Tuesday 11 August 2009

2009 NRL Premiership Reflections: Notes on each team entering Round 23

Continuing our Series of 2009 NRL Premiership Reflections, we look at where your team is at, entering Round 23 and the pointy end of the season. These notes will be regularly updated throughout the next month leading into the Finals and will shift focus to the teams in the playoffs thereafter. For the Round 23 edition - we categorise the teams in relation to their Finals Chances. Home Finals here we come... ST.GEORGE-ILLAWARRA DRAGONS - 1st on 36 pts Resting Jamie Soward would be a huge mistake for the Dragons to make this close to the Finals. The kid is riding high on confidence and challenging for a Dally M Medal - if he gets rested over the next month and loses the count by less than 3 votes - his mind will be on other things come the playoffs and that's not going to do his confidence any good. BULLDOGS - 2nd on 32pts Still to see the Bulldogs show any reasons to believe they can shift into another higher gear in September. Have been good enough to get out of scraps with the Rabbitohs and Raiders but need to find another level to contend for the title. GOLD COAST TITANS- 3rd on 30 pts Road woes threaten their premiership challenge but a win at ANZ Stadium over the Bunnies will instill this squad with some much needed confidence for the playoffs. The Greg Inglis situation just opened the door to the Titans making a run in the playoffs, as the Storm were a big road block in their quest. MELBOURNE STORM - 4th on 29 pts If Greg Inglis doesn't play again this season, the Storm are done for 2009. They might rally for a win in Week One but he is their strike power out wide and Billy Slater will have no room to attack without him. In the Top 8 but far from safe... PENRITH PANTHERS - 5th on 25 pts Getting Petero Civoniceva back will be a gigantic boost to their team but Luke Walsh is playing some ordinary football at the moment and the Panthers will only go as far as he can take them - Petero or no Petero. Must beat an ordinary Broncos side away from home to consolidate Top 8 chances. NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS - 6th on 24 pts This Friday against the Bulldogs is a HUGE test of their playoff desire. They win and they make the Finals, as the Knights (a), Broncos (h) and Roosters (a) are all very beatable. Must beat the Dogs and get Luke O'Donnell back by September. WESTS TIGERS - 7th on 24 pts All of a sudden their forwards are the strength of the team with Keith Galloway and Chris Heighington big additions to the mix. Gareth Ellis is a super player and the Benji Marshall-Robbie Farah combination as good as any. Must decide what to do at Fullback and Halfback with Shannon Gallant injured - Tim Moltzen at half is working, so who to play at Fullback? MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES - 8th on 24 pts Even if Brett Stewart returns a week or two before the Finals, Manly may be relying on other results to make them. Are getting very little out of centres Jamie Lyon and Steven Matai and that must change for Stewart's return to have a real impact. On the outside looking in... NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS - 9th on 24 pts Brian Smith's announcement that he was defecting to the Roosters in no way helped the team, but the way the players have reacted says more about them than Smith. If you are really cut up about him leaving then play your guts out, make the Finals and give him a reason to regret his decision. BRISBANE BRONCOS - 10th on 24 pts Refusing to use Justin Hodges heavily (like they did against the Titans) in every game will be their undoing. Well that and a porous defence that will not keep good teams out. The Broncos are done in 2009 in terms of competing for the title - don't even bother thinking otherwise. SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS - 11th on 23 pts Roy Asotasi's loss cannot be overcome in 2009. South Sydney will fall short of the Finals but have made a great signing for 2010 in Ben Ross. Make no mistake, Asotasi's knee injury sealed Ross a contract with the Bunnies for next year, as management knows that they can't assume their skipper will be back for the start of the season - or indeed back to his best at all in 2010. Adding Ross also allows another new signing - Dave Taylor to play wider next season. PARRAMATTA EELS - 12th on 23 pts Of the teams not in the Top 8 - the Eels are riding the crest of a wave that could push them into the playoffs. Jarryd Hayne, Nathan Hindmarsh and their front rowers (Nathan Cayless and FuiFui MoiMoi) are in brilliant form and the return of Feleti Mateo is a huge boost to their Finals chances. Have to beat the Warriors and Panthers at Parramatta Stadium and steal a game from the Tigers or Dragons away to qualify. I hear Golf Courses are beautiful this time of year... CANBERRA RAIDERS - 13th on 18 pts The coming off-season shapes as a vital one in the future of coach David Furner. His team looks torn between his game plan and the one they were successful with in 2008 - he must adapt to the one that wins games. But for the rest of 2009 - how about giving the young hooker you signed to steer the team around the park a run? Stuart Flanagan is being wasted royally in Souths Logan. WARRIORS - 14th on 18 pts The team this blog picked to win the 2009 Premiership is back to the good old days of not caring. Losing Brent Tate cost them a chance at the title way back in Round 3, but the issues with the side run deeper than that. Clearly Ivan Cleary is unable to light a fire under his players to get them to apply themselves and they are an appalling team to watch. CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS - 15th on 14 pts Ricky Stuart can say all he likes about the effort being there but the quality isn't - but how about giving your team the green light to play some football? They play such a dull style of football that essentially guarantees the only way they can win a game is if they keep a team scoreless... There's a month left in the season Ricky - let your 'talentless' lot play some entertaining footy and give your suffering fans something to remember the season by. SYDNEY ROOSTERS - 16th on 14 pts Brad Fittler isn't so much the 'fall guy' as coach but has been the wrong guy at the helm of the Roosters and Nick Politis has rectified the mistake by signing Brian Smith for 2010. Had their chances to beat the Tigers and the loss should leave no doubt in people's minds that Mitchell Pearce is far from the finished article. Will be a better team next year IF Willie Mason stays. Tuesday, 11 August 2009. Questions? Comments? Post them below or direct to wdnicolson@optusnet.com.au or fire away on Twitter.