Tuesday 2 April 2013

NRL 2013: Ranking the Best of March - Cooper Cronk has his hands full | #NRLTweetPOTY Award Votes

BEST OF MARCH: Cooper Cronk and Melbourne set the standard
Reviewing the Opening Month + Round 4 @NRLTweet Player of the Year Votes

2013 NRL Premiership

By W D Nicolson - April 2, 2013

Cooper Cronk got the Chocolates in March - can anyone head him off for the Player of the Year?
This is a new feature on www.wdnicolson.com - every month we will post a recap of how Each of the 16 teams are travelling. It also features Votes from Round 4 of The @NRLTweet Player of the Year Awards. Let us know what you think via @NRLTweet

BEST OF MARCH: Cronk sets the standard and 'You are what your record says you Are' |

The Melbourne Storm are the benchmark...
After Four Rounds of 2013, but you knew that already.

With the Easter Long Weekend and the first four rounds of the competition now in the books, the Storm remain the team everyone is chasing for the 2013 Premiership.

Yes the South Sydney Rabbitohs are also unbeaten but Melbourne remain the standard to which everyone is measured against and it helps that Cooper Cronk is leading the @NRLTweet Player of the Year race and one Billy Slater has moved into outright second following his hat-trick against the Broncos on Good Friday.

Melbourne just roll through the basics of the game beautifully and with Cronk, Slater and Cameron Smith pulling the strings in attack (and with their intensity in defence) - it's fairly obvious as to why they are defending premiers.

Consider that they have won at home to the Dragons after a round-trip to the UK to play and win the World Club Challenge, headed north to Townsville to upend the Cowboys and send them into a nosedive, come back home to host the Bulldogs in the Grand Final rematch and win that as well, then finally travel back up to Brisbane and professionally do what they had to in order to quell the Broncos.

Dragons, Cowboys, Bulldogs and Broncos - looks like a tough opening run on paper, until you look at the combined records of those four teams.


@NRLTweet Player of the Year - Round 4 Voting
All Votes from Round 4 are below.

That's right, between them - the Dragons, Cowboys, Bulldogs and Broncos have just 4 wins and 12 losses from the first month of the competition.

Which leads me to the analysis of all 16 NRL clubs after one-sixth of their 2013 schedule.

The former NFL head coach Bill Parcells was a strong believer in the saying:

"You are what your record says you are."

Basically - if you are 1-3 you are a 1-3 team, and if you are a 4-0 team, well you are a 4-0 team.

The reason his saying rings so true is no amount of ifs, buts or maybes can stand up against your team's record.

So as good as the Storm's 4-0 start is, the EIGHT teams in the NRL with 1-3 records - are what their record says they are.

