BROWNIE: NRL Top Eight is not set in stone. Yet!
Warriors' Manu Vatuvei celebrates. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Wayne Drought
On paper it would seem like the top eight teams for the finals are pretty much in place now, and all that’s left for the remainder of the season is the jockeying to see where each of them will finish.
But I think there’s still a good chance that a team currently outside of the eight will force their way in.
It happens every year: you get a breakaway group at the very top of the ladder, then another break way between 8th place and the teams below them.
But invariably there’s a side that makes a late run from outside the 8.
They get a bit of luck go their way, some of the tight losses of the first half of the season become wins in the latter stages of the draw, and they get on a roll.
This year there could even be two teams who make the charge.
The Dragons might be one team that could threaten.
They’ve lost some really tight matches this year. If a couple of those golden point games had gone their way, they’d be in the mix for the top 4. As it is, they’ll need to win most of their remaining matches.
The players are competing hard, which shows how much they respect their coach, and their defense is as good as anyones. They just need to find another try each game, which will swing those close losses in their favour.
And then there’s the Warriors, who have been disappointing, but are packed with talented young backs and could do the same run they made last year, all the way to the Grand Final.
The biggest problem for the Warriors has been their defense, which is one of the worst in the competition. But in Konrad Hurrell, they’ve unearthed a human wrecking ball, and they have a lot of outstanding kids coming through their junior system.
They could make a real challenge over the remaining games.
At the other end of the table, I’m really impressed with how Manly are travelling. I think they’re entitled to be favorites, especially if they get all their star players on the field at the same time – something that’s been a rarity for them this season.
At full strength, I’d have them right up there with the Melbourne Storm, who have just been superb all year.
And, of course, the Bulldogs are a threat. The addition of Inu and Perrett has helped strengthen their outside backs, and in Dessy, they have one of the best coaches in the game.
The Broncos are the other team that make up the top 4 and have the best young squad with experience. The thing I like most about them is the speed of their young forwards and the intensity that they can play with in both offence and defence.
It’s going to be an intriguing month or so as the rest of the season unfolds. Be prepared for some surprises along the way.
Former Dragons coach and player Nathan Brown writes an exclusive weekly column for The Roar. Brown, who played 172 games for the Dragons and coached them for a further 142 games, is currently the head coach at the Huddersfield Giants in the UK Super League.
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