Premiership a race in five
KEYTO’S NRL HITS (and misses) – If your team is not currently in the top third of the competition then I’m sorry, it’s time to plan for next year.
The current ladder reads Storm, Manly, Dragons, Broncos and Cowboys. The race for the last three spots will be exciting and these sides may give fans some hope, but with just 11 weeks to go the fab five are the only genuine contenders.
Manly – Team to Beat
Last weekend I watched Manly beat the Knights, a team well in the hunt for the Finals, on their home ground. What’s more, the Sea Eagles did it at half pace with one arm tied behind their back. It was just that easy. I know the Knights were hurting but still, now is the time to drop all excuses.
Manly absolutely smoked them probably from the toss of the coin. The week before, they rolled through South Sydney and not long ago ran over an Origin star-less Broncos.
Granted they failed their toughest test against the Dragons recently but this is a side with plenty left for September. The entire side is rock solid without being overly extravagant and they have the soon to be confirmed rookie of the year steering them around at halfback. This side is better than the 2009 Premiership one and will take some real stopping.
Dragons – World Champions
Never count out a champion and this football side is a very good one. What’s more, they only have 10 or so games left together because next year it will be completely different to the Grand Final side of 2010.
The Mark Gasnier retirement won’t be a huge driving force because he’s left the Dragons once before, but again he is one of many leaving the club.
These guys definitely have the side to go back-to-back and win another title. However having the side and the desire is one thing, doing it is a whole new challenge.
Melbourne – Point to Prove
I backed the Storm to finish in the lower part of the top eight this season but they have proven everyone wrong and will claim a top three finish. They keep their game simple with a flutter of world class plays from their big three. If one of them goes down though – trouble!
The concern with the Storm is they have been on top all year with this, with respect, spare parts team. Everything’s come together (which is a massive credit to the coaching) and they are as hard to beat as when they had the billion dollar team. But can they keep it going?
One or two injuries could derail this campaign but I also wonder how much they have left? I could see one of the other teams coming over the top of the Storm before GF day. But having said that, never discount the “us-against-the-world” mentality which this side is playing with.
Brisbane – Competition Smokey’s
The Broncos have surprised everyone too after missing the finals last season. Most judges picked the Broncos to hover around the top eight but now they will probably finish in the top four. This is a side full of talent but sprinkled with some big name, experienced players.
However they are also the youngest and most inexperienced side chasing the title and that could show in the big games.
Their biggest asset is the Darren Lockyer factor. These stories often end in tears but the Broncos have a very recent happy memory – Shane Webcke, 2006. This is huge motivation and can’t be overlooked. Big value in the Broncos for any punters out there because this side, on their day, can beat anyone.
Cowboys – On one man’s back (well, knee)
These guys, in my eyes, looked as though they could have been specials to rock this competition right up until Origin III earlier in the month. I was there when Johnathan Thurston busted his knee and said to my friends the Cowboys wouldn’t win another game without him.
Well they proved me wrong in Newcastle and they stuck with the Tigers for a while, but they can’t beat the top four without him. Thurston is what Lockyer is to the Broncos, Marshall is to the Tigers, Soward is to the Dragons and Johns was to the Knights.
As a Broncos fan I have seen it twice with Lockyer getting hurt around this time of year and the club struggled to win another game let alone challenge for a title.
Look, if the Cowboys can hang tough and JT can return to some kind of form before the Finals then I believe North Queensland is a genuine threat. But if they lose all momentum and Thurston comes back underdone, they will slip out the back door.
Tips – Bulldogs, Broncos, Titans, Cronulla, Tigers, Souths, Manly, Dragons
Last Week – 8/8
Total – 85/136 (63%)
In the next few weeks I will have a look at the other sides’ challenging for the top eight. We know in this competition your season is never over until you lose a sudden-death game. For now you can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), Tweet me (@keyto316) or comment below.