NRL upsets suggest just about any team could play finals footy

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    At the beginning of the season, I was asked several times who would win the premiership. After answering the Canberra Raiders, I would then mention how the more interesting question was which teams were going to make the top eight.

    At the time, I thought there were only two teams incapable of making the eight – the Knights and the Dragons.

    I envisaged a competition where seventh and eighth spot would come down to the final weeks, with several teams vying to play finals footy.

    Having watched the opening three rounds of the competition, I was on the money.

    If the first three rounds are anything to go by, a sneaky tip for this weekend might be for the Tigers to end the Storm’s unbeaten streak.

    There have been some extraordinary upsets so far, serving as a stark reminder – particularly to teams that may have believed their own pre-season hype – that there are no guarantees when it comes to playing finals football.

    Here are my biggest (and most surprising!) upsets so far.

    St George Illawarra Dragons 42-10 Penrith Panthers (Round 1)
    Before a ball had been kicked in 2017, the Panthers were considered premiership contenders and the Dragons were predicted to finish the season at the bottom.

    And unsurprisingly so.

    In 2016, the Dragons found themselves second last in almost every attacking stat recorded, including points scored, tries, linebreaks and try assists.

    For those who thought the Dragons would offer more of the same in 2017, this game was them proving us wrong. You only had to look at Jack de Belin’s face when he scored his try to know that the home team had turned up to play football.

    Much of the Dragons’ success in this game (and yesterday, against the Sharks) was due to a reinvigorated forward pack. Against the Panthers, Russell Packer and Paul Vaughan both played less than 55 minutes, but still managed to run for 174 and 189 metres respectively.

    Even more impressive was that the Red V outran the Panthers by almost 700 metres.

    While the hype has focused on Luke Keary as the buy of the season, this was Cam McInnes’s debut in the red and white jersey, and he certainly impressed, with a try and an assist over a highly effective 80 minutes.

    There were some worrying signs for the Panthers and the signs continue, having won only one game so far, against a Tigers side which has been impotent (at best) in the last two weeks.

    The next three games for Penrith are crucial, taking on the Knights, Storm and Rabbitohs. If they don’t win two out of these three games, a top-four finish becomes a challenging prospect (particularly considering the calibre of players the Panthers will be missing during the State of Origin period).

    Tariq Sims St George Illawarra Dragons NRL Rugby League 2016

    Gold Coast Titans 26-14 Parramatta Eels (Round 3)
    Who saw this one coming?

    The Eels had been one of the most impressive teams in the competition, but against an injury-ravaged Titans, Parra played their worst football since June 2016, when the Cowboys scored five tries in ten minutes to beat them 36-30.

    Impatience. Lack of respect. Poor options. This describes what the Eels dished up on Friday night.

    On several occasions, they decided to try and pop the miracle ball and failed miserably. With a 74 per cent completion rate and 13 errors, Parramatta were their own worst enemy.

    The errors that hurt the most though were those of Semi Radradra, who dropped two simple passes inside his ten-metre zone in the space of ten minutes and put tremendous pressure on the team, who went from having a two-point lead to trailing by six in a short period of time.

    Expect the Titans to be without Jarryd Hayne, Will Zillman, Dan Sarginson and Tyrone Roberts next week. But even with these injury concerns, the Titans were able to pull off one of the most stunning upsets of the season so far, thanks mainly to the short kicking game of Ash Taylor, and the efforts of Jarrod Wallace and Ryan James.

    Gold Coast Titans player Ryan James

    North Queensland Cowboys 8-30 Manly Sea Eagles (Round 3)
    This was not a performance fans are accustomed to seeing from North Queensland. Missing several key players, including Matt Scott, Antonio Winterstein and Lachlan Coote, the Cowboys made an uncharacteristic 12 errors and conceded 11 penalties.

    What interested me the most about this game though was that the dominance we have come to expect from their forward pack was still present. Scott Bolton ran for 176 metres, Ethan Lowe for 158 and Coen Hess for 144. This is in comparison to the Sea Eagles, who looked to their backline for those sorts of metres, with Akuila Uate and Tom Trobojevic (among others) cracking triple digits.

    If Manly are going to make any impact on this competition, they need more from their forwards, with Brenton Lawrence the only one to make the 100-metre mark.

