With the conclusion of round 13, it’s half time in the 2017 NRL season. It’s the ideal time to do what everyone else is doing and look back at the season so far. This week we’re looking at the first eight clubs that come up in alphabetical order.
Part II to come next week.
There are some important benchmarks to consider when looking ahead to the end of the season.
Firstly, let’s look at the regular season. I’ve tallied up the average number of wins for each position, the average for-and-against and the number of teams with a negative for-and-against for each spot on the ladder. The dataset covers 1998 to 2016, so there are some inconsistencies from seasons which had twenty or fourteen teams and where points penalties were applied to the 2002 Bulldogs, 2016 Eels and 2010 Storm.
The main takeaways are that twelve wins should get you into the finals and eighteen should get you the minor premiership. Six or seven wins will still only get you the bottom spots on the ladder (unless the 2016 Knights are playing).
Now, onto the main game. From 1995, when the finals were expanded to the top eight, through 2016, the premier has come from the top three all but four times, and has only come from outside the top four once (Bulldogs in 1995). The minor premier has made it to the grand final in 17 of the 23 seasons we’re looking at but only managed to take the trophy home 47% of the time. It takes some luck to successfully navigate the finals series and sometimes its not the most consistent but the fortunate that win the premiership.
I’ve also included the ninth placed Canterbury team from 1998 who made it to the grand final as a reminder that any thing can happen, although if your team finishes ninth this year, it’s extremely unlikely that they will being playing finals football and it wouldn’t happen without a visit to the courts.
Rating: Form 1547 | Class 1587
Record: Current 8-5 | Collated 14-10
Ladder: Current 5th | Collated 6th
Probabilities: MP 3% | F 78% | WS 0%
The Broncos are going through their regular mid-season Origin-oriented slump, having recently gone down to the Warriors and the Roosters. Prior to that, things were looking good. The three Ls were all narrow, just going down by a couple of points, but so were most of the Ws. I think some rating repair post-Origin will see the Broncos challenge for a top four spot but, as with their opening phase of the season, there are a lot of tough teams in the final five games. Somewhere around fourteen to sixteen wins seems realistic but a premiership will be a bridge too far.
Rating: Form 1496| Class 1508
Record: Current 6-7 | Collated 13-11
Ladder: Current 9th | Collated 7th
Probabilities: MP 0% | F 49% | WS 1%
Canberra were supposed to be one of the premiership contenders this year. They currently sit outside the top eight with a losing record. The Raiders’ form has been patchy at best and their wins have come against substandard sides. Some of their losses have come against substandard sides, including letting the Knights get one over them. They might sneak into the finals but if they do, they’ll probably be shelled out in the first round. Nothing to date suggests they could aspire to anything higher.
Rating: Form 1396| Class 1500
Record: Current 5-8| Collated 9-15
Ladder: Current 14th | Collated 13th
Probabilities: MP 0% | F 14% | WS 7%
In my view, the Bulldogs’ season is pretty much over. Their current ratings are a bit too low but unless a radically different team decides to turn up, there’s no chance of them making the finals in which case, what’s the point? After a 38 point drubbing at the hands of Penrith, I wonder if Canterbury agree. They might have already switched off, instead thinking about 2018, when some big signings will come across and bolster the lineup.
Rating: Form 1645| Class 1591
Record: Current 9-3 | Collated 15-9
Ladder: Current 2nd| Collated 2nd
Probabilities: MP 13% | F 86% | WS 0%
I figured that the Sharks’ premiership last year was a bit of a fluke but they’ve shown this year that view was totally wrong. Cronulla might not pip Melbourne to the minor premiership but they are an excellent chance of making a second grand final in a row. Not even the salary cap breaching Storm have back to back NRL premierships but there’s a first time for everything. They broke a fifty year drought and as they say, when it rains, it pours.
Gold Coast Titans
Rating: Form 1430| Class 1429
Record: Current 4-8 | Collated 11-13
Ladder: Current 11th | Collated 11th
Probabilities: MP 0% | F 37% | WS 2%
Gold Coast managed to slay some giants earlier in the season, handing out one of Melbourne’s two losses and taking down a highly fancied Sharks outfit. Between that and giving the Broncos a run for their money, the Titans looked like they might be the goods. That purple patch has seemingly come to an end and GCT have a lot of work ahead of them: they need to win at least seven of their remaining twelve games to have a chance of seeing a final.
Manly Sea Eagles
Rating: Form 1560 | Class 1501
Record: Current 7-5 | Collated 15-9
Ladder: Current 6th | Collated 5th
Probabilities: MP 10% | F 86% | WS 0%
Manly are having something of a resurgence in the last few rounds. I’m surprised to see them sitting on a 7-5 record. They were on the receiving end of solid losses from the big boys and, other than going to golden point in both fixtures against the Raiders, have demolished their lesser rated opposition. They are a pretty good chance for making the finals this year but they probably won’t make the top four. The Sea Eagles could cause an upset and get deep into the finals.
Rating: Form 1647 | Class 1627
Record: Current 10-2 | Collated 17-7
Ladder: Current 1st| Collated 1st
Probabilities: MP 42% | F 97% | WS 0%
There’s not a lot to say about Melbourne. They are by far the favourites for the minor premiership and it’s hard to see who could stop them. It’s one of the last opportunities they’ll have to cash in on their currently exceptionally talented roster. With Cooper Cronk moving on at the end of the year and Cameron Smith and Billy Slater only have a season or two left in them, so after that, who knows? This year though should involve at least one, if not both, trophies.
Rating: Form 1321| Class 1346
Record: Current 2-10 | Collated 5-19
Ladder: Current 16th | Collated 16th
Probabilities: MP 0% | F 1% | WS 58%
There’s also not a lot to say about Newcastle. They’ve got heart and they’ve got a rock solid fanbase. The Knights have to have their eyes on improving in the future and avoiding a death spiral of losing games, losing talent that wants to win games and never finding a buyer to get them off the NRL payroll. Nobody spends forever at the bottom of the ladder but the Knights will almost certainly be there this year.