2014 NRL Season Review

I’m starting to feel sorry for those of you who only follow Rugby League.

For you good folk, summer is a welcome respite where you can catch up on landscaping, fishing, surfing and anything else you’ve neglected over winter. For others Football is ramping up, as is a range of other sports like American Football, Basketball and Cricket. Firstly, a final look back at the NRL season. I will revisit some of the outlandish early season predictions I made. If anything, they should be good for a laugh.

The Ladder

What I thought would happen

  1. South Sydney Rabbitohs
  2. Sydney Roosters
  3. Melbourne Storm
  4. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
  5. North Queensland Cowboys
  6. New Zealand Warriors
  7. Penrith Panthers
  8. Gold Coast Titans
  9. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
  10. Newcastle Knights
  11. Brisbane Broncos
  12. Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
  13. St George-Illawarra Dragons
  14. Parramatta Eels
  15. Canberra Raiders
  16. Wests Tigers

What actually happened

  1. Sydney Roosters
  2. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
  3. South Sydney Rabbitohs
  4. Penrith Panthers
  5. North Queensland Cowboys
  6. Melbourne Storm
  7. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
  8. Brisbane Broncos
  9. New Zealand Warriors
  10. Parramatta Eels
  11. St George-Illawarra Dragons
  12. Newcastle Knights
  13. Wests Tigers
  14. Gold Coast Titans
  15. Canberra Raiders
  16. Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

Comment

Should have sold my Gold Coast Titans stock and re-invested heavily on Wests, the Broncos and Bulldogs. Otherwise not too bad.

Finals 

What I thought would happen

Qualifying Finals – Souths vs Manly – Souths, Roosters vs Storm – Storm, Cowboys vs Titans – Cowboys and Warriors vs Panthers – Warriors

Semi-finals – Cowboys vs Manly – Cowboys and Warriors vs Roosters – Warriors

Preliminary Finals – Souths vs Warriors – Souths and Storm vs Cowboys – Cowboys

GF – Souths vs Cowboys – Souths

What actually happened

Qualifying Finals – Sea Eagles vs Souths – Souths, Roosters vs Panthers – Panthers, Cowboys vs Broncos – Cowboys and Storm vs Bulldogs – Bulldogs

Semi-finals – Roosters vs Cowboys – Roosters and Bulldogs vs Sea Eagles – Bulldogs

Preliminary Finals – Souths vs Roosters – Souths and Bulldogs vs Panthers – Bulldogs

GF – Souths vs Bulldogs – Souths

Comment

Glory glory to South Sydney - Photo by Mathew F - CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

Glory glory to South Sydney – Photo by Mathew FCC-BY-ND-NC-2.0

Glory, glory to South Sydney. Cracker game. Cracker season. At least I got one thing right.

Young Gun 

What I thought would happen

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Dylan Walker

Sydney Roosters – Dylan Napa

Melbourne Storm – Tohu Harris

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – Michael Chee-Kam

North Queensland Cowboys – Kyle Feldt

New Zealand Warriors – Carlos Tuimavave

Penrith Panthers – Matt Moylan

Gold Coast Titans – Christian Hazard

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – David Klemmer

Newcastle Knights – Adam Clydsdale

Brisbane Broncos – Kodi Nikorima

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – Michael Lichaa

St George-Illawarra Dragons – Charly Runciman

Parramatta Eels – Brenden Santi

Canberra Raiders – Mitch Cornish

Wests Tigers – Luke Brooks

What actually happened

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Dylan Walker was awesome but I think Alex Johnston has ROY written all over him.

Sydney Roosters – Dylan Napa. Enough said.

Melbourne Storm – Mahe Fonua, this man was unstoppable, well nearly unstoppable, especially close to the line. He had a rat’s tail as well, so there’s that.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – Not Michael Chee-Kam. Injured during the NRL 9s I don’t think he had a run in A Grade all year. Peta Hiku rose from relative obscurity to the NZ Test team.

