2014 NRL Final Trimester Report Part 1

Let’s get it on cause we don’t get along.

Learnings from previous Trimester Reports have led me to believe that they are murderously long and should be broken up into at least 2 parts. Even that is too long. This time I’m breaking it up into 4 bite size chunks for easier consumption. Sounds like an advertisement for indigestion. I think it will be marginally better than an indigestion commercial, hopefully.

Sharks

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 12th

After First Trimester – 16th

After Second Trimester – 16th

After Final Trimester – 16th

Points after First Trimester – 4

Points after Second Trimester – 12 (including 4 points for byes)

Points after Final Trimester – 14 (including 4 points for byes)

For and against after First Trimester – -67

For and against after Second Trimester – -157

For and against after Final Trimester – -279

The Journey so far

At least the Sharks are consistent. If I had to describe the Final Trimester for the Sharks in 1 word it would be ‘disarray’. ASADA sanctions arrived in farcical fashion and the Sharks immediately lost half their team. Correction. They lost half of their existing team. They had already lost half their team to injuries and other unfortunate events (this is a euphemism for Todd Carney). The Sharks were forced to field a team comprised almost completely from their NSW Cup and Holden Cup squads for the last 2 rounds of the competition. Ironically, that team almost knocked a red hot Cowboys team off at home so maybe some hope for the future.

Final Trimester Grade

E

Final Trimester MVP

Michael Gordon – Always dangerous, Gordon was rewarded for his end of season form with selection for the Kangaroos train on squad.

How close was my pre-season prediction?

Entering into this season I thought that ASADA would have an impact on the team but that impact would result in a 12th place finish. Unfortunately, for the Sharks the hits kept coming. They lost Todd Carney and their injury toll was horrendous especially in respect of key players like Andrew Fifita and Paul Gallen.

Prognosis

The future is anything but certain, however, as mentioned in a previous blog financially the club seems set and now that the cloud of ASADA finally seems behind them they can dream of better days ahead.

Raiders

Ladder position

Pre-season Prediction – 15th

After First Trimester – 14th

After Second Trimester – 15th

After Final Trimester – 15th

Points after First Trimester – 6

Points after Second Trimester – 12 (including 4 points for byes)

Points after Final Trimester – 20 (including 4 points for byes)

For and against after First Trimester – -54

For and against after Second Trimester – -119

For and against after Final Trimester – -157

The Journey so far

The Raiders actually finished the season on a 3 game winning streak. Unfortunately, that was preceded by 5 straight losses. Some players returned from injury but the Raiders were out of contention for most of the year so more questions than answers for the Raiders. Ricky Stuart seemed to finally invest in the future giving Mitch Cornish some game time at the expense of Terry Campese towards the back end of the season.

Final Trimester Grade

D+

Final Trimester MVP

Anthony Milford – As the weeks went on and Anthony Milford put in startling performance after performance it must have been extremely bittersweet for the Raiders. Conversely, the Broncos must be pretty excited.

How close was my pre-season prediction?

Spot on. I didn’t really expect the Raiders to amount to much and they didn’t. I thought if Terry Campese remained on the field he would be a factor but his presence in the team didn’t really make a major difference.

Prognosis

Year 1 of the Ricky Stuart rebuilding process is in the books. The fans (not to mention the Board) will want to start seeing some improvement next season or else Ricky Stuart will be rebuilding somewhere else, again.

Titans

Ladder position

Pre-season Prediction – 8th

After First Trimester – 3rd

After Second Trimester – 12th

After Final Trimester – 14th

Points after First Trimester – 12

Points after Second Trimester – 18 (including 4 points for byes)

Points after Final Trimester – 22 (including 4 points for byes)

For and against after First Trimester – +9

For and against after Second Trimester – -58

For and against after Final Trimester – -166

The Journey so far

The Titans trended downwards all season with injuries decimating the team at key positions. Their bright start to the season (3rd after the First Trimester) is a distant memory. They lost John Cartwright and Neil Henry steered them home over the last few rounds without much improvement although their last round victory against the Bulldogs was very brave and full of character.

Final Trimester Grade

D-

Final Trimester MVP

Greg Bird – Even though his best form was at the beginning of the season Greg Bird was still the Titans best player all year round. He didn’t get a lot of support but he was still their best player.

How close was my pre-season prediction?

The Titans were probably my biggest miss of the season. I thought they were going to finish 8th primarily on the back of their young, skilful halves Aiden Sezer and Albert Kelly. Unfortunately, they were barely sighted during the last half of the season. This and a combination of other factors (little depth because of frugal salary spend being an important one) conspired towards their 14th place finish and the resignation of their Foundation Coach John Cartwright. He has been a big part of their success and credit must be paid for his stable hand in leading the Titans through their early years. He made them relevant again and that was a bigger job than most realise.

