2016 NRL Final Trimester Report Part 3 – Just happy to be there

Just the GF to go now but this week I am continuing my Final Trimester Report. Mrs TGOS wants to know whether my penchant for providing regular trimester reports will result in my NRL season review being renamed the ‘NRL Season Birth’ but I think I might steer clear of that analogy. Last week I covered the teams finishing 9th to 12th and the week before I covered the teams finishing 13th to 16th. This week its teams finishing 5th to 8th.

Titans

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 16th

After First Trimester – 13th

After Second Trimester – 10th

After Final Trimester – 8th

Points after First Trimester – 6

Points after Second Trimester – 16

Points after Final Trimester – 27

For and against after First Trimester – -41

For and against after Second Trimester – -14

For and against after Final Trimester – 11

The Journey so far

Let’s rewind to the start of the season to take in the enormity of what the Titans achieved this year. 2015 was a debacle which included the defection of DCE, the club being placed in receivership, the revocation of the club’s license, the drug drama, the James Roberts’ contract fiasco and a steady decline in crowd numbers from an average of 21,489 in 2007 to 11,236 in 2015, and that was only the major headlines. In addition, they were starting the season sans James Roberts, Aidan Sezer, Nate Myles and David Taylor, who all bolted in the off season and Kane Elgey, arguably the find of 2015, was out for the season with a knee injury. They hadn’t made the finals since 2010. A bleak outlook was an understatement. It was sport’s movie bleak. Like the Bad News Bears or Major League.

So how did they make the Finals?

It is never one thing but in no particular order the following happened:

  • Neil Henry gave them a tougher edge. The team took on a tenacious persona and started clawing their way back into games.
  • Greg Bird stayed on the field. He missed 19 games in the 2 previous seasons to a mix of injury and suspension so to play 22 games in 2016 was a boon for the Titans.
  • Ryan James took a massive step up terrorising the opposition on a more regular basis (average 121.76m per game, 12 tries, 10 line breaks and only 7 errors).
  • Ash Taylor played unbelievably well in his rookie season.
  • Agnatius Paasi and Leivaha Pulu also emerged from nowhere, but presumably from a place with no barber.
  • Konrad Hurrell and Nathan Peats were picked up mid-season.
  • Jarryd Hayne chose the Titans after his sojourn in the NFL and sevens rugby.

Add Jarryd Hayne to the mix and all of a sudden the Titans have gone from the precipice of disappearing forever (not an exaggeration) to a team on the rise.

Astonishing!

Final Trimester Grade

C+

MVP

Ryan James – James was rewarded with a jersey in the Prime Minister’s XIII and will be a chance for the final Four Nations Squad. Still can’t believe he hasn’t been selected for NSW yet.

How close was my pre-season prediction?

I was a fair way off on this one (16th), as were the bookies (16th).

Prognosis

Things are looking on the way up on the Gold Coast. Finally! They’ve retained the core of their side losing only Cameron Cullen, David Hala, David Mead, Nene McDonald and Nathan Friend so far. Kane Elgey will return and provide competition for a spot in the halves along with Ash Taylor and Tyrone Roberts, who both played well in 2016. They’ve nabbed rising prop Jarrod Wallace from the Broncos and Dan Sarginson from Wigan, however, it is the signing of Jarryd Hayne which is the greatest cause for optimism. I’ll never forget estimates of the positive financial impact that Karmichael Hunt provided to the Gold Coast Suns after signing in 2009. The signing of Jarryd Hayne, while not as dramatic, was still a great surprise and is having a similar financial impact for the Titans. Crowds were improving all year but spiked upwards in the 2 home games Hayne played in. The Titans ended up with a crowd average of 13,806 which was their best since 2013. Probably the thing that is most notable about the Titans is that for the first time in a long time, there is a reason for hope. 

Bulldogs

Tyrone Phillips - Photo by Naparazzi - CC-BY-SA 2.0

Tyrone Phillips – Photo by NaparazziCC-BY-SA 2.0

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 5th

After First Trimester – 6th

After Second Trimester – 6th

After Final Trimester – 7th

Points after First Trimester – 10

Points after Second Trimester – 20

Points after Final Trimester – 32

For and against after First Trimester – 21

For and against after Second Trimester – 95

For and against after Final Trimester – 58

The Journey so far

The Bulldogs were treading water this year. They seem to be a team searching for identity. They aren’t quite the Dogs of War – smothering defence with a scrappy dominance in the forwards paving the way in attack. They haven’t regained the successful combination of 2014 where the ball play of James Graham and Sam Kasiano along with the ball running of Josh Reynolds carried them to the GF. Most of all they missed Frank Pritchard and the X-Factor he produced on the edge. Tony Williams could have been that player but he just isn’t or at least not consistently. And that pretty much sums up the Bulldogs, their season and their performance in the Final Trimester, they are good but not great. They never quite got themselves to the top tier of contenders though they threatened on a few occasions.

Final Trimester Grade

C

MVP

Josh Reynolds – Reynolds improved as the year went on mainly on the back of his running game. He is a fierce competitor and kept the Dogs in many games almost by himself.

How close was my pre-season prediction? 

There or thereabouts. I said 5th, the Bookies said 6th and they finished 7th.

