2015 NRL Second Trimester Report Part 2

The favourites are starting to firm but every team is still a mathematical chance.

With Origin over and the season two thirds finished, it is high time I pumped out another Trimester Report. I’m covering this one in 2 parts. Part 1 was last week where I covered the bottom feeders. This week covers the top 8. BTW I’ve locked in ladder positions, points and for and against off last week’s ladder for the purpose of comparison. As always, teams are in reverse skating direction.

Bulldogs

Frank Pritchard - Photo by Mrs TGOS - CC-BY-SA-3.0

Frank Pritchard – Photo by Mrs TGOS – CC-BY-SA-2.0

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 6th

After First Trimester – 11th

After Second Trimester – 8th

Points after First Trimester – 8

Points after Second Trimester – 20

For and against after First Trimester – -19

For and against after Second Trimester – -14

The Journey so far

The Bulldogs have yet to really hit their straps this year. Injuries and suspensions have been partly to blame with James Graham, Brett Morris, and Tony Williams missing large chunks of time. Des hasn’t really settled on his halves either with Trent Hodkinson, Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye all spending time there in recent weeks. The Bulldogs have been a week to week proposition with some quality wins during the Second Trimester (Storm and Panthers) to go with some indifferent performances (loss against Titans and a narrow win in a shootout with the Raiders). All in all their 2015 campaign is delicately poised.

Second Trimester Grade

C

MVP

Moses Mbye – Canterbury have gotten contributions from all over the place with a new player leading the charge each week. Their better players aren’t having very consistent seasons either which adds to the hurly burly. Mbye is becoming difficult to ignore. If you had said to me at the end of last season that Mbye was putting pressure on Hodkinson and Reynolds for a place in the halves I would have laughed. Mbye is a prodigious talent and is finding his way on to the paddock in some capacity.

Prognosis

Despite being hit by injuries to key positions and all of the individual form issues the team has experienced, the Dogs are not out of it. Last year reminded us of that. Last year also showed us that hitting form at the right time wasn’t the only thing a team needed to lift the trophy. A top 4 position helps, a lot. With Broncos, Cows and Roosters looking certainties for the top 3 and five other teams fighting for that last spot, a top 4 position for the Dogs might be a hill too far. Consequently, making the 8 might be the high water mark for the 2015 season.

Dragons

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 15th

After First Trimester – 2nd

After Second Trimester – 7th

Points after First Trimester – 12

Points after Second Trimester – 20

For and against after First Trimester – 26

For and against after Second Trimester – 22

The Journey so far

Boy does that six game winning streak seem a long time ago. The Dragon’s season has fallen off a cliff to the tune of 6 straight losses. They haven’t been disgraced by any stretch of the imagination and most games have been close but they have forgotten how to win. They haven’t exactly been decimated by injuries or Origin either. They’ve gone off the boil. It is a form thing. I’m not blaming Benji but the turn in his fortunes adequately sums up the Dragons season. At the end of the First Trimester Benji had polled 12 points in the Dally M. When results went secret in the Second Trimester Benji had only polled an additional 2 points. I’m not selling my Benji stock but I’ve certainly made some paper losses.

Second Trimester Grade

D

MVP

Josh Dugan – As always, one of the key attacking weapons for the Dragons. He isn’t letting the Dragons down. Run out of room for more tattoos though.

Prognosis

They certainly have the firepower in the backs but remain a bit under powered in the forwards (not Mike Cooper, he is adequately powered). Defence is still a highlight but attack has mostly dropped right off. They don’t have much in the way of injuries so their funk is purely form related. Even now they have enough points in the bank to press for the 8 provided they can pull out of this tailspin. Can’t see them contending for a top 4 spot and even a top 8 spot is appearing increasingly unlikely. If anyone can do it Benji, Gareth and Josh can. Won’t completely write them off yet.

