100/1
12. Gold Coast Titans: Was a year of promise for the new boys, again falling just short of the NRL finals after leading the pack early on. Was a shame to go down hard in their final home game – but with a good vibe around the club and growing junior bases, they will quickly bounce back in 2009 and will naturally be a force.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that certain key Titans players will be a assigned a ‘minder’ to ensure there are no off season injuries? 5/1
13. Bulldogs: Were probably a tad unlucky in this game, started with plenty of fire but just couldn’t go on with it. The kicking of Hazem El Masri really hurt their chances and a win could have seen them avoid the dreaded wooden spoon. Another side looking forward to new recruits next year, however team sponsors such as Mitsubishi Electric, Maxim Homeloans and Sagem Mobiles are reported to be only ‘considering’ renewing sponsorships with the club. Troubled waters perhaps?
Grubbers Comment: It’s Belmore or bust for these guys, the Dogs need a homeground or risk continued low growth in fans, sponsors and results.
14. Penrith Panthers: In-fighting has killed their season and it seems the public only know the minor details, coach Matt Elliott has been kept on for financial reasons and regardless of his ability – it’s not smart to keep a coach on who is at war with several factions of the playing group. Sure to be another year of pain in Panther town, maybe heads should roll on the board after the club gave John Lang the boot?
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Panthers installing lie detectors in the dressing sheds for injured players, coaches and back office attendees? 8/1
15. South Sydney Rabbitohs: Faced a mammoth task up against the Melbourne Storm in the final regular season round and were blown away by the finals bound Storm. Salvaged something from the season and have a new training facility near completion at Redfern ready for 2009, seem to be on the up and things looking OK for the revived Bunnies club. Discovery of Chris Sandow rookie of the year, sure to see them challenge for Top 8 next year.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of disgruntled Rabbits fan George Piggins having another crack at his team in the media over the offseason? 15/1
16. Parramatta Eels: A forgettable year for last years powerhouse, the Eels never fired and probably underestimated the loss of Tahu, Ian Hindmarsh, Cannings, Ben Smith and Tim Smith from their squad. The emperor Denis Fitzgerald is set to meet with Michael Hagan and co to work out where things went wrong and it seems some blame is being pushed the way of Jarryd Hayne and Kris Inu after only average years from the 2007 stars.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of the Eels players and officials setting up a UFC tournment with each other to sort things out during the off-season? 10/1