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Where is Rugby League at after 8 rounds?

TRF_melon

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Thor

Firstly ladies and gentlemen, this was supposed to be posted as a blog prior to Round 9 commencing, however now that has passed and were are close to Round 10 kick off and in the interests of not wasting what I've written, I though I'd post it!


08/05/2013
NRL 2013 so far, Rugby League World Cup and State of Origin



I think most will agree - We have seen an interesting start to 2013's NRL season. That's not to say it hasn't been exciting of course.

The circus that the NRL is has shown us the meteoric return of a superstar and the subsequent rise of a club, a controversial rule tinkered with for the best and another either ignored or severely cracked down upon depending on the official. We have also seen disappointment after so much promise with certain teams and the downfall of a traditional fixture. Also quite importantly we have started the run towards State of Origin and Rugby League's World Cup

Most importantly though, we have seen some great football being played - By a select few teams anyway. After eight rounds of the season it is clear we have four teams at the top of the competition, running their own race. The Melbourne Storm, Sydney Roosters, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Manly Sea Eagles. Of course with the struggle that is State of Origin and inevitable injuries, we won't really be able to pin down a logical favourite until the end of July.

Melbourne don't need to be analysed - They have been this good for years. The big three of Smith, Cronk and Slater along with Ryan Hinchcliffe have formed a solid unit to which other players with the help of coach Bellamy rise to the occasion. Provided they are injury free, they'll be in the Grand Final.

Although on paper they looked formidable pre-season, the Roosters have really surprised and have rose to the occasion. With a huge forward pack, dynamic backline and emergence of James Maloney as a quality play maker, the rest of the competition has had a rude awakening. Undoubtedly though, the biggest influence has been the come back of Sonny Bill Williams. His wide running and off load ability basically made him the most damaging second rower in the game after only his second match back.
Over the past five matches, the Roosters have a for-and-against of 174-40. If you remove the outlier, that being their loss to Canberra, the tally is revised to 152-16. I haven't seen consistent domination like that since the Eels in 2001.

I made mention of Canberra - They're a funny team. Funny as in peculiar, not ha-ha. They're completely **** house, then they decide to win away against the Storm, and as mentioned previously, scrape together a win against the Roosters. I honestly can't see them as a threat if they manage to make the eight, but they will continue to serve their purpose of providing the big boys with humble pie every now and then.

Unfortunately the rest of the competition is relatively weak.

Wests Tigers are injury ravaged, have a stale Benji Marshall and youths not ready for NRL level competition.

Parramatta Eels have continued on their three year embarrassment.

Penrith show glimpses of brilliance considering their roster, but unfortunately Gus Gould is yet to show he is the saviour many expected—We should give it a couple of more years though. They need to rebuild and have attempted to start this process by recruiting the oppressively annoying Jamie Soward. Word on the street is that Todd Carney is considering a move to Penrith as well.

St George Illawarra Dragons are too hot and cold. On the recruitment front, whilst they have lost Soward, they have gained Gareth Widdop from the Storm. The recruitment of Widdop makes sense from a running point of view but dear god, who on earth is going to be the top level kicker in that team?

The Cowboys would be more threatening except they can't settle on a hooker/half combination and Thurston is hamstrung in the 6 jersey.

The Sharks started the year with an extremely talented roster but have failed to deliver. An injury here or there hasn't helped but they're still underperforming, even when you factor in the drugs investigation hanging over the club.

Canterbury started rather slow but are starting to pick up a bit of momentum. However, wiith the carry on of Ben Barba and the terrible recruiting of Tony Williams, I can hardly see them going anywhere this year.

The Warriors are the warriors and the ***ans are the ***ans, just at different ends of the table. Don't expect anything other than mediocrity for the most part.

With regards to the games' officials, the change to the obstruction rule was proven to be a farce in the opening rounds with teams being penalised as a result of a decoy runner making contact with a defender whether the collision had an impact on the attacking team's play or not, but has since been changed for the
better. The recent ousting of should charges from the game has proven it a little difficult for some players to adjust. The policing of this has been far too sporadic. Some players are being rightfully being penalised and placed on report, whilst others are being let off all together.

With State of Origin around the corner, there little speculation about Queensland's line up but plenty of New South Wales. It's likely Qld with field much the same team as game three last year, however expect to see Dane Nielsen dropped from the starting line up, with Inglis moving to the centres along with Hodges and Slater to rejoin the team as fullback.

NSW coach Laurie Daley has reportedly mentioned that all but a few positions have been decided upon. Tip Mitchell Pierce to be retained as half back but there is a tussle for five-eighth between Todd Carney and Adam Reynolds - James Maloney has even been mentioned as a potential bolter which is strengthened by the fact he already possesses a strong combination with Pierce.. Another option is to move Greg Bird to five-eighth and bring in another back rower which NSW certainly aren't short of.
Despite a strong final game last year, it is possible winger Brett Morris will be dropped for Akuila Uate, however with the lengthy injury of Brett Stewart and Jarryd Hayne likely to be named at full back, Morris may retain his wing position with Akuila partnering him, although there is speculation that South's winger Nathan Merritt will make his long awaited debut. Also there is a significant chance Morris will miss the game regardless as a result of a knee injury.
Paul Gallen will have recovered from his minor injury come June 5 so there's nothing for New South Welshmen to worry about on that front.

The City vs Country Origin game in Coffs Harbour was an absolute joke. What used to be a genuine hit out for seemingly vacant NSW jerseys has become a farce. Many players and clubs shun the game out of fear of injury and the increasingly true idea that the game counts for nothing selection-wise any more. On top of all this, the ticket prices were almost twice what the likes of Orange and Mudgee have charged in recent years. Although I'm a fan of this annual game, as it brings some big names to the "bush", unless there is significant change I really do think it's time for this fixture to die out.

Two nights previous to the City vs Country game was a much better one. The annual "mid-season" test match which coincides with ANZAC day. As predicted Australia won with a brilliant fifteen minutes in the second half, however in New Zealand's defence, they were significantly under strength.

With the Rugby League World Cup commencing on October 26, expect a much improved kiwi squad as well as an eager England champing at the bit.

Australia has been blessed with overwhelming talents over the past decade, however those players are staring retirement in the face. This year, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Robbie Farrah turn 30. Jonathon Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Justin Hodges all turn 31 and Paul Gallen will hit 32.

Not only does this signal a changing of the guard for Australia and their continued dominance, but also Queensland and to a lesser extent their southern counter parts. In the coming years Melbourne will be in a rebuilding phase, as will the Tigers who are likely to see a wooden spoon or two by the end of the decade.

We see big names come and go, however it seems we'll see it occur with a bigger impact than usual.

Without restructuring of the game needed as a result of a try-for-try U20's competition being the supposed feeder for the NRL, this great competition will become a pale imitation of what it has been in the past. We are losing over two-hundred young professionals to Rugby League each year as a result of to current structure. It's a simple fact that not all 18, 19 and 20 year olds are ready for the NRL. Most will not be ready until 23 or 24. They need time to grow. They need reserve grade or some kind of restructuring of NSW state cup.

I could badger on about this more hours more, however it will be to no avail.

I'll be back in a month to discuss State of Origin game one and where we're at as a competition.

Over and out.
 

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