Storm

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 10th

After First Trimester – 3rd

After Second Trimester – 6th

Points after First Trimester – 10

Points after Second Trimester – 20

For and against after First Trimester – 42

For and against after Second Trimester – 26

The Journey so far

The First Trimester couldn’t have started any better for the Storm but Origin + Billy’s season ending injury have conspired to produce a Dragons-like drop in form including their very own 4 game losing streak (remember – I’m analysing them prior to last week’s evisceration of Penrith which is hard BTW but I’m staying the course). Origin has always been a tough period for the Storm with Smith, Cronk and Slater all certain starters with Will Chambers an addition to that mix. In the end there were too many distractions for them.

Second Trimester Grade

D+

MVP

Jesse Bromwich – Once again Jesse Bromwich laid the platform for the Storm. He is ably assisted by a very honest forward pack, but he is the pillar upon which their go forward is built. His defence is very solid in the middle third to boot.

Prognosis

In this salary cap era 3 or 4 stars (usually in the spine) + best support cast available + good coaching is the secret to premiership success and the Storm have lost 1 of their top 3. Injuries have treated them fairly kindly apart from that but a place in the top 8 might be the most they can hope for. The top 4 is probably out of reach now but Smith and Cronk are very special and Craig Bellamy provides the ‘good coaching’ part of the equation but it will be uphill from here.

Rabbitohs

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 1st

After First Trimester – 6th

After Second Trimester – 5th

Points after First Trimester – 8

Points after Second Trimester – 22

For and against after First Trimester – 6

For and against after Second Trimester – 18

The Journey so far

Notwithstanding the Adam Reynolds injury (which had a profound impact on the team), it is clear that the 2015 Bunnies aren’t quite the team the 2014 Bunnies were. A Sam Burgess shaped hole in their line up is the main issue but missing Ben Te’o and Kyle Turner hasn’t helped. Glenn Stewart hasn’t been there much to offset the loss of Te’o on the edge either and Chris McQueen isn’t quite playing as well as last year, though I don’t think he has had the opportunities that he had last year, to be fair. Inglis has taken the whole season up until Origin 2 to warm up (I’m still thinking he had an injury in the first half of the season – he just looked very un-Inglis like – and he kept fussing over one of his knees so there’s that). Consequently, they have served up a bit of a hotchpotch season and the Second Trimester has been more of the same. That being said Adam Reynolds is back on deck and has been gaining in confidence. They also won 5 from 8 so things weren’t really that bad.

Second Trimester Grade

C+

MVP

George Burgess – Shocked into action by his replacement in the starting team by twin Tom. Created a bigger impact last year but this year he’s having to do more on his own so that has to be taken into account.

Prognosis

Many forget that last year’s Rabbitohs actually did most of their damage in the Third Trimester and Final Series. They are in a very similar situation to last year. Probably should jag the last top 4 position but that isn’t a given. On the plus side they are almost injury free. On the minus side history is against them (not many repeat Premiers in the salary cap era), everyone is gunning for them (hard to slip under the radar), probably not as hungry as last year and other teams have gotten better. Roosters are better, Cowboys are better and Broncos are better. That being said, everyone has a puncher’s chance in the finals and the Bunnies still have Greg Inglis.

Warriors

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 7th

After First Trimester – 13th

After Second Trimester – 4th

Points after First Trimester – 6

Points after Second Trimester – 22

For and against after First Trimester – -7

For and against after Second Trimester – 27

The Journey so far

The Second Trimester has the Warriors placed in a good position for the run home to the finals. 6 wins out of 8 with those 2 losses against the Roosters and the Rabbitohs is certainly a step up from their start to the season. Shaun Johnson has continued to impress as has Chad Townsend, Ben Matulino and Simon Mannering. After a long stint on the sidelines they finally have Sam Tomkins back on deck as well.

First Trimester Grade

B+

MVP

Shaun Johnson – Had a very quiet start to the season which mirrored the form of the Warriors. As he has warmed to the task the Warriors have also found consistency. Deadly from long distance.

