2015 NRL First Trimester Report Part 1 – Helter Skelter

Manly aren’t gone yet but they are certainly going!

With a representative break this weekend and 8 games behind us, what better time for a Trimester Report? I’ve thumped this out in 2 parts. Part 1 will cover the bottom of the ladder. Part 2 will cover the top 8. As always, reverse skating direction.

Sea Eagles

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 5th

After First Trimester – 16th

Points after First Trimester – 4

For and against after First Trimester – -73

The Journey so far

Very rocky indeed. Manly is one of those clubs like Melbourne that, with rare exceptions, keeps on keeping on. Backs against the wall. Injury list a mile long. Scandal at every turn. Didn’t matter. It was situation normal. I certainly didn’t see this coming. The first 8 games of the season have been very un-Manly like. I can point to obvious reasons like the long injury list, very little depth in the forwards (after the departures of Glenn Stewart and Anthony Watmough) and the distractions provided by the contract sagas of DCE and Kieran Foran but Manly has surmounted such issues many times before. It looks like the team has lost heart, especially in defence. Even DCE has looked a bit up and down. There has been a marked improvement in the last 2 weeks but the hole they are in is pretty deep now.

First Trimester Grade

D-

MVP

DCE – He is the star of the show. Foran is his able accomplice but DCE gets them really rolling. Plus Foran has been injured more often than not so far. I think they would be 0-8 without DCE.

Prognosis

On the plus side, it is still early days and the competition is very, very even. Manly are only 2 wins out of 5th place so they could turn this around. They still have one of the best spines in the game (DCE, Kieran Foran, Brett Stewart and Mat Ballin). Their injury list is slowly getting shorter. On the negative side, whatever is ailing this team from a morale perspective is probably still there so we can rule out a premiership this year. I think they will bounce back to a certain extent but 5th is now an unreasonable expectation, especially given they have to weather rep season as well. They will sneak into the 8.

Eels

Chris Sandow - Photo by Naparazzi - CC-BY-SA-2.0

Chris Sandow – Photo by NaparazziCC-BY-SA-2.0

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 11th

After First Trimester – 15th

Points after First Trimester – 6

For and against after First Trimester – -34

The Journey so far

The Eels have been mercurial as ever. Marquee wins against Souths, Manly and Newcastle have been offset by 5 losses. They have been competitive in some games for large periods of time only to be eventually blown off the park (like against the Tigers and the Titans, must be teams starting with T). They have had to deal with their fair share of injuries from the start but their key players like Chris Sandow, Corey Norman, Will Hopoate and Nathan Peats have played most games and their young pack, which was such a strength last year, is still intact. They are missing Jarryd Hayne. That’s a fact.

First Trimester Grade

D+

MVP

Chris Sandow – Carrying the full weight in attack (ironic given he slimmed down during the off-season) in the absence of the Hayne Plane and has been very good in patches but will need to be more consistent to drag this club into contention.

Prognosis

Will win against some good clubs this year but are just as likely to lose against the mediocre clubs as well. They have an above average spine.  I still see them missing the 8 but they will finish slightly higher on the ladder than where they are now. I’m sticking with 11th.

Sharks

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 13th

After First Trimester – 14th

Points after First Trimester – 6

For and against after First Trimester – -8

The Journey so far

It looked pretty dire early on with 4 losses on the trot to start the season but it has been much better since then and they now find themselves only 1 win out of the 8. Andrew Fifita (when he isn’t dropping people on their head) and Paul Gallen have been solid and Ennis much better than I thought he would be but the real revelation has been unearthing Jack Bird who was rewarded (one would think a little prematurely) with a rep jumper on the back of some sharp form. He has bucket loads of potential.

First Trimester Grade

D+

MVP

Michael Ennis – Surprised many by staying at the peak of his powers (so far). He is a bit the forgotten man when it comes to rep teams too these days which will be good for the Sharks during Origin.

Prognosis

A fair bit will depend on injuries (as always) and getting through the rep season unscathed (Wade Graham is in the mix for Origin as well as Andrew Fifita and Paul Gallen this year plus some of their younger players may be in camp for U/20s Origin) but can see them exceeding my pre-season prediction of 13th. Can’t see them making the 8 though. A resurgent Ben Barba would help but he seems behind Jack Bird in the pecking order now. They have some good young talent too.

Warriors

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 7th

After First Trimester – 13th

Points after First Trimester – 6

For and against after First Trimester – -7

The Journey so far

I should just copy and paste what I always say about the Warriors. Much is always expected of them and they only ever partially deliver. Maybe this is as good as it gets. I am sure they will crack the code one day. They certainly didn’t during the First Trimester of the 2015 season. Their forward pack was monstrous again and there was plenty of promise in the backs but the Warriors could never quite put it together week to week. Shaun Johnson had a slow start to the season and they have really missed Sam Tomkins who is out injured (and going home a year early BTW). They make mistakes at crucial times. Tui Lolohea, Solomone Kata and Sam Lisone have been the good news stories out of the first part of the season. Ryan Hoffman has been a good buy and Simon Mannering is as steady as a rock as usual.