Here is a quick analysis of each side four rounds in.
4-0 | 1st | Beat STI NQL CBY BRI Lost to None | Next Up WTG SOU WAR CAN
Hard not to like what they've done so far, and have we mentioned how good the Big 3 are going behind the other 14 who really do nothing more than their jobs? Round 6 v Bunnies is taaaasty and only possible stumbling block before Round 8 is over.
4-0 | 2nd | Beat SYD CRO PEN CBY Lost to None | Next Up WAR MEL MAN BRI
Dominant against Roosters and suspect v Sharks and Panthers. Need to add Warriors scalp on back of Bulldogs to be a threat to Storm in Round 6. Won't be unbeaten after 8 rounds though, however Greg Inglis goes alright.
3-1 | 3rd | Beat BRI NEW WTG Lost to GLD | Next Up CBY CRO SOU STI
The loss to the Titans was avoidable had Manly showed up with any enthusiasm but given the Titans are also 3-1 - acceptable. Soft start meant they had to get out of March with a winning record, as next three games in particular are not easy. Big test comes Friday against Des Hasler's 1-3 Dogs - especially up front.
3-1 | 4th | Beat CAN MAN PEN Lost to CRO | Next Up BRI PAR NEW WAR
After a shocking start to 2012, Titans had to start fast... and have. Emotion perhaps is the only reason they are not 4-0 thanks to the Sharks. Handled Canberra and Penrith, and got Manly on a good day. Top 8 chances might hinge on getting through next month with only one more loss - seriously. Have a dream draw to open 2013 - must capitalise.
3-1 | 5th | Beat WTG NQL CAN Lost to MAN | Next Up STI PEN GLD CRO
With three blowouts and a reverse blowout at the hands of Manly - which is the real Newcastle? Let's give it another month before we crown Wayne Bennett's troops as a new breed shall we. The next month has a 2-2 look to it, but if Kurt Gidley isn't badly concussed - Wayne will be hoping that the Knights are 6-2 come the end of Round 8. Doable.
3-1 | 6th | Beat WAR BRI PAR Lost to SOU | Next Up CAN CBY STI PEN
Just quietly Sonny Bill Williams WELCOME HOME. Say what you will about his past, but the kid was born to play Rugby League. They never threatened the Bunnies but 3-1 at the end of March is a great start for a newly blended roster. Need to be careful as next fortnight has 0-2 slipup written all over it, before ANZAC Day gives them a chance to right things against the woeful Dragons. Coach Trent Robinson will gladly take 5-3 or even 4-4 with his team developing chemistry.
2-2 | 7th | Beat GLD WAR Lost to SOU STI | Next Up PAR MAN CBY NEW
Yikes... that Dragons loss could hurt them if they find themselves in a Top 4 battle... IF they find themselves in a Top 4 battle. Just got beat by the Bunnies which is nothing to be ashamed about and found a way to edge the Titans and romped over the Warriors. But losses like Saturday and Todd Carney to a foot injury for a week or four, makes the Sharks a worry heading into a month that has only one gimme - Saturday against Parramatta. Could be 3-5 a third of the way through the season... yikes.
2-2 | 8th | Beat PEN PAR Lost to NEW MAN| Next Up MEL STI BRI CBY
Got the points against two teams they HAD to beat, and got dusted by two teams they NEED to be competing with for a Top 8 spot. Not a good form guide from the opening month really. They may have always been 'So goes Benji and Robbie, so goes the Tigers' but this season could be the one where that is truer than ever before. Need to be treading water around .500 after 8 rounds, so that means beating two of Dragons, Broncos or Bulldogs.
1-3 | 8th | Beat STI Lost to MAN SYD MEL | Next Up GLD NQL WTG SOU
The Scott Prince experiment isn't working but now that Corey Norman is Eels bound in 2013 - Anthony Griffin is almost forced into persisting with it. They need Justin Hodges back in the biggest way as he makes things happen that almost no-one else does on the team. All three losses have been fair enough, and the win was a game they pulled out of their butt with no possession, so in some ways - are they lucky to be 1-3? Nup, you are what your record says you are. Can see them going 1-3 in next month as well... yowser.
1-3 | 8th | Beat PAR Lost to NQL MEL SOU | Next Up MAN SYD CRO WTG
No shame in losing to the Cowboys and Storm without Ben Barba, Sam Kasiano, James Graham and Frank Pritchard, and even getting two of those back - the Bunnies are a very good team. But are the Bulldogs a 1-3 team even given their tough draw to open the season? Yep. They had enough opportunities to beat the Cowboys and let's be honest - anyone bar the Warriors should beat the Eels this season. So let's see what Canterbury team emerges from the next month - if they turn it around and get to 5-3 then kudos in spades to Hasler and his team. Show us what you've got Doggies.
1-3 | 8th | Beat CAN Lost to WTG SOU GLD | Next Up NQL NEW PAR SYD