Prognosis

With the departure of John Cartwright as Coach and Michael Searle from his executive position at the club, the Titans are effectively starting again. There has been a changing of the guard amongst the players with Mark Minichiello, Luke Bailey and Ashley Harrison departing the club as well. Much will depend on Neil Henry’s ability to shape the exciting but mercurial talent he has at his disposal and also his ability to recruit to supplement that talent. Depth will again be crucial. Whether the Titans return to the Finals or further slip into mediocrity will depend fairly heavily on him. For the sake of the national game, hopefully the Gold Coast can pull it together. 

Tigers

Ladder position

Pre-season Prediction – 16th

After First Trimester – 4th

After Second Trimester – 10th

After Final Trimester – 13th

Points after First Trimester – 10

Points after Second Trimester – 20 (including 4 points for byes)

Points after Final Trimester – 24 (including 4 points for byes)

For and against after First Trimester – +10

For and against after Second Trimester – -48

For and against after Final Trimester – -211

The Journey so far

The Final Trimester was a disaster for the Tigers. They kept defying expectations in the first half of the season but the wheels really fell off towards the end especially behind the scenes. Mick Potter’s position at the club has become untenable. The Board and the CEO appear to have issues with the Coach. Robbie Farah appears to have issues with him as well. Injuries continued to mount and eventually the losses started to mount as well with only 2 wins in their last 8 games, however, it was the flogging handed out by the Cowboys that most will remember.

Final Trimester Grade

E

Final Trimester MVP

Robbie Farah – I’m giving Farah this predominantly based on his on field contribution. His off field contribution was more difficult to grade given the controversy swirling around the team, however, his on field form was still high quality.

How close was my pre-season prediction?

Good early season form produced a final position of 13th which was 3 positions higher than I thought. I probably underestimated just how quickly the Tigers young stars would mature during the course of the season. In fact if it wasn’t for injuries they may have even finished in the 8.

Prognosis

Well the young talent coming through the ranks is of the highest calibre. Many successful years could be ahead for Luke Brooks, Curtis Sironen, James Tedesco and Tim Simona et al, provided the backroom stuff can get sorted. The backroom has been in turmoil for a number of years now with no clear pathway forward. Can they get it together and all row in the same direction? Time will tell.

What was sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • The Gold Coast Titans second half against the Bulldogs. Once they got the smell of victory it seemed like nothing would stop them.
  • The Cowboys last 8 games. Only 1 narrow away loss against the Panthers, marquee wins against the Bulldogs, Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles with that flogging of the Tigers as well. Their form coming into the finals is irresistible. Robert Lui is providing genuine attacking spark beside JT, Michael Morgan continues to excel and the pack is lifting at the right end of the season. The Finals series is pretty much a shootout but apart from the Roosters they have the best form going into the Finals.
  • And talking of the Roosters, how good have they been? Peaking at the right time. Apart from Jake Friend (who has apparently returned to training minutes after surgery) they are almost at full strength. They have managed to stay off the radar almost the whole season. They tailed off against the Rabbitohs towards the back end of their last game but they had the match won in reality.

What wasn’t?

  • The Eels. All season they seemed to hang around and win just when everyone had written them off. With the easiest run home in the last 2 rounds, a finals position was theirs for the taking but they let it all slip away.
  • International window after week 3 of the EPL was actually a bit disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I love International Football but it hardly seems fair that Germany has to play meaningful Football so close to its World Cup victory. Let them bask in the glow of their victory for a few minutes at least. Likewise, the Netherlands are immediately under the pump despite finishing 3rd in the World Cup. The flip side is that nations like Wales and the Czech Republic can immediately make a meaningful contribution to International Football. I’m sure Gareth Bale is happy about that.

Other random thoughts 

FIBA World Cup - Spain - Photo by Fransisco Mula de Haro - CC-BY-SA-ND

FIBA World Cup – Spain – Photo by Fransisco Mula de HaroCC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

  • Mixed results for the Australian and New Zealand Basketball teams in the Basketball World Cup. It still looks like the USA will win it all (if that was ever in doubt), however, France and Serbia are looking frisky. I definitely thought Spain and Argentina would do better though. 

Bill James Award 

Jarryd Hayne – Run Metres – 221m, Tries – 2, Try Assists – 1, Tackle Breaks – 6, Tackles – 1, Offloads – 1, Line Breaks – 1, Line Break Assists – 1, Errors – 1 and Players in Blue and Gold who cannot be blamed for the Eels missing the Finals – 1. 