First Trimester Grade

D+

MVP

Ben Matulino – The man mountain was best on ground most games and sets a platform most teams only dream of. He is so consistent as well.

Prognosis

Should really benefit from the Origin period, the return of Sam Tomkins and the gradual warming up of the artist formerly known as Shaun Johnson. You don’t get a Golden Boot by accident. I still see them creeping into the 8. Anyone who prognosticates always allows for at least 2 torrid streaks of form during the season for the Warriors. They are due one right about now.

Roosters

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 3rd

After First Trimester – 12th

Points after First Trimester – 6

For and against after First Trimester – 37

The Journey so far

Are playing better than their record would suggest and have lost their last 4 matches by an average of 3.75 points which shows they are there and thereabouts. All the building blocks are there with the losses of Blake Ferguson and Aidan Guerra felt harder than expected, given both were 2 of the better players in the early rounds. They miss SBW but have enough quality to be playing better than they are. Trent Robinson is one of the better coaches going around as well. Maloney and Pearce have come in for some criticism but that is unfair. They haven’t really put it together as a team often enough to single out anyone in particular.

First Trimester Grade

D+

MVP

James Maloney – Often viewed as Mitchell Pearce’s 2IC but a very good playmaker in his own right. Runs the right lines as well. He has had a fair First Trimester and is in frame for Origin again.

Prognosis

Will probably lose Michael Jennings, Daniel Tupou and Boyd Cordner during Origin and might lose Pearce and Maloney depending which way Laurie Daley goes for the Blues. Probably needed to be better positioned by Origin. Injuries are hindering but not killing them. It will help to have so many Kiwis playing for the side during SOO. Third might be a bit high for them after the start they have had. More likely to slot into that 5-8 part of the table now but the comp is so close who really knows.

Bulldogs

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 6th

After First Trimester – 11th

Points after First Trimester – 8

For and against after First Trimester – -19

The Journey so far

The last 5 minutes of their game against the Rabbitohs heavily affected both teams. Before James Graham’s ill-fated challenge on Adam Reynolds, the Bulldogs were 3-1 and looking like they were headed for their 4th win of the season. Instead, they lost the game and ended up without James Graham and David Klemmer for some time due to suspensions. Injuries to Tim Lafai and Brett Morris haven’t helped things either. Consequently, Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds have come in for some criticism but the whole team is playing a little off kilter without James Graham. He is their best ballplayer. Gus Gould’s analysis on the Dogs halves is instructive.

First Trimester Grade

C-

MVP

Brett Morris – Was setting the world on fire before tearing his hamstring. It was a bad injury too and he isn’t expected back until round 16. Has probably enjoyed playing beside his brother and also the freedom of playing Fullback.

Prognosis

I have said this 2000 times already but given the closeness of the competition the Bulldogs could be sitting in 5th place if James Graham doesn’t make contact with Adam Reynolds leg, so they aren’t far off. James Graham will settle everything down on his return and Hodkinson and Reynolds will return to form at some stage. Their complete body of work is too good to completely regress. Michael Lichaa is starting to demonstrate the potential everyone has talked about and that will only get better as time goes by. They potentially will get back most of their team by round 16. I still think they can roll their way into 6th place.

Raiders

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 16th

After First Trimester – 10th

Points after First Trimester – 8

For and against after First Trimester – -13

The Journey so far

If I broke the season into six parts instead of 3 then the first part would be diabolical for the Raiders. They were 1-3 including floggings from both the Roosters and the Storm. The last 4 games have been a different story altogether, 3-1 with wins against Manly, Wests (coming from 22-0 down to win) and Souths (again pegging back a big half time lead). Blake Austin has been a revelation in the halves. I was quite disparaging of the Raiders recruitment this year but Blake Austin, Iosia Soliola, Sisa Waqa and Josh Hodgson might all make the underrated XIII this year and have had quite the impact. The season could quickly go south from here but so far, so good. Well they are certainly doing better than I predicted.

First Trimester Grade

C-

MVP

Blake Austin – Jagged the City number 7 jersey and that pretty much sums up his meteoric rise this season. He was sneaky good for the Tigers last year but overshadowed by Luke Brooks. His move to the Raiders has paid off. He is now the main man.

Prognosis

I still don’t think that they will make the 8 but they are way better than I thought they would be. The Raiders of recent years would have laid down and died when faced with early deficits in the games against Souths and Wests but this team didn’t. Wighton and Austin are providing the spark that left when Anthony Milford walked out the door. Soliola, Vaughan and Papalii are providing the grunt. Early pressure off Ricky Stuart for now.