A lot of people had the Panthers 0-4 with that opening four rounds draw but they took advantage of the hapless Raiders and are sitting 'pretty' at 1-3. This team will learn plenty from the loss to the Bunnies and Titans as they were in both long enough to snag a win, and while the Panthers should head to Townsville thinking they can beat the 1-3 Cowboys - read Phil Gould's assessment of the team here and then tip the Cowboys. If they manage to get to 3-5 after Round 8 - someone buy Ivan Cleary a pet rock.
1-3 | 8th | Beat CRO Lost to MEL BRI CAN | Next Up NEW WTG SYD MAN
This isn't a very good team but they are 1-3 like a few sides everyone thought were good teams... mmmmm. Still have next to no strike in the halves and Gerard Beale has been practically hybernetic at fullback... and when did Ben Creagh lose his ability to hit a gap? If they can crawl their way to 3-5 come the end of Round 8 - Steve Price will still have a job. If not... well Tim Sheens wants a job.
1-3 | 8th | Beat WAR Lost to CBY WTG SYD | Next Up CRO GLD PEN NQL
The win over the Warriors seems like so long ago... in fact was it a dream Parra fans? The 'we're a new team' talk was never going to be backed up on the field but that's the job that Ricky Stuart has ahead of him - getting his players to earn their confidence the hard way, not via newspaper praise or fan delusionment. He's got half a dozen first grade stiffs in the lineup that the Salary Cap can't eat for another year or two... so games like Monday's flogging by the Roosters are not one-offs. The 40-10 win over the Warriors however might well be... If they get to 2-6 someone give Stuart a medal.
1-3 | 8th | Beat CBY Lost to MEL NEW WAR | Next Up PEN BRI CAN PAR
Let's be brutally honest - the only game the Cowboys really didn't look favourites to win was Round 2 against Melbourne in the opening month... and instead they dropped that game and two on the road to the Knights and Warriors. The Dogs didn't play well, so maybe the Cowboys got ahead of themselves, but there appears to be a serious lack of grit in North Queensland at the moment. If they don't put 40 on the Panthers in a rebound effort - Neil Henry has a serious problem on his hands. Should win all four games in the next month... but 5-3 after 8 rounds is a world away right now.
1-3 | 8th | Beat NQL Lost to PAR SYD CRO | Next Up SOU CAN MEL GLD
Yes some teams have been bad or (being kind) disappointing so far in 2013, but the Warriors had been inept before they somehow turned things around at halftime to beat the Cowboys in Auckland on Easter Monday. They threw a gimme to the Eels in Round 1, and haven't looked like themselves at all this season - apart from all the errors. There's a lot to be said for the merits of opening up a game plan to let a team find itself again... Matthew Elliott might have to explore that in the next few weeks before he starts implementing his stringent 'systems' - particularly in attack. It took Ivan Cleary years to figure out that the Warriors had to be allowed to play expansive football for their defence to get up to speed - strange formula but for some reason it works. Let's see what Elliott can achieve in the next month and keep the Warriors from a 1-7 or 2-6 start.
1-3 | 8th | Beat STI Lost to PEN GLD NEW | Next Up SYD WAR NQL MEL
This is a bad football team. They play with no imagination to start seasons under David Furner and for whatever reason - he changes his mind mid-season and the team opens up like a flower in Spring. Getting very little from his front row and halves right now... the SOS to Terry Campese will come if the Roosters walk into Canberra and mop the home team up on Sunday night. But Furner doesn't appear to be that worried... his grand plan has worked a couple of times in the last five seasons. Two home game stretch coming up is GIGANTIC in the context of Canberra's season... lose both and go to 1-5 and they can forget about the all important Top 4 spot they openly spoke of pre-season, because they won't win two from two in Round 7 and 8 v Cowboys and Storm. On struggle street right now... in a big way.
TEAM: Melbourne Storm ahead of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, with Buzz Lightyear third.
PLAYER: Cooper Cronk has been nothing short of mercurial in leading the Storm to 4-0.
ROOKIE: Tie between Melbourne's Tohu Harris and South Sydney's George Burgess. Great to see some forwards get recognition for a change when it comes to first timers in the NRL.
COACH: Michael Maguire has shown he'll drop anyone and the Bunnies responded, his approach is refreshing to everyone bar Roy Asotasi and Michael Crocker.
MATCH: Melbourne 22 def. Canterbury 18 - while the overall standard of footy has been average, this game was a cracker as the class of the Storm eventually won out over the grit of the Barba-less Dogs.