Prognosis

Not a terribly taxing draw leading into the finals and injuries not sapping them unduly. Box seat to make the 8, but competing with the Bunnies in particular for that crucial top 4 spot. If they can show some consistency and have a strong run into the finals could do anything but not one of the favourites. I see them as an early finals casualty at best. Should be much better next year.

Roosters

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 3rd

After First Trimester – 12th

After Second Trimester – 3rd

Points after First Trimester – 6

Points after Second Trimester – 24

For and against after First Trimester – 37

For and against after Second Trimester – 138

The Journey so far

Playing with a chip on their shoulder at the moment and building nicely into form. They have weapons right across the park. Strong up front, versatile on the edges, creative in the halves and deadly out wide they are a very balanced side and have contender stamped all over them. The Second Trimester yielded 7 wins and only 1 loss against the Sharks who seem to be a difficult match up for them for some reason. Nicely poised for the final series.

Second Trimester Grade

A-

MVP

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – You can’t keep them all but losing RTS for next season is a massive blow. Matty Johns said it was an expensive mistake made by RTS. I’m pretty sure he is wrong. RTS has been lighting teams up in the NRL for the best part of 3 seasons now and he will continue to do so for the Warriors.

Prognosis

Well the Roosters have weathered Origin in the best way possible and find themselves well positioned for the finals. Unlikely to run down the Cows but home field during the Final Series is a worthy goal and the Roosters don’t have the hardest run home. That being said, a top 4 berth is well within their grasp and I expect them to make it to the final 4 at the very least and might even go all the way. Unlike the 2 teams above them, they have the best recent finals resume and plenty of experience in pressure games too.

Cowboys

Johnathon Thurston - Photo by Mrs TGOS - CC-BY-SA-2.0

Johnathon Thurston – Photo by Mrs TGOS – CC-BY-SA-2.0

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 4th

After First Trimester – 4th

After Second Trimester – 2nd

Points after First Trimester – 10

Points after Second Trimester – 26

For and against after First Trimester – -3

For and against after Second Trimester – 34

The Journey so far

The Cows have surmounted all obstacles so far and are building towards their first premiership nicely. They’ve overcome their away woes, especially in Sydney. They’ve put to bed the theory that they can’t win without JT (but obviously they can’t win a premiership without him). They’ve also won despite byes and Origin, usually their streakiest time of the year. They are a contender. Plain and simple. The spine is playing so well. The risk of moving Michael Morgan into five-eight to make way for Lachlan Coote has come up trumps. Ditto moving Jake Granville off the bench and into the starting hooker’s position, finally bringing some stability to the crucial position after Aaron Payne and James Segeyaro moved on. The forward pack is hitting form as well.

Second Trimester Grade

A-

MVP

Johnathon Thurston – Again.

Prognosis

Things are perfectly poised for their first premiership. Injuries are non-existent apart from Tautau Moga. Form is still strong. Players are well rested after the last bye. The team still has things to improve on (could get better in defence) and Paul Green has them lean and mean and not assuming they will win. Should nail down a top 2 position which should give them home finals until the GF. I think they will win their first premiership but I’ve been saying that since the beginning of the season. I’d like to say I haven’t wavered but opening the season with 3 huge stink bombs made me pause for a second. I think this year is their year.

Broncos

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 2nd

After First Trimester – 1st

After Second Trimester – 1st

Points after First Trimester – 12

Points after Second Trimester – 30

For and against after First Trimester – 32

For and against after Second Trimester – 115

The Journey so far

We thought they were going to be good, but this good? Wayne Bennett has had the desired effect. He just interfaces well with the current generation of footballers and he has managed to stay relevant to a number of generations now. Darius Boyd successfully returned to action and has slowly improved each game since. Anthony Milford had a slowish start to the year but has really come on in the last few games. Ben Hunt has continued to blossom and the forward pack, especially edge runners like Alex Glenn are really hitting their straps. Even the much-maligned Adam Blair is starting to have an impact.

Second Trimester Grade

A-

MVP

Ben Hunt – Continues to be one of the form halves in the competition, especially when he runs the football. Relatively inexperienced when it comes to finals football but will find out just how far he has come in September.