    Defence does win games, as the Sea Eagles discovered this weekend – but to win this year’s NRL competition, you’ll need a bit more than that.

    I would also like to commend both the Dragons and the Knights on their efforts so far this year.

    The Knights currently sit 12th on the ladder, having won one game out of their first three. Considering Newcastle only won one game in total last season, 2017 is already looking positive.

    Their losses were to the Warriors and the Bunnies, by six points or less on each occasion. While Knights fans probably won’t be expecting a top-eight finish, a season with six or seven wins is certainly achievable.

    And as for the Dragons, who said they had no chance of making the top eight?

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (79)

    • Roar Rookie

      March 21st 2017 @ 10:42am
      Joe said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:42am | ! Report

      Worried about the Tigers v Storm game this weekend. Sometimes there’s that bounceback factor after losing a coach. Storm won in golden point at that ground last year and have lost a few there previously so its not as if its a happy hunting ground under normal circumstances. Definitely worth tipping the Tigers for an upset. My upset picks for this week would be Manly, Eels, Titans, Tigers and Warriors if RTS plays.

      • Columnist

        March 21st 2017 @ 11:24am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:24am | ! Report

        I’m really considering tipping the Tigers this weekend. In the past teams in crisis always seem to turn up (and the Storm have to lose eventually right?)

        • March 21st 2017 @ 11:51am
          Albo said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:51am | ! Report

          The game is at Leichhardt too, where the Tigers perform better than usual. I seem to recall them upsetting the Storm there a few times ?

          • Roar Guru

            March 21st 2017 @ 1:09pm
            Magnus M. Østergaard said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

            5 wins from the last 13 at Leichhardt Albo, not exactly a fortress, including their last visit there featuring the Raiders and a 42pt demolition job. But they did play Melbourne there last year and only lost at the death in a close one 19-18. Or it may have been GP.

            • Roar Rookie

              March 21st 2017 @ 2:03pm
              Joe said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

              Golden point win for Storm and Storm haven’t really got a good track record at Leichardt. They do much better at Cambelltown though.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 6:22pm
          Zedman said | March 21st 2017 @ 6:22pm | ! Report

          Mary, if the Tiges defeat the Storm after the dross they have delivered in the past fortnight a major investigation will commence.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 10:57am
      PatchMan said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:57am | ! Report

      I got 6 out of 8 over the weekend’.. The Teams that cost me to take to the bank’ of over $22,356 for a $42 bet on head to head over the weekend’ was, Bronco’s & Panthers losing in the last few minutes! Call it upsets that the Teams I picked to Win’ but as a Coach myself’ i wasn’t looking at it as just a fan of the game’ but a Coach looking at it as a realistic chance of Winning’.. Certain Player’s out’ Player’s Manning up with intent to Win’ Attitude, etc’. & when a Team plays hard for a full 80min/ + it is expected that they will fall in the week ahead’… (Take note’).. 90% of the time, a Team that gets flogged by 1 Team’ generally get flogged or beat’ the following week’..& The Team that gets flogged that week’ will generally come back & flogg’ or beat’ another Team the folling week! Remember’ i said 90% of the time’.. Go back over the time, over recent yrs’ of games that have been played’ & you’ll see my Stats are pretty much on the $$$!

      • March 21st 2017 @ 11:49am
        Benny said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:49am | ! Report

        Can you please explain this a little further, I’m interested

        • Roar Guru

          March 21st 2017 @ 1:10pm
          Magnus M. Østergaard said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

          Not the OP, but Panthers Rd 1 v Rd 2, Sea Eagles Rd 2 v Rd 3, Bunnies Rd 1 v Rd 2 & Raiders Rd 2 v Rd 3 would all be good examples.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 2:43pm
          PatchMan said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