Tipping Guru
Rankings Slave?
For the record, after wasting two picks in Round 4 on the hapless Panthers and Raiders, www.wdnicolson.com is batting at 20/32 @ 62.5% in the outright tipping stakes, are 3 for 4 in Special Fried Rice and like many are finding the FootyTab starts harder to master - going at 17/32 @ 53.1%. It pays however to check your tips against our 'Awesome Foursome' Panelist Jake Hauritz (right) from Channel 9 in Darwin - Jakey Jake and the Funky Bunch is going at 24/32 at an astonishing 75% for 2013 (he's 3 from 4 in SFR and 19/32 on FootyTab). As for DC Chapman and Matthew Duncan... well we'll report their progress when there is progress to report!

In the meantime - check out the NRL Injured List after the teams are named on Tuesday for all the lineup analysis and our ever-popular NRL Tipping and Late Mail Guide is out every Wednesday night.

Warrick D. Nicolson

Do you agree with Parcells' assessment? Is your team reflective of their record in March?
Please comment below or reply on Twitter.

A New Set of Six will be on www.wdnicolson.com from Round 5.
@NRLTweet Player of the Year Award
Round 4 Votes

As regular readers of www.wdnicolson.com and followers of @NRLTweet know - we run The @NRLTweet Player of the Year Awards each season (starting in 2010) and they return once again for 2013 with another group of excellent Rugby League judges.

You can follow the Votes live after each game via this Hashtag #NRLTweetPOTY

One of the reasons we set this up is the Dally M Award lacks the kind of objectivity that a true player of the year award really should have, and while we aren't claiming our system is perfect - it is judged on what happens on the field with reputations and bias left by the wayside.

This is how the votes were handed out for Round 4.

@NRLTweet Player of the Year - Round 4 Voting
MAN 26-0 WTG
4 - M Ballin T Symonds, 2 - B Lawrence J Lyon D Williams
Voters | Warrick Nicolson @NRLTweet Ben Hoese @gunnermcdagget |
CBY 12-17 SOU
8 - A Reynolds, 2 S Burgess B Goodwin J Morris
Voters | Matt Trodden @trods2906 Matt Spillane @devonhead |
BRI 26-32 MEL
8 - B Slater, 4 - C Cronk, 1 - J Hoffman S Thaiday
Voters | Matthew Duncan @mrpeninsula Nigel Wilbow @parramatters |
CRO 12-25 STI
5 - J Nightingale, 4 - J Soward T Merrin, 1 - P Gallen
Voters | Matt Vickers @mercurialmattyv Ben Jones @benwah87 |
PEN 10-28 GLD
8 - G Bird, 4 - N Myles, 1 - T Humble J Idris
Voters | Justin Davies @dragonpunk12 Adrian McMurray @adrmcm |
NEW 28-12 CAN
6 - T Roberts, 4 - C Houston, 2 - K Snowden S Fensom
Voters | Greg Delaney @gregdelaney84 Matt Spillane @devonhead |
WAR 20-18 NQL
8 - S Johnson, 2 - K Locke S Mannering, 1 - J Tamou M Bowen
Voters | Matt Trodden @trods2906 Ben Hoese @gunnermcdagget |
SYD 50-0 PAR
8 - SB Williams, 3 - R Tuivasa-Sheck, 2 - B Cordner, 1 - J Waerea-Hargreaves
Voters | Warrick Nicolson @nrltweet Maria Tsialis @mtsialis |

Round 4 Leaderboard:
22 - C Cronk.
17 - B Slater.
16 - S Johnson.
13 - T Carney, A Reynolds.
12 - C Sandow, G Inglis, G Bird.

You can follow the Votes live after each game via this Hashtag #NRLTweetPOTY

Share your thoughts on the footy so far by commenting below or replying on Twitter.

The NRL Injury List is updated regularly during each week of the season, making it an invaluable Fantasy and Tipping Tool alongside our Weekly NRL Previews once again.

Remember if you want game-specific Late Mail every week, then check out our Round Previews Every Wednesday and they are updated with all the very latest Late Mail on Friday.

If we are missing any players on this list - please comment below, reply on Twitter or email this address.
Who will take Ben Barba's mantle as champion in the 2013 @NRLTweet Player of the Year Awards?

The Prestigious Award returns for a 4th season in 2013.

Remember you can track all the votes each week after each match in 2013 via the Twitter hashtag #nrltweetpoty