2014 NRL Final Trimester Report Part 2

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. This is Part 2.

Knights

James McManus - Photo by Naparazzi - CC-BY-SA-2.0

James McManus – Photo by Naparazzi CC-BY-SA-2.0

Ladder position

Pre-season Prediction – 10th
After First Trimester – 15th
After Second Trimester – 14th
After Final Trimester – 12th
Points after First Trimester – 4
Points after Second Trimester – 12 (including 4 points for byes)
Points after Final Trimester – 24 (including 4 points for byes)
For and against after First Trimester – -48
For and against after Second Trimester – -97
For and against after Final Trimester – -108

The Journey so far

The Knights were Finals nuisances for the whole Final Trimester sporting a 5-3 record over that span which included wins against the Roosters, Storm and Warriors. They were particularly deadly at home. Apart from the loss of Darius Boyd, they had most of their squad to choose from, which made an enormous difference. Full credit to Wayne Bennett for holding the team together with great dignity.

Final Trimester Grade

B-

Final Trimester MVP

Willie Mason – There were many improved performances amongst the Knights towards the back end of the season but the big fella rolled back the clock one last time and earned selection for the Australian Train On Squad as a reward.

How close was my pre-season prediction?

They only ended up 2 wins out of 10th place (and 8th place for that matter) so I wasn’t far off with the Knights. Injuries, ongoing ownership issues, speculation around Wayne Bennett and the tragic end of Alex McKinnon’s career conspired towards their underperformance.

Prognosis

Well the Knights are a bit like the Titans and starting all over again. Probably have a similar amount of pieces in place as well. They have a new coach, Rick Stone (who is really an old coach re-booted, perhaps I will call him Rick Stone 2.0 next season), however, the core of the team will run around next year with the exception of Adam Cuthbertson, Michael Dobson and Josh Mantellato. That being said they have a bucket load of players off contract and it is unlikely that all of them will re-sign. Willy Mason and Darius Boyd will definitely be running around in different colours next year. They have Tariq Sims and Carlos Tuimavave arriving and they have some exciting talent emerging in the outside backs as well. The Final Trimester performance will give them some reason for optimism but this will be tempered by the departure of Wayne Bennett. They need to find another mining magnate. Maybe Clive Palmer is available?

Dragons

Ladder position

Pre-season Prediction – 13th
After First Trimester – 9th
After Second Trimester – 11th
After Final Trimester – 11th
Points after First Trimester – 8
Points after Second Trimester – 18 (including 2 points for byes)
Points after Final Trimester – 26 (including 4 points for byes)
For and against after First Trimester – -9
For and against after Second Trimester – -54
For and against after Final Trimester – -59

The Journey so far

Stayed in touch with the 8 all season but disappointingly faded out in the end, missing a spot in the Finals. They weren’t terribly bothered by injuries (not more than any other side) but just weren’t good enough with competitive losses against the Panthers, Roosters, Sea Eagles and Broncos in their resume. The triumvirate of Marshall, Widdop and Dugan made the Dragons competitive and Mitch Rein also provided attacking spark around the ruck but it was inconsistent yardage in the middle third of the field which let them down. Close but not close enough.

Final Trimester Grade

D+

Final Trimester MVP

Gareth Widdop – I was tempted to give this to Benji Marshall because of his improved output in the last few rounds but in reality it was still Widdop that provided the impetus for most of the good things the Dragons accomplished this year.

How close was my pre-season prediction?

Not that far off in the end. They were slightly better than I gave them credit for, especially after the recruitment of Benji Marshall. Just not quite good enough to make the Finals.

Prognosis

Their spine is looking promising provided Benji Marshall can maintain form and remain injury free (big provisos I know) and I think Dugan’s experimental move to the centres should be canned. He does more damage from Fullback. They really need to recruit some big boppers. As Willie Mason so eloquently told them during their last round match, they could use some front rowers. Otherwise they will have a very similar season to 2014.