          Just doing a little bit of homework on Teams’.. Generally the Better & Consistent Teams will continue to win’ they may not win by a big margin the following week, but will generally still win’.. It’s the Teams that are not consistent week to week’ that get beat by large margins 1 week & beat a Team by a large margin’ the following week’.
          The Knights this Season are not the same as last Season’. They have Improved a lot since Browny’ (Nathan Brown) has transformed them into a more Competitive Team!… With Tiger’s in Turmoil’ i expect them to get a few more Floggings’ this Season!.. Sorry Tiger Supporters’.. & That person who said Dragon’s won’t be up there this yr’ you don’t have a clue’ & Don’t realize that they have 1 of the Best & Potentially Lethal Forward Packs in the Comp!.. Barring Injuries’ they may just be the Surprise Packets of the Year!
          If you’re a Punter’ have a few Bobbs’ on a head to head with checking each Teams Performance & knowing who’s in & who’s out’ as well, of course their previous scoreline’ & chuck in a few of those (Upsets)!
          Last season in round 22′ I think it was’ i had $30 on Head to Head with about 4 Teams that (won’t supposed to Win) & i collected $4035! A Profit of $4005! Not bad for $30 ?! 🙂

    • Roar Rookie

      March 21st 2017 @ 12:52pm
      eels47 said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

      Upsets happen every round every season, they are hardly a sign of certain teams being capable of playing finals footy. I don’t believe the Knights, Dragons or Tigers will have enough “upsets” in them to make the finals. The other 13 teams are probably all a chance, with the Sea Eagles, Eels and Bulldogs probably the least likely.

      Then again, a lot is obviously going to depend on injuries…..

      • Columnist

        March 21st 2017 @ 1:23pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

        If the Dragons keep playing the way they’re playing…

        • Roar Rookie

          March 21st 2017 @ 1:59pm
          eels47 said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

          I honestly don’t think they can keep it up. I don’t rate Mary as a coach and don’t think they have the players to really mount a challenge. Happy to be proven wrong (mum grew up a dragons fan, so there is a soft spot there), but I just don’t see them winning enough games.

          • Roar Guru

            March 21st 2017 @ 5:46pm
            The Barry said | March 21st 2017 @ 5:46pm | ! Report

            Agreed. Great effort by the Dragons to win 2/3 against quality opponents but I’m still not sold on their attack.

            Round 1 they had three tries scored by Thompson and JDB strolling through paper thin Panthers defence on what were just meant to be regulation hit ups. They scored two long range tries from Panthers errors. Two tries against the Sharks against the run of play.

            You take them all where you can get them but they’re still struggling to score in general play.

            Their defence looks pretty solid but basing a whole season D can quickly get exhausting. Any team not on their game will get battered by the Dragons but most teams that get 14 or 16 against them will get the two points.

          • March 21st 2017 @ 8:11pm
            Kevin Malone said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:11pm | ! Report

            what is it about Mary you dont like do you go to dragons training sessions or hold an uniformed view?

            • Roar Guru

              March 21st 2017 @ 8:49pm
              The Barry said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:49pm | ! Report

              Yeah, it’s impossible to form a decision about a team or a coach unless you attend every training session.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 3:20pm
          PatchMan said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

          Mary’ i agree’ it’s attitude that is the key! They have better Player’s now & (Mary)McGregor has a great footy brain! I’ve sat down & even had a few drinks with him! He has changed a few things this yr & offloaded a few responsibilities to his Staff so he can concentrate on his own tactical game plan!

          • Roar Guru

            March 21st 2017 @ 6:47pm
            Magnus M. Østergaard said | March 21st 2017 @ 6:47pm | ! Report

            Yeah there was an article preseason about how they have restrictured themselves into an NFL style club. Mary is basically solely in charge of coaching and clearly its done wonders.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 1:15pm
      bearfax said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

      Mary, like so many non Manly observers, you make a big thing of the Cowboys being without Scott, Winterstein and Coote (didnt mention Taumalolo) but you negate to mention Manly were without their primary props, Lussick and Taupau, as well as Perrett and Fonua-Blake. Lussick, Taupau and Fonua-Blake are regular Manly first grade forwards. There were one or two fringe first graders also missing. Granted Scott and Taumalolo are internationals, but on balance does that explain why Manly won in Nth Queensland by 22 points. I think not.

      • Columnist

        March 21st 2017 @ 1:23pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

        Sorry bearfax, but Manly are an absolute mess at the moment. Boardroom bickering, apparently Bozo and Barrett are at each other too. There are major injury concerns, but even with a fully fit Manly side, I still think it would have been an upset for them to defeat the Cowboys.

        • Roar Guru

          March 21st 2017 @ 2:09pm
          Con Scortis said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

          Judging by the comments, some Manly supporters are overly sensitive at the moment, like we Souths supporters were in August / September 2014 (or like some Souths supporters are 100% of the time).

