Analysis – Another bloody mid-season review (Part II)

With the conclusion of round 14, it’s just over 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 back half of the NRL.

Part I, from Brisbane to Newcastle, was last week.

Benchmarks

A reminder of the benchmarks that define each place on the ladder –

wins positions

And where grand finalists and premiers come from on the ladder –

gf positions

war-lgNew Zealand Warriors

Rating: Form 1475 | Class 1449

Record: Current 6-8 | Collated 12-12

Ladder: Current 11th | Collated 10th

Probabilities: MP 0% | F 58% | WS 0%

A team packed with international-level rugby league players with no Origin obligations shouldn’t have too much trouble making the finals. Nonetheless, the Warriors are making a massive meal of it this year. A couple of recent wins at the expense of the Broncos and Titans have boosted their chances but no one will forget letting the Panthers back in after going up by 22 at half time and then still losing. The Warriors will eventually get their act together but this year’s top eight is probably a bridge too far.

nqc-lgNorth Queensland Cowboys

Rating: Form 1533 | Class 1552

Record: Current 8-5 | Collated 14-10

Ladder: Current 7th | Collated 7th

Probabilities: MP 8% | F 76% | WS 0%

The Cowboys are back, baby! It’s been a wobbly few rounds without star Johnathan Thurston, copping unexpected losses to the Tigers and Eels and more expected losses to the Dragons and Sharks, but with JT returning to the field in Darwin and leading a demolition of the Eels, the ship looks to be righting and pointing in the right direction. A finish somewhere between fifth to eighth will be almost assured for North Queensland but how far they can carry themselves into the finals remains to be seen.

par-lgParramatta Eels

Rating: Form 1477 | Class 1469

Record: Current 7-7 | Collated 10-14

Ladder: Current 9th | Collated 11th

Probabilities: MP 0% | F 29% | WS 3%

Parramatta are, to be polite, mercurial. An even split of 7-7 but still managing to sit outside the top 8, thanks to a negative points difference, tells a story in itself. The Eels aren’t out of it yet but, like the Raiders, if they manage to make the finals, it’s difficult to see how they wouldn’t be exiting in the first round of games. Parra have yet to show some consistent signs that they are capable of displacing a top eight team and while there’s an outside chance, the Stocky doesn’t like their chances.

pen-lgPenrith Panthers

Rating: Form 1513 | Class 1500

Record: Current 6-7 | Collated 13-11

Ladder: Current 8th | Collated 8th

Probabilities: MP 2% | F 73% | WS 0%

The Panthers have a surprising stat: they are the only team at the time of writing that are undefeated in the last five rounds (four wins, one bye). Penrith have shown that they can beat the bottom half of the ladder but what can they do against the top? Well, they’ve got two games against the Cowboys, two against the Sea Eagles and one against the Dragons as the speedhumps between here and a finals berth. Even if they drop four of those, the Panthers have seemingly demonstrated enough ability to stay in the top eight.

sgi-lgSt George Illawarra Dragons

Rating: Form 1530 | Class 1489

Record: Current 8-5 | Collated 14-10

Ladder: Current 4th | Collated 4th

Probabilities: MP 1% | F 72% | WS 0%

The Dragons started the year in blistering form. Things have been a little bit more quiet recently but even with the injured Gareth Widdop returning to halfback, the Dragons haven’t refound the magic that started their year so strongly. They only just got home by four over the Tigers and went down by sixteen to the Bulldogs. Stocky has them only going 6-5 in the back end of the season but, combined with their fast start, that might be enough to get them a top four spot. Saints will need to avoid a total collapse in form to maintain that though.

ssr-lgSouth Sydney Rabbitohs

Rating: Form 1386| Class 1498

Record: Current 4-9 | Collated 8-16

Ladder: Current 14th| Collated 14th

Probabilities: MP 0% | F 11% | WS 12%

The Bunnies are cooked. With only four wins at the halfway mark of the season, the Rabbitohs have nothing to play for, requiring too many wins with too few games remaining to have a realistic hope of making the finals. There’s enough talent (with the notable absence of Greg Inglis) but Souths seem to be having a lot of trouble stringing together an effective attack that often threatens but lacks execution. Focussing on this aspect and trying to avoid the wooden spoon would set them in good stead for 2018.

syd-lg

Sydney City Roosters

Rating: Form 1610 | Class 1542

Record: Current 10-4 | Collated 16-8

Ladder: Current 2nd | Collated 2nd

Probabilities: MP 23% | F 98% | WS 0%

The Roosters are playing well and have a good record. Sydney have an interesting mix of losses: against the Broncos in Brisbane, Sea Eagles at home, Warriors in Auckland and Raiders in Canberra. We can excuse the last due to Origin commitments but the others suggest a bit of weakness. On the other hand, I’ve talked up teams with worse records so I guess I find the Roosters hard to peg. The Stocky, on the other hand, loves the Tricolours. It would be surprising for a spreadsheet to be a fan of a football team but there’s no other way to explain how a good, but not great, team who have to face the Storm and Sharks twice before the end of the year can be held in such high stead.

wst-lgWests Tigers

Rating: Form 1354 | Class 1428

Record: Current 3-10 | Collated 7-17

Ladder: Current 15th | Collated 15th

Probabilities: MP 0% | F 5% | WS 24%

Wests have got a lot of work to do. A record like the Tigers would be well on track for a wooden spoon if the Knights didn’t exist. The club has completely collapsed this year but have enough pieces of the puzzle – either there or coming over the hill cavalry-style – to put together a better campaign next year. This year, they need to keep in touch with their rivals to stay above Newcastle. A wooden spoon would dash any sense of things getting better for the Tigers.

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