Eels

Ladder position

Pre-season Prediction – 14th
After First Trimester – 11th
After Second Trimester – 9th
After Final Trimester – 10th
Points after First Trimester – 8
Points after Second Trimester – 20 (including 4 points for byes)
Points after Final Trimester – 28 (including 4 points for byes)
For and against after First Trimester – -42
For and against after Second Trimester – -34
For and against after Final Trimester – -103

The Journey so far

The Eels hung about in the top 8 all season long and would have played finals Football if they could have gotten over the line against the Knights and the Raiders in the final 2 rounds. They will be devastated but in the end it was a lack of consistency which ended their Finals hopes, with 4 wins from their final 8 games including a win against Manly and losses against the Rabbitohs and the Bulldogs.

Final Trimester Grade

C-

Final Trimester MVP

Jarryd Hayne – Even during his quiet games he was statistically the best player on the paddock. His best games were other worldly. I still don’t think he is the equivalent of Michael Jordan but he was certainly the form player of the competition this year. He deserved to play Finals Football.

How close was my pre-season prediction?

Definitely underrated a few things, Brad Arthur’s ability to galvanise his team, the jump in form Jarryd Hayne produced once he was injury free, Chris Sandow 2.0, the continued development of Nathan Peats (he took the Leap this year) and Corey Norman and the sheer size of the Parramatta pack (what do they feed them out there). I won’t be underrating them next year.

Prognosis

Things are looking positively rosy for the Eels. Barring a regression from the majority of their key players, next year will be an exciting one. Their massive pack will be a year more experienced and will give their attacking talent a better and more consistent platform to attack from. Brad Arthur will have another pre-season to embed systems and they will be hungry after missing the Finals again. Their home crowd provides a real advantage when they turn up in numbers and Hayne, Sandow, Norman and Peats are one of the most exciting spines in the game. Like I said things are looking good for the Eels.

Warriors

Ladder position

Pre-season Prediction – 6th
After First Trimester – 13th
After Second Trimester – 8th
After Final Trimester – 9th
Points after First Trimester – 6
Points after Second Trimester – 20 (including 4 points for byes)
Points after Final Trimester – 28 (including 4 points for byes)
For and against after First Trimester – -47
For and against after Second Trimester – 22
For and against after Final Trimester – 80

The Journey so far

Unfortunately, this was a typical Warriors season. Started poorly, played much better in the Second Trimester under Andrew McFadden and then underperformed in the Final Trimester to the tune of 3-5. Gut wrenching for Warriors fans. Enough said.

Final Trimester Grade

D+

Final Trimester MVP

Shaun Johnson – Hard not to give Johnson the Final Trimester MVP. When they win he is often the best player on the field and when they lose there is no drop off in effort but his execution is questionable at times. One thing I know is he is fast, Superman fast.

How close was my pre-season prediction?

Not that far off in the end (I’m a soft marker). Certainly at the start of the season their predicted finish was looking like a major stink bomb (like my tipping) but they pulled themselves together and almost got their in the end. They will be rightly disappointed in missing the Finals, given they finished on the same points as the Broncos and their +/- was only 13 points behind them. If they had averaged ½ a point less defensively every game, they would be in.

Prognosis

The Warriors have all the pieces in place. Talented spine (Johnson, Tomkins, Friend, Leuluai and Townsend) – Check. Big, mobile and skilful pack (Mannering, Matulino, Mateo and new recruit Ryan Hoffman) – Check. Big and fast outside backs (Hurrell, Vatuvei and Laumape) – Check. All the ingredients are there on the roster. Can they finally end their inconsistency? The unknowns are Andrew McFadden and injuries.

What was sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • The Cowboys first half.
  • Penrith’s resilience. In a season where the Tigers, Eels and Panthers exceeded expectations only the Panthers remain in contention. In a season as close as this one where no-one has consistently put their hand up as the favourite, can the Panthers win the whole thing? They are 1 win away from the GF.
  • The All Blacks holding on against South Africa.
  • Man U finally made use of their soft schedule to pummel QPR.

What wasn’t?

  • Newcastle United. 4-0 to Southampton. Just brutal.

