NRL 2006 – The Race To The Finals

It seems hard to believe but the 2006 NRL season is already at round 20. Only 7 games to go before the finals. And what an interesting final 7 rounds it is going to be. The only side that does not have a chance (mathematically) of making the final eight is South Sydney. There is considerable congestion around the middle of the table with all sorts of intrigue in regards to who will fill out the eight. However a few spots have been decided so we’ll have a look at those first and then get into the mad scramble for the finals.

Minor Premiership

The Storm have this all but sown up. It would require a dramatic drop in form for the Storm not to claim the JJ Giltinan Shield. Then again this time last year it seemed that Brisbane had the minor premiership all sown up only to be chased down by Parramatta. Nothing is certain in this year’s NRL but I can’t see the Storm losing this race.

Top Four

All settled. The Storm, Bulldog, Broncos and the Dragons. It is interesting that the Bulldogs and Dragons are attracting the pundits’ attention regarding discussion about who will be the eventual premiers. The Storm are 6 points clear of everyone else and playing great football. They deserve a little more recognition than they have been receiving. Part of the reason is lack of TV games though that starting to change.

Brisbane aren’t out of the race yet. The traditional end of season fade remains a concern but this year seems to have the Broncs on fresher legs.

The Race for the Eight

Now this is where the real interest is. Mathematically the Roosters and Warriors are still in the hunt but realistically they are gone for the season. However if they still play for pride they could act as spoilers for the chances of the other teams.

Of the rest of the teams it is a lottery of form. The Knights have been up and down and the Cowboys just seem down. Both teams had spectacular starts to the season yet have fallen on hard times. I’d say the Knights will make it but not sure on the Cowboys.

The Sea Eagles also have been up and down. If Orford turns up in the right mind and Ben Kennedy is fit the Sea Eagles are capable of anything. I’d say they will be there come September. As for the Sharks they snuck up on the eight but have since lost four in a row. The game against the Storm tonight will be telling for their season. However they have enough points already (22) that they may scrape in.

That leaves the Panthers, the Raiders, the West Tigers and the Eels. The Raiders have looked the goods at various times during the year but seem to fall away from consistency when it is need the most. The same with the Panthers. They depend heavily on Gower and their chances of making the eight depend in his fitness.

The West Tigers are another team seemingly in a slump. This time last year they were burning up the ladder into the finals. Without Benjie they seem only a shadow of last year. Still, Hodgson playing 2nd receiver seems to help cover the loss of Marshall and if they all turn up then capable of beating anyone.

Finally my beloved Eels. Written off only a few weeks ago they are back in contention after 4 wins in a row. Their win against the Warriors wasn’t pretty but was a game they would have lost 2 months ago. Jason Taylor has done a wonderful job in the caretaker role and a few fans, including me, wonder if the Eels board has made the wrong decision in regards to coaches for next year. The loss of Tim Smith is unfortunate as he blew Andrew Johns off the park 2 weeks ago and was on his way back. However there is a great spirit in the camp so don’t write them off.

I’ll be at the Tigers v Eels this Sunday with a good mate whose only flaw is a passion for the Tigers. It is a must win game for both teams (as both can at best only afford 2 losses before the finals). The Parra jumper I’ll be wearing is yet to be blooded with a win (3 losses so far) but you have to be fearless in supporting your team.

I’ll leave you with a prediction for the top eight with the caveat that anything could happen between now and September.

Storm
Bulldogs
Dragons
Broncos
Manly
Knights
Sharks
Eels

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Shaun
15 years ago

Well, my Eels jumper finally got blooded with a win. Making it a happy day all round I put $5 on Jarryd Hayne at $10 for first try scorer. Nice little bonus. Plus we had excellent seats at Telstra. 7 rows from the sideline just to one side of halfway.

What was interesting is that the Eels were hit by a virus before the game. I’m sure I saw Hindmarsh being sick in goal early in the first half.

With Brett Hodgson injuring his knee the Tigers’ season is over. They never gave up but the Eels defence was just too good. They held their line for 21 consecutive tackles in the first half.

Dragons went down to Canberra and the Cowboys suprised the Broncos. This could put my top four predictions in doubt. Manly are a chance however they will have to overcome the Eels at home on Saturday.

The Storm are just brilliant at the moment. The minor premiership is theirs.

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

Yes it’ll be a big match at Parra Stadium next Saturday, alright. With Manly currently in 5th position on 24 points, Parra in 10th on 20 points and a slew of teams between them all on 22 points, it’s very much make or break. If Parra loses their 2006 season is almost certainly over, and if Manly loses they’ll probably have to struggle to make the 8 on for and against. It’s one of those weeks when I almost wish I still lived in Sydney. The game isn’t even televised except for those with cable (which I refuse to do).

Shaun
15 years ago

Parra can afford at least one loss, maybe two, depending on how results go.

The Knights and Sharks have the worse differentials of those in the 8. Canberra are ninth but have a -49 differential and the Panthers and Tigers also are well into the negatives. The Dragons only have +22 which is surprising. The Eels have -9 and one good win will see them with a postive diffential.

Manly should be ok unless they start losing heavily.

Shaun
15 years ago

What a game.

Fuifui’s hit deserved a send off though the pain was when Kite’s head hit the ground. But for Parra to hold on was magnificent. That was semi-final football over a month early. The pace of the first half was incredible. Full credit to Manly. They played well but Parra’s effort with only 12 men was outstanding. My heart was in the mouth the whole game. I could have done without the dickhead Manly supporter in the pub (no offense to Manly supporters in general but this guy spent the whole night trying to pick a fight) but simply a great game.

And the Bunnies beat the Raiders as well.