Prognosis

Haven’t really splashed out in the free agency market yet, apart from Brenko Lee, but that could change. That leaves improvement from within as the sole strategy. Moses Mbye, Michael Lichaa, Brad Abbey and Kerrod Holland are young and could still dramatically improve which means this isn’t a hopeless decision. Des is probably scouring the market looking for one or two key players which could be the difference in the end. Michael Ennis is still winning the swap for Michael Lichaa although, as previously mentioned, that will start paying dividends for the Bulldogs soon. 

Panthers

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 13th

After First Trimester – 8th

After Second Trimester – 8th

After Final Trimester – 6th

Points after First Trimester – 8

Points after Second Trimester – 18

Points after Final Trimester – 32

For and against after First Trimester – -11

For and against after Second Trimester – -12

For and against after Final Trimester – 100

The Journey so far

My season preview for the Panthers started with ‘when will the best catchment for juniors in Sydney start cashing in?’ Well the answer to that is this season. If I could summarise the approach of Anthony Griffin this year in one phrase it would be ‘let the kids play’ and play they did. He cleared the decks with Lewis Brown, Jamal Idris, Brent Kite and Apisai Koroisau leaving in the off season. This was closely followed by Jamie Soward and James Segeyaro during the season. He gave important roles to Matt Moylan (25), Te Maire Martin (20), Nathan Cleary (18), Bryce Cartwright (21), James Fisher-Harris (20), Waqa Blake (21), Tyrone Peachey (25), Leilani Latu (23) and re-tasked Peter Wallace as a hooker (masterstroke BTW). They also found a consistent approach in the Final Trimester, which has been elusive to find in the last few years, winning their last 5 games of the season plus the first week of the finals against the Bulldogs. Finally bowed out against the Raiders but the season was a successful one on review.

Final Trimester Grade

B+

MVP

Matt Moylan – Moylan is almost the senior custodian of this team (with apologies to Peter Wallace). He is certainly the chief playmaker and was responsible for a lot of the success enjoyed by the Panthers this season.

How close was my pre-season prediction?

Definitely a swing and a miss for me on this one. I lost patience with the Panther’s rebuilding project and pegged them at 13th. The bookies had them finishing outside the 8 at 10th but were closer than me.

Prognosis

It has been a while since Penrith could be so optimistic in the off season but optimism should be the prevailing attitude. They have a young but talented team that is maturing at the same rate. They have all the right pieces in place now for a sustained run at the title, especially given James Tamou will join Leilani Latu in the front row. They may not be pre-season favourites for the premiership but they should be favoured to make the 8. 

Broncos

Ladder Position

Pre-season Prediction – 2nd

After First Trimester – 2nd

After Second Trimester – 5th

After Final Trimester – 5th

Points after First Trimester – 14

Points after Second Trimester – 20

Points after Final Trimester – 34

For and against after First Trimester – 135

For and against after Second Trimester – 121

For and against after Final Trimester – 120

The Journey so far

They seemed to have arrested their mid-season slump by winning their last 5 games of the season including a rare away win against the Storm but some worrying signs crept in against the Titans shipping 28 points, which was typical of their season in the end. Consistency was a problem. I’ve given it a lot of thought and could come up with only 3 possible reasons and all may have contributed:

  1. Ben Hunt had an amazing season in 2015 along with Anthony Milford but he was far from the same this year.
  1. Wayne Bennett didn’t seem to have the same coaching impact that he has had in previous years. Particularly the Broncos attitude in defence and slow starts to games. There was an inconsistency to these issues throughout the season. Perhaps it was a GF hangover from last year.
  1. They missed Justin Hodges more than I thought they would.

In the end it was a disappointing end to the season.

Final Trimester Grade

B

MVP

Darius Boyd – This could easily have gone to Anthony Milford but Boyd was consistently good across the whole season.

How close was my pre-season prediction?

Not that far off given I predicted 2nd but feels like a miss. Bookies had them at 1st so they were worse off than me.

Prognosis

Sometimes a team just needs a reset and start again. The Broncos still have a great roster with young talented players in most of the key positions. They have some rising stars which will be better for the run like Tevita Pangai and Kodi Nikorima. Wayne Bennett is still Wayne Bennett but I do wonder when the hunger will disappear for him. They will have to cover Jack Reed and Corey Parker but seem to have ready-made replacements in Tom Opacic and Jai Arrow. Should be top 4 next year but will be interested to see whether they dip into the free agency market between now and the start of next season. I would not be surprised if Bennett shakes things up again.

What is sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • Western Bulldogs – No Grand Final since 1961. No premiership since 1954. They are due. I could say the same about Cronulla but I’m still scotty at them for beating the Cows.

What isn’t?

  • The League 1 promotion system currently in force in English Rugby League. Instead of having the top placed side Toulouse Olympique earn automatic promotion to the Championship (second tier) they were made to play off against Rochdale Hornets (2nd), a game which they lost. Now they are forced into 2 further playoff matches to earn promotion despite the fact they were undefeated all season. Not good. I thought that was the whole point of the relegation/promotion system, a reward for excellence across the whole season.

Stay Tuned

Next exciting episode will be on Friday, 14 October 2016 titled ‘2016 NRL Final Trimester Report Part 4 – There can be only one’.

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One thought on “2016 NRL Final Trimester Report Part 3 – Just happy to be there

  1. Pingback: 2016 NRL Final Trimester Report Part 4 – There can be only one! | The Game of Sport

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