North Queensland Cowboys – Kyle Feldt played well when he was in the team but I think Ethan Lowe was probably the best young gun to find his feet in first grade.

New Zealand Warriors – Carlos Tuimavave probably suffered from lack of a defined position. Let’s call it the utility curse. Ngani Laumape gets the nod here with David Fusitu’a a close second. Both were a fair way down the depth chart at the start of the season but things were a bit different by the end.

Penrith Panthers – Matt Moylan certainly lived up to the hype this year with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak a close second.

Gold Coast Titans – Firing blanks here. Paul Carter was the find of the season. The nuggetty forward rarely put a foot wrong and will be a key cog in seasons to come for the Titans.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – This was kind of a no brainer with David Klemmer’s pedigree, however, Moses Mbye was a close second to the stand out prop.

Newcastle Knights – Adam Clydsdale. Kind of slipped under the radar this year but he was solid and had 21 games for the Knights which is a fair return for a young player.

Brisbane Broncos – In the absence of any other worthy candidate I’m going to have to give this to Kodi Nikorima based solely on his 20s form. No-one else really put their hand up.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – Michael Lichaa gets the nod here. He should have played more games but the Sharks spat the dummy when he signed for the Dogs for season 2015. They shouldn’t have let him get away. He is a keeper.

St George-Illawarra Dragons – Runciman was great when he played. Unfortunately he only played in 4 games. Conversely, Adam Quinlan showed plenty of promise in his 15 appearances.

Parramatta Eels – Tepai Moeroa burst on to the scene this year with aplomb. He is the one that got away for Australian Rugby. He is flat out talented.

Canberra Raiders – Anthony Milford. He was Canberra’s best player. People forget he is only 20 years old.

Wests Tigers – Luke Brooks exceeded all expectations this year. He formed a dangerous combination with James Tedesco who gets an honourable mention.

X-Factor 

What I thought would happen

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Greg Inglis

Sydney Roosters – SBW

Melbourne Storm – Billy Slater

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – DCE

North Queensland Cowboys – JT

New Zealand Warriors – Shaun Johnson

Penrith Panthers – Jamie Soward

Gold Coast Titans – Albert Kelly

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – Sam Kasiano

Newcastle Knights – Tyrone Roberts

Brisbane Broncos – Ben Barba

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – Andrew Fifita

St George-Illawarra Dragons – Gareth Widdop

Parramatta Eels – Will Hopoate

Canberra Raiders – Anthony Milford

Wests Tigers – Robbie Farah

What actually happened

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Hard to go past GI but Sam Burgess was right up there.

Sydney Roosters – I’m a big SBW fan but I thought with his injury breaks plus Mitchell Pearce’s overall body of work that Pearce narrowly shaded him.

Melbourne Storm – It is always going to be one of the Big Three (I think that is trademarked), but this time Cooper Cronk carries off the main prize. He left a gaping hole in the Storm when he went down.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – DCE, Daylight then Kieran Foran (thank you Sydney Morning Herald – you have given me a new saying)

North Queensland Cowboys – JT, Light Years then Matt Scott. He would get every Dally M point for the Cows but I think the judges get bored sometimes.

New Zealand Warriors – Shaun Johnson. He hasn’t hit his ceiling yet but he was still the Warriors best player.

Penrith Panthers – Jamie Soward was probably overshadowed by Peter Wallace in the first half of the season although they played well together but when Wallace went down injured Soward raised his game to a new level.

Gold Coast Titans – Albert Kelly had a disappointing season on the back of last year’s success. Through a combination of injuries to both him and Aidan Sezer their halves combination didn’t rise to the heights of 2013. Greg Bird on the other hand fought what looked like a losing battle for most of the season as the Titans best player.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – The Big Man wasn’t a factor this year. Injury put paid to that. Josh Reynolds was the Dogs best this year and was narrowly ahead of James Graham and Trent Hodkinson for the honour.

