Can Parramatta win it all, who will be the rookie of the year, what's happened to Manly, is there a better sporting competition than the NRL and have the Knights finally got a squad on the rise?
Why not Parramatta?
31 years is a long time between premierships.
Eight years between finals appearances is long enough.
Parramatta fans have every reason to be feeling excited about the prospects of their team for the next two months. And here’s why.
For starters, I’ve got them finishing top four. On the form they displayed last Friday night against the Broncos in a game that was Origin or semi-final like for intensity and quality, I can’t see them not starting favourites in all of their remaining five games.
Brad Arthur’s men tackle Canterbury, Newcastle, Gold Coast, Brisbane and Souths. All bar the Broncos match is at ANZ. Even four wins from five will get them to 36 points.
Enjoy the ride Eels fans. You have a team worth following.
How good is the NRL?
Just step back for a moment and look at the ‘big picture’ in regards our elite competition.
I reckon the Broncos/Eels match is close to the best game I have watched all season and there were plenty of statistics to back that up.
The ball was in play for seven more minutes than the average game. The average set was covering between 60 and 70 metres. There hasn’t been a game played this year where both teams have been so willing to spread the ball and use the width of the field.
And as a result, the Eels and Broncos have to be right in premiership calculations.
The stats man in me hopes one of them go all the way, because if either Brad Arthur or Wayne Bennett’s side do win the grand final, it will make for an eighth different premier in eight years.
And if Parramatta were to win it would mean in the space of 17 years, 13 different clubs would have taken out at least one title. That’s Amazing!
Surely there is not another elite football code or competition anywhere in the world that could boast such a record.
Is the player fine system working?
As someone who supported it’s introduction I’m now not so happy with the way its been applied.
I’ve written previously about concerns in the way we deal with players on tripping charges. In the majority of cases I don’t believe a fine is sufficient.
And I believe the NRL was let down by the system that saw Parramatta’s Kenny Edwards not spending a week on the sideline for his tackle on Brisbane’s Jonus Pearson last Friday night.
Perhaps a review and some fine tuning is in order for the off season.
Who is the rookie of the year?
The engraver for the Dally M’s may as well start early on his work.
Canberra’s Nick Cotric is a special.
And it’s not just the 13 tries in 19 games that have made everyone notice this teenage star. He has been wonderful in so many areas. Down at the Raiders, I can’t imagine there are too many players polling better for their Mal Meninga Medal.
And I’ll give you a tip. Having watched him for a number of years in schoolboy footy and the NYC, Cotric is going to make an even better fullback.
What’s happened to Manly?
More to the point, what’s happened to their defence?
Trent Barrett must be shattered at his team conceding 16 tries and 92 points in the past two matches.
As a result, their points differential (+23) has also taken a hit, leaving them with an inferior tally to that of the three sides directly below them who remain a chance of finals football; the Dragons, Panthers and Raiders.
For mine, there isn’t a side under more pressure this weekend, and a Lottoland showdown with the Roosters on Sunday is going to be some challenge. Fact is if they lose, they are a good chance of finishing round 22 out of the top eight!
How does the future look for the Knights?
I’m sure they have heard it all before, but the only way is up.
I’ve called enough of their games first hand this year (including two of their wins!) to declare they have a good core of young talent.
I reckon Daniel and Jacob Saifiti are going to be on the first grade scene for a long time. Their captain Sione Mata’utia is only 21. Five-eighth Brock Lamb is a work in progress.
You throw in recruits Kalyn Ponga, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Tautau Moga, Connor Watson, Herman Ese’ese and Aidan Guerra with existing players such as Jamie Buhrer, Nathan Ross and Mitch Barnett, and you start to appreciate a decent roster.
But the player who ‘grabs’ me most is hooker Danny Levi. I think he’s an exceptional talent. What’s more, by the end of the season I think he’ll be the first choice hooker for the New Zealand test side.
I’m off to Townsville on Friday night as part of Fox League’s Retro Round coverage, and will be out at Pepper Stadium on Sunday for the clash of the Panthers and the Tigers.