NRL 2006 – A Progress Report

Round 14 sees the top eight starting to firm up and makes a good time to give a mid season report card on all clubs and even go out on a limb with the likely grand finalists. If the first 14 rounds are a guide, to make such a prediction this far out is fraught with danger but I’ll have a go anway. At the beginning of the season the Knights and the Cowboys looked unbeatable. The Knights currently sit in third place (via for and against) but have looked a tired side. The Cowboys are racing down the ladder and are precarious at the bottom of the 8. Meanwhile the Sharks have sneaked up into 4th place almost without any noticing and the Melbourne Storm have taken an outright lead and the Broncos are on outright second. So in this up and down race to the long weekend in October lets look at all the teams and then choose the likely grand final combatants.

Melbourne Storm What I like about this team is their depth. Many thought they would suffer without Orford but Cronk has been more than capable. Watching them against Para today the Storm were ruthless even without their Origin stars. They are playing with confidence and are a match for any team. Could this be the year they win another comp?

Brisbane Broncos Affected by a dose of Originitis they went down to the Bunnies. This time of year is a bad time to assess the Broncos form anyway. They will be in the top four at the end. The trouble is their finals record is pretty ordinary. If the god of injuries is kind to the Broncos and they enter the finals not as tired as the past few years then they could just do it.

Newcastle Knights They are looking tired and the bye came at the right time. If I was Hagan, depending on how well they travel, I’d rest Johns a few games prior to the finals. If the Knights can mentally refresh for the remaining rounds they are almost sure things. My concern is fatigue may lead to a mid-season slump.

Cronulla Sharks What they hell are they doing here? Almost unnoticed the Sharks have been creeping up the ladder. Kimmorely has found his groove and the Sharks are looking good. I do question their mental toughness and ability to keep this up until September.

Canterbury Bulldogs Easily the most intimidating forward pack in the comp on their day. But haven’t as been dominant as one would expect given their forwards. If they can find the consistent mongrel we all know they have they can run away with the comp.

Manly Sea Eagles The Eagles are looking very good at the moment. There is a sense of something building. But Manly have promised this before only to fall apart close to the finals. Kennedy and Orford are the key to Manly’s progress though some of their rising stars look the goods.

St George/Illawarra Dragons While on the same points as Manly I am not sure what to make of the Dragons prospects. I don’t think Gasnier is a 5/8 and that will hurt them while Barrett is out. They did do well against the Panthers but you just never know with the Dragons. They tend to promise more than they deliver.

North Queensland Cowboys The Cowboys round out the 8 but their position is tenuous. After starting the season brilliantly they have lost 6 of their last 7 games. Bowen seems to have confidence issues and Origin is also affecting them as is injury (Luke O’Donnell especially). If they can keep pace with the 8 until the end of Origin then they could be in the hunt come September.

Wests Tigers I don’t think a repeat of last year’s efforts are on the cards. Consistency of Prince and Marshall is the problem. The willingness of the players is there no doubt about it and they will trouble the top sides but just seem to lack the ability to close games. Unless they find some way to get their season going the best they can hope for is making up numbers in the 8

Canberra Raiders The Raiders haven’t looked bad of late. They are a chance to sneak into the 8 and if so, will cause some havoc. It is a close comp this year and they could be the spoilers in the latter half of the comp.

Sydney Roosters Very disappointing so far. They have a good roster on paper but seem to have no idea how to put it together on the field. Finch and Anasta are Origin players but were lucky to be picked on club form. The Rooster are losing touch with the 8 and need a dramatic reversal in form to even think about being there at finals time.

Penrith Panthers The season is also slipping away for them. The curse of inconsistency and injuries has befallen them. I’d say they are starting to turn their eyes to 2007 and a new coach.

New Zealand Warriors If only this team would play to their potential (and not do dodgy deals wth player payments). They are a better side than their position (if with the points lost restored) on the ladder but have a Jekyll-Hyde approach to games. Fans must be frustrated as they never know which side is going to turn up.

Parramatta Eels Apologies. Your humble correspondent is not allowed to comment on their 2006 season due to medical advice.

South Sydney Finally a win. Albeit against a depleted Broncos team but it is still a win. I do think the Holmes a Court/Crowe takeover will benefit the Rabbitohs in the long term. I’m also not against the Rabbitohs buying some of the older players that will be on the market in a few weeks. There is the risk of injury but the experience would help rebuild the club.

As for the premiers, there are four teams in the hunt. The Storm, Broncos, Knights and Bulldogs. Much depends on what happens between now and September of course and a few surprises are still to be had. Going out on a limb, the Grand Final will be between two non-Sydney teams. The teams being the Storm and the Broncos.

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