NRL Tips for Finals Week 1 

Home teams first

Roosters vs Panthers – Roosters (Roosters are peaking at just the right time while Panthers are dealing with a crippling injury toll. Panthers will be up for this clash but Roosters will be more up. I’m pretty sure that is grammatically correct)

Sea Eagles vs Rabbitohs – Rabbitohs (This is a super trap game for the Rabbitohs. Manly love being written off. Some of their key players are defying medical history to earn selection for this game. This will be trench warfare. I’m betting the Rabbitohs have learnt a thing or two from the last two final series though)

Cowboys vs Broncos – Cowboys (Even though the Cowboys have played out of their skins in the last 8 weeks I think they will still find it tough against the likes of the Sea Eagles and the Roosters. They should beat the Broncos. It will be close but they should still beat them, especially at home)

Storm vs Bulldogs – Storm (The Bulldogs have faded at the back end of the season and this isn’t the best Storm side I’ve seen but they should still have enough to out-Bulldog the Bulldogs)

Last week – 6/8 

Season so far – 113/192 

EPL Tips for Matchday 4 

Home teams first

Arsenal vs Manchester City – Draw 2-2 (Both teams will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing last start)

Chelsea vs Swansea – Chelsea 3-1 (Swansea have been one of the surprise packets of the EPL so far but Chelsea rounding into form now, justifying early favouritism for the title)

Crystal Palace vs Burnley – Crystal Palace 2-1 (Both jagged first points last week but Palace should be the stronger of the sides at home. Burnley not so resolute away from Turf Moor. Funky name BTW and love the view of the countryside from the ground)

Southampton vs Newcastle – Southampton 2-1 (Southampton are continuing to surprise post-transfer window clean out while the pressure builds on Alan Pardew Tyneside. The Independent has officially run the first Pardew may get sacked story, although I don’t know if those stories ever go away. The EPL is not a place for the faint of heart)

Stoke City vs Leicester – Stoke 1-0 (Stoke stunned Man City at Etihad last time around. They should do just enough against a Leicester side which has jagged 2 draws and a brave effort against Chelsea to show for their return to the top flight)

Sunderland vs Tottenham – Tottenham 2-1 (The Spurs will be smarting after Liverpool stole their lollies at home last week but Wearside is a tricky trip to navigate. I expect them to narrowly best the Black Cats)

West Bromwich Albion vs Everton – Everton 2-1 (Both teams coming off emphatic losses but Everton should have more quality on show to pull their season at least partially back on track. Plus anyone who watched that 6-3 loss to Chelsea will know that Everton were on the pace for the majority of that match and many teams will struggle with Chelsea’s withering counter-attack. They are relentless)

Liverpool vs Aston Villa – Liverpool 3-0 (I still can’t believe Villa have 7 points from 3 games. Despite this, I think Liverpool will put them to the sword at Anfield)

Manchester United vs Queens Park Rangers – Man U 3-0 (I keep waiting for everything to click for Man U but it hasn’t happened yet. They looked insipid up front and positively nervy at the back against Burnley. The early fixtures have been kind to them though and I expect them to eventually figure it out, especially with Blind, Di Maria and Falcao to piece things together)

Hull vs West Ham – Hull 2-1 (Hull are a trickier proposition at home, as Stoke found out and they’ve had a solid start to the season poaching a win at QPR to kick the season off. The Hammers have also been solid although they were soundly beaten at home by Southampton last week. Advantage to the home side in this one)

I’ve adopted the scoring system utilised by Mark Lawrenson on the BBC (a correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth ONE point and picking an exact score THREE points) and even though he wouldn’t know me from Adam we are going head to head all season long. It’s on like Donkey Kong (unless I get a letter from his lawyer or Donkey Kong’s lawyer and then I’m tipping against myself again).

BTW Round 3 was horrendous in terms of tipping as I’m sure you all found. Man U still struggling against newly promoted clubs. Man City down to Stoke. Chelsea putting 6 past Everton.

Last week – Me – 5 (only 3 correct results but thanks to Villa jagged an exact score) and Lawro – 5 (5 correct results out of 10) 

Season so far – Me – 20 and Lawro – 18 

Interesting Comments from the Peanut Gallery

This one is from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen regarding promotion/relegation in the NRL: 

I was thinking another argument in favour of promotion and relegation is the phenomenon that we see in the EPL of wealthy benefactors becoming involved in the purchase of clubs. At the moment, there is no incentive for a wealthy benefactor who loves Redcliffe to buy them and sink money into them, because they’ll only ever play Qld Cup. 

However, if the club has the opportunity to eventually make it into the big league, it’s game on baby. A rich benefactor (or your Dad if he has enough money) can buy Redcliffe, turn them into a powerhouse, get them all the way to the top of the NRL and make a tidy little return on his initially monstrous investment. It’s the Manchester City phenomenon. 

At the moment, there’s only incentive for people like Rusty Crowe to buy top tier teams. What about the Clifton Allora Wattles? What if Clive Palmer was a passionate Wattles fan. With a large enough amount of money, he could take them all the way…

Well said I say. 

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 18 September 2014 titled ‘NRL Final Trimester Report Part 2’

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