Newcastle Knights – Tyrone Roberts certainly has X-Factor and he showed it this year. It was an underachieving season (for the Knights) that ended better than it started but Roberts was consistently dangerous all season long.

Brisbane Broncos – Ben Hunt exceeded all expectations and was clearly the best player at the Broncos this season, certainly in the backs.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – Andrew Fifita looked like he was going to another club before re-signing with the Sharks. It was an eventful season for the Sharks. I use that term advisedly. Fifita’s effort, talent and impact can’t be questioned. He was Cronulla’s best.

St George-Illawarra Dragons – Gareth Widdop was far and away the best player for the Red V this year. He lifted it a number of gears from previous years and will be dangerous in the Four Nations if he can get a run. His combination with Sam Tomkins will be crucial.

Parramatta Eels – The Hayne Plane. He was unstoppable.

Canberra Raiders – As mentioned above, Anthony Milford was the Raider’s best player this year by a country mile. How he wasn’t locked up to a 100 year contract I don’t know.

Wests Tigers – Luke Brooks was his teams best player this year as well.

The Big Leap 

What I thought would happen

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Adam Reynolds

Sydney Roosters – Jake Friend

Melbourne Storm – George Rose

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – Justin Horo

North Queensland Cowboys – Jason Taumalolo

New Zealand Warriors – Sam Tomkins

Penrith Panthers – Josh Mansour

Gold Coast Titans – Ben Ridge

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – Josh Jackson

Newcastle Knights – Korbin Sims

Brisbane Broncos – Martin Kennedy

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – Sam Tagataese

St George-Illawarra Dragons – Tyson Frizell

Parramatta Eels – Joseph Paulo

Canberra Raiders – Jack Wighton

Wests Tigers – Tim Simona

What actually happened

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Adam Reynolds bounced back from a quieter 2013 to be everything the Rabbitohs needed.

Sydney Roosters – I thought Friend was exceptional and although his game improved incrementally I don’t think it qualifies for the Big Leap award. That honour goes to Boyd Cordner. He rose to the next level. Honourable mention to Aidan Guerra.

Melbourne Storm – I have a soft spot for Big George but he didn’t get enough game time to warrant a mention. Jesse Bromwich took the biggest strides forward for the Storm.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – Justin Horo was good this year but didn’t dominate as I thought he would. I actually think Peta Hiku took the biggest leap this year so he gets 2 pretend trophies for the season.

North Queensland Cowboys – Jason Taumalolo definitely went up a gear or two (with even more room for improvement, call it the curse of the extremely talented) but Michael Morgan came from nowhere to become an attacking juggernaut. Prior to the season starting he looked like the odd man out (languishing behind JT, Robert Lui and Ray Thompson) but now he looks like a key player for the Cows.

New Zealand Warriors – Sam Tomkins. He was off to a slow start but certainly showed his class during the season proper.

Penrith Panthers – Josh Mansour was even better this year but James Segeyaro really started cashing in on some of that talent. Kevin Kingston is far from washed up and he couldn’t get a game in the end.

Gold Coast Titans – Ben Ridge didn’t really become more than a fringe first grader this season. James Roberts on the other hand gets the nod just by virtue of remaining on the field. He is precociously talented and is as fast as the wind blows. If he can keep his off field life off the field he is a future representative player, otherwise he will start to run out of chances.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – I’m not going to lie, Josh Jackson was solid all year long and a worthy contender for the Big Leap gong but Tim Lafai gets the nod for a stellar season. He moved from trying to nail down the centre position for his club to borderline rep player. Nice season.

Newcastle Knights – I’m giving this to Willie Mason because I thought he was gooooooone. He clearly has a few more seasons left in him. He certainly played like it. Early leader for his services are Manly apparently. Seems like a good fit.

Brisbane Broncos – I really thought Martin Kennedy would make a solid impact for the Broncos this season, however, it was another prop who continued to excel in Josh McGuire. It is only a matter of time before he regularly reps for Queensland. His effort cannot be faulted and he has improved year on year.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – In such a dark season for the Sharks, Sosaia Feki was one of the few highlights. His reward, a spot in the Kiwi’s Four Nations squad.