Knights

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 12th

After First Trimester – 9th

Points after First Trimester – 8

For and against after First Trimester – -11

The Journey so far

It is as though the Knights mojo travelled south to Canberra after round 4. The difference has been that stark. 4-0 after 4 rounds they looked to have the world at their feet. 4 weeks later and they have come back to the pack. Dane Gagai and Beau Scott have been the standouts in the early part of the year but they have received better than average performances across the park. They are certainly better than last year.

First Trimester Grade

C-

MVP

Dane Gagai – He has been the best player for the Knights. His game has come up a gear and he is deadly out wide.

Prognosis

Nearly untouched by injury and suspension at the moment and shouldn’t have many players out for Origin bar Beau Scott. I’ve seen enough to think they will do better than my early season prediction of 12th but I don’t think they will do much better than fight for 8th. Still think they are a little light-on in the forwards.

What was sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • The Dubs and the Cavs looked the goods in the first round though Clippers/Spurs could have been the Western Conference Finals in an alternative Universe (just ask Stephen Hawking).
  • The NRL moving the broadcast negotiations forward so that they don’t always get gazumped by the AFL. Priceless.
  • Rep sides for Fiji vs PNG and Tonga vs Samoa were packed full of NRL class players. Should be some great games. I’m loving the broader focus on the international game too. Helps attract more players if they actually have games to play. Fancy that.
  • AFC Bournemouth. The Cherries after 125 years are all but assured a place in the top flight for the first time. Amazing.
Goldsands Stadium AKA Dean Court - Photo by Matt Northam - CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

Goldsands Stadium AKA Dean Court – Photo by Matt NorthamCC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

Bill James Award 

For the statistically superior NRL human being.

Kane Elgey – Tries – 2, Run Metres – 32m, Try Assists – 2, Tackle Breaks – 1, Tackles – 14, Offloads – 2, Line Breaks – 1, Line Break Assists – 2, Errors – 0, Penalties Conceded – 0, Number of times the Titans have won back to back to back Bill James Awards – 1 and Did his market price go up over the last 3 weeks – Yes. 

NRL Tips

Representative break.

NRL Fantasy

Ditto.

EPL Tips Match Day 35 

Leicester vs Newcastle – Leicester 2-1 (Newcastle are dropping like a stone on the back of 7 straight losses. Conversely, Leicester have just got their head above water)

Aston Villa vs Everton – Draw 2-2 (This will be a close one. Villa has everything to play for and is doing just enough to stay up. Everton doesn’t have much to play for but is finally finding form)

Liverpool vs QPR – Liverpool 2-1 (Liverpool are scuffling again but QPR are on the outside looking in. They will be desperate. Might not make a difference but will make it close)

Sunderland vs Southampton – Southampton 2-1 (Sunderland are perilously close to relegation and Southampton are perilously close to playing in Europe)

Swansea vs Stoke – Swansea 2-1 (Playing for pride)

West Ham vs Burnley – West Ham 1-0 (Hammers to put another nail in Burnley’s coffin)

Man U vs West Brom – Man U 3-0 (Man U to further strengthen their hold on a Champion’s League place)

Chelsea vs Crystal Palace – Chelsea 3-2 (Palace will be frisky. Chelsea will be friskier)

Tottenham vs Man City – Man City 2-1 (City to dent Spurs European ambitions)

Hull vs Arsenal – Arsenal 2-1 (Arsenal to halt Hull’s winning run)

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 – 2 (2 from 12 with no perfect scores) and Lawro – 4 (2 from 12 with 1 perfect score)

Wow. Lowest score ever. Glad I don’t gamble, responsibly or otherwise.

Season so far – Me – 244 and Lawro – 232 (Lawro randomly includes the odd FA Cup or League Cup fixture which is why his score is different on the BBC site)

Fantasy Premier League Match Day 35

Transfer of the week

Simon Mignolet (Liverpool) for David de Gea (Man U) – Going with the hot hand.

Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) for Stewart Downing (West Ham) – Ditto

My team this week

Mignolet (Liverpool), Clyne (Southampton), Ivanovic (Chelsea), Terry (Chelsea), Sanchez (Arsenal), Eriksen (Spurs), Henderson (Liverpool), Hazard (Chelsea), Silva (Man City), Kane (Spurs) and Vardy (Leicester) with Hamer (Leicester), Austin (QPR), Bruce (Hull) and McShane (Hull) on the bench.

Current Points

1,834

Current Position

120,834 from 3,493,788

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Friday, 8 May 2015 titled ‘2015 NRL First Trimester Report Part 2 – Helter Skelter’

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One thought on “2015 NRL First Trimester Report Part 1 – Helter Skelter

  1. Pingback: 2015 NRL First Trimester Report Part 2 – Helter Skelter | The Game of Sport

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