Other random thoughts

  • I’m always sad when a coach gets the kybosh (I guess it comes with the territory) but no great surprise when Mick Potter was shown the door. I heard him on Grandstand a couple of weeks back and it wasn’t sounding positive then. When you’re on the radio asking your Board to give you an opportunity to defend your ability to do your job the signs aren’t great. Early leader for the job is probably Anthony Griffin. I think he deserves a second chance. The Broncos haven’t really recruited that well in the last few years so I don’t think the Broncos performances are solely down to him. If he can work with Robbie Farah then I think they will go gangbusters next year if they recruit him. Probably need to replace the experience they have lost with Braith Anasta and Liam Fulton but otherwise they are looking to be a contender for many years to come. Griffin certainly won’t be the first (or the last) ex-Broncos coach to do well away from Red Hill.

Bill James Award

I almost gave this to Lote Tuqiri for winding back the clock on Friday night but its all about the stats baby.

Justin Hodges – Run Metres – 166m, Tries – 0, Try Assists – 2, Tackle Breaks – 6, Tackles – 7, Offloads – 0, Line Breaks – 3, Line Break Assists – 0, Errors – 3 and Stars seen after that late hit from Tariq Sims – 4,000,000.

Honourable mention to Tim Lafai who dominated statistically and literally against the Storm on Sunday.

NRL Tips for Finals Week 2

Home teams first

Roosters vs Cowboys – Cowboys (I know the Cowboys clocked off against the Broncs but I think they have form on their side this weekend. The Roosters have stars right across the paddock but they just don’t look as consistently hungry this year. It is hard backing up)
Sea Eagles vs Bulldogs – Sea Eagles (This is the perfect script for Manly. Blown off the park against the Bunnies. They have injuries in key positions. Internal strife. Everyone is writing them off. Everyone is talking the Bulldogs up despite their run into the finals being of questionable quality. I think the Sea Eagles are ready to bounce back)

Last week – 2/4

Season so far – 115/196

EPL Tips for Matchday 5

Home teams first

QPR vs Stoke City – Draw 1-1 (Both teams will be looking to bounce back from a horrid last start with both hovering just above the relegation zone. Can see either of them narrowly getting up but I like the draw best of all)
Aston Villa vs Arsenal – Arsenal 2-0 (Villa have surprised everyone with wins over Liverpool, Hull and Stoke to go with their insipid draw against the Geordies. Arsenal will be looking to bounce back after their disappointing loss to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. I think they will have enough depth to take the points against Villa)
Burnley vs Sunderland – Draw 1-1 (Burnley have proved that they are a different proposition at home but only have draws against Palace and a misfiring Man U to show for their troubles. The Black Cats on the other hand have been competitive in most of their matches with draws against Man U, the Baggies and Tottenham. This will be close)
Newcastle vs Hull – Newcastle 2-1 (This is pretty much the last throw of the dice for Alan Pardew if the press is to be believed (but given most of the media have been banned by the club, how accurate this is has to be questioned). A win would hold the hounds at bay for a week at least)
Swansea vs Southampton – Draw 2-2 (Both have found themselves in the Champions League places though I expect both to settle further down the table. Should be an even match)
West Ham vs Liverpool – Liverpool 2-0 (Liverpool have looked anything but consistent this season but should have enough to put the Hammers away this week. The Champions League will test their depth this season though)
Leicester vs Man United – Man U 3-1 (This will be trickier than most think, however, the sheer quality added to the Man U list should be enough to jag the points. The boys from Old Trafford should win comfortably)
Tottenham vs West Bromwich Albion – Tottenham 2-0 (Tottenham at home should be enough but they have the odd bad performance in them, especially early in the season)
Everton vs Crystal Palace – Everton 3-1 (The Toffees to best a resolute Palace)
Man City vs Chelsea – Draw 2-2 (This will be the game of the round. Man City will be desperate to bounce back from their Champions League loss and Chelsea will be looking to keep their campaign on the right track whether or not Costa can recover in time)

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).

Last week – Me – 7 (5 from 10 with 1 perfect score) and Lawro – 8 (6 from 10 with 1 perfect score)

Season so far – Me – 27 and Lawro – 26

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 25 September 2014 titled ‘NRL Final Trimester Report Part 3’

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