St George-Illawarra Dragons – Frizell was solid but Mitch Rein stamped himself as rep quality this year. He will be even better next year if St George can get their forward pack in order.

Parramatta Eels – I felt like giving this to Chris Sandow 2.0 for his ‘return from the dead’ performances this season but Nathan Peats is my first choice. His first season for the Eels was ruined by injury but he showed the move to the Eels was just the tonic (although he would have arguably been clutching his first premiership ring as backup hooker to Isaac Luke at this very moment). That has probably already occurred to him.

Canberra Raiders – Paul Vaughan. He lifted a level this season but primarily on the basis that he is the Incredible Hulk (still love the Marvel Mash Up Round idea – BTW – I think every team should have participated though – for those that don’t remember it was Cowboys – Thor, Raiders – Hulk, Dragons – Iron Man, Sea Eagles – Wolverine (that one didn’t work for me – should have been the Eels) and Roosters – Captain America (nice synergy). Maybe they could do a DC vs Marvel round next year. The others could have been as follows: Broncos – Superman, Eels – Batman, Rabbitohs – Daredevil, Panthers – Black Panther, Storm – Storm (from the X-Men (not a typo)) Bulldogs – Ben Grimm (from the Fantastic Four), Warriors – Green Lantern, Knights – Spiderman, Tigers – The Flash, Titans – Shazam (running out of ideas now) and Sharks – Aquaman)

Wests Tigers – Tim Simona treaded water this season mainly because of injuries but Luke Brooks gets his third pretend trophy on the basis of his massive leap in 1 season from Young Gun to MVP.

Final Word 

It’s been emotional. 

What was sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • GF Day.
  • Bunnies vs Bulldogs. It was a proper Grand Final with drama, heroic performances, unbelievable skill, brute force, sheer will and the Goanna Celebration. The better side clearly won but the Bulldogs made it a game.
  • Pride v Penrith. I particularly liked how everyone from Sydney naturally assumed that the Pride would be greatly inferior to Penrith because they didn’t know all of the players involved. Wrong. BTW it was a cracker game with momentum shifting a number of times. I think Penrith had more talent and X-Factor but the Pride were much better drilled to go with their talent. Champion Team vs Team of Champions.
  • Warriors v Broncos in the 20s was awesome in a ‘I’ll give you a 30 point lead and see if I can run you down’ kind of a game. From what I’ve seen of the Holden Cup pretty much every game plays out in one of two ways: (1) Team A scores 50 points and then Team B scores 51 points, game over or (2) Team A scores 50 points and then Team A scores 50 more points, game over.
  • The refereeing. It was a game not spoiled by controversial decisions and that needs to be recognised.

What wasn’t?

  •  James Graham’s head.

Other random thoughts

Itty Bitty Fu Manchu Bogut is my favourite Bogut - Photo by Matthew Addle - CC-BY-2.0

Itty Bitty Fu Manchu Bogut is my favourite Bogut – Photo by Matthew AddleCC-BY-2.0

 

Bill James Award 

Greg Inglis – Run Metres – 227m, Tries – 1, Try Assists – 1, Tackle Breaks – 5, Tackles – 3, Offloads – 0, Line Breaks – 1, Line Break Assists – 0, Errors – 0, Goanna Celebrations – 1 and Players that are thankful they didn’t come into contact with James Graham’s head – 15. 

NRL Tips 

Final results as follows:

Last week – 1/1 

Season – 117/201 

Final percentage – 58.21% 

I think I might tip against the spread next season. Not that I need the challenge. Tipping straight up was hard this season. 

EPL Tips  

Due to the international break EPL tips will recommence next week. 

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 16 October 2014 titled ‘Where is the next innovation coming from in Rugby League?’

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2 thoughts on “2014 NRL Season Review

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