Prognosis

1 of 3 teams that can win it. Still think that next year will be the year but looking increasingly like this year could be the year anyways. They are the very model of consistency and have only lost 3 times this year. At this time of year every team has a few question marks. They tick the coaching, depth, talent, form and injury boxes. Only questions are big game temperament (with their spine relatively inexperienced in this regard) and whether they can lift another level come finals time. Top 2 looks guaranteed barring a tidal wave or some other such disaster. Minor premiership looking probable. Can’t wait to see how this plays out.

What is sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • Mick Fanning and Julian Wilson. Bravery at sea. Full on.
  • It’s NRL vs Marvel mash up week and I love it. Raiders (Hulk), Roosters (Captain America), Cowboys (Thor), Dragons (Iron Man) and Manly (Wolverine) are back. New this year are Knights (Spiderman) and Tigers (War Machine). I’m hoping next year all 16 teams have a Marvel cross over.  
  • PNG Hunters. Still awesome.

Bill James Award 

For the statistically superior NRL human being.

Cooper Cronk – Tries – 2, Run Metres – 22m, Try Assists – 2, Tackle Breaks – 4, Tackles – 9, Offloads – 0, Line Breaks – 1, Line Break Assists – 3, Errors – 0, Penalties Conceded – 0 and Wishing the NRL did a DC Comics mash up so he could be Superman – Definitely.

NRL Tips Round 20

Tigers vs Roosters – Roosters (Just can’t see the Tigers derailing the Roosters at this stage of the season. Roosters are starting to roll now)

Broncos vs Titans – Broncos (Ditto Broncos)

Warriors vs Sea Eagles – Warriors (Never entirely feel safe tipping the Warriors against the Sea Eagles but can’t see the 2015 Eags sans DCE having enough to out-muscle the Warriors)

Storm vs Dragons – Storm (Storm blew Penrith off the park last week and Dragons have fallen down the sinkhole. Can’t see them mustering the points to knock off a rampant Storm)

Rabbitohs vs Knights – Rabbitohs (Well the Knights finally won a match but they won’t win this week. GI powering up Super Saiyan style)

Panthers vs Raiders – Panthers (This should be a very evenly fought tussle. Just see Penrith edging Raiders for a perfect bounce back game)

Bulldogs vs Sharks – Bulldogs (Prepare for a street fight. This will be brutal and yet strangely compelling. James Graham should be back to form this week and look for him to provide the extra play making the Dogs need to get this one done)

Cowboys vs Eels – Cowboys (For some reason the Eels gave the Cows trouble earlier this season. Cows are really warming into the task now though. This will be comfortable)

Last week

7/8

Season so far

87/136

Current Position

3,800 of 217,806

NRL Fantasy Round 20

Trades

Adam Reynolds (Rabbitohs) for DCE (Sea Eagles) – Injury replacement.

Starting Team

Cameron Smith (Storm), Martin Taupau (Tigers), George Burgess (Rabbitohs), Shaun Fensom (Raiders), Elijah Taylor (Panthers), Corey Parker (Broncos), Adam Reynolds (Rabbitohs), Shaun Johnson (Warriors), Jack Bird (Sharks), Iosia Soliola (Raiders), Euan Aitken (Dragons), Semi Radradra (Eels) and Lachlan Coote (Cowboys)

Bench

Mitch Rein (Dragons), Ethan Lowe (Cowboys), Solomone Kata (Warriors) and Mitchell Aubusson (Roosters)

Balance of the squad

Richard Fa’aoso (Eels), Sam Lisone (Warriors), Sam Mataora (Knights), Dene Halatau (Tigers), Jackson Hastings (Roosters), Mitch Moses (Tigers), Edrick Lee (Raiders) and Delouise Hoeter (Tigers)

Last week

857

Season so far

15,032

Current Position

2,927 of 115,361

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 30 July 2015 titled ‘The Australian Festival of Football – Audition for a real tilt at a corruption free World Cup?’

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