          • Columnist

            March 21st 2017 @ 3:06pm
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

            Agree… my goodness!

            • March 21st 2017 @ 4:40pm
              bearfax said | March 21st 2017 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

              Mary I gave up being sensitive 40 years ago. I deal with the evidence as presented, not by negating certain facts to enhance one’s argument. Bias doesnt become you.

              The fact is Manly were considered very long odds to win the Cowboys game, especially in North Queensland. Yet they won comfortably. It wasnt an upset, it was a decisive win. An upset is when an outsider wins by a few points, not 4 tries to one.

              Sure Nth Queensland were not as effective as they have been, but one of the issues ignored in putting Manly down from last weeks effort was the lack of props For some reasont that wasnt seriously noted by the media. Manly actually had Souths 4 tries to 3 after 60 minutes but ran out of ticker with a light forward pack.

              Now North Queensland were without their two props and suddenly they are solidly defeated. Yet the same argument doesnt seem to apply when talking of North Queensland’s effort as compared to Manly’s effort against Souths. That’s double standard reporting Mary.

              I’m not suggesting here that Manly will win the premiership. But appropriate credit should be given where its due, not making excuses for the other side. No one in the media did that when Manly lost to Souths

              • March 21st 2017 @ 4:58pm
                Kenw said | March 21st 2017 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

                With all due respect Bearfax, I think your definition of upset is unique to you and maybe that’s part of your cause for upset.

                Most would say it’s just an underdog winning, and it’s not negated by the underdog winning by a big margin – actually that’s a bigger upset!
                A decisive win and an upset are not mutually exclusive terms.

              • March 21st 2017 @ 5:04pm
                bearfax said | March 21st 2017 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

                Playing pedantic word play misses the point entirely doesnt it. The primary argument is not about what word is appropriate but how the win should be assessed against other wins and the causes for those results. Call it what you will, the issue is how you interpret the causes of the win. That’s what the argument is about not whether I crossed my Ts.

              • March 21st 2017 @ 6:01pm
                Craig said | March 21st 2017 @ 6:01pm | ! Report

                It was definitely an upset.

                Winning by 2, 20 or 40 doesn’t determine whether or not it was an upset.

              • March 21st 2017 @ 7:58pm
                The spectator said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:58pm | ! Report

                I am far from upset that manly won, whos upset!

              • Roar Guru

                March 22nd 2017 @ 5:51am
                The Barry said | March 22nd 2017 @ 5:51am | ! Report

                It was definitely an upset win.

                The fact they won so well makes it a greater upset.

                The fact Manly won so well away from home makes it an even greater upset.

                The fact Manly won so well away from home and missing four front towers makes it a massive upset!

                The fact it was a massive upset takes nothing away from Manly’s win. If anything it enhances it. They thoroughly deserved it.

      • Roar Rookie

        March 21st 2017 @ 1:57pm
        eels47 said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

        That is not the point of the article though. Mary is stating that Manly beating the Cowboys, even without those players, is an upset. She is not making excuses for the Cowboys, merely pointing out that even with the Cowboys players who weren’t available, very few tipped Manly to get the win.

    • Roar Pro

      March 21st 2017 @ 3:33pm
      Hutchoman said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

      Write off Manly at your peril. The side has been weaker than usual in recent years and the off-field drama is not helping … mind you, the story is nowhere near as big as is being played out in some media quarters. The media portrayal of the situation is as much about certain individuals attempting to settle some scores with Bob Fulton as it is about what is really going on.

      Never forget that in 70 years, the dreaded spoon has never headed across the Spit Bridge!

      • Columnist

        March 21st 2017 @ 4:37pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 21st 2017 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

        What sort of peril?! What sort of impending doom should I be watching out for?

      • March 21st 2017 @ 4:43pm
        KingCowboy said | March 21st 2017 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

        Hutch I am writing Manly off. Fulton has lost his touch. The sad thing is that Barrett was never given a proper go at coaching this team and he will be gone by the end of the year. I said in another post the other day that Des will be back in there next year. I have always thought that the Dogs were one of the best run teams in the comp but it seems like they are going to flick Des as crazy as that is to me.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 6:01pm
      Aem said | March 21st 2017 @ 6:01pm | ! Report

      Relax, it’s just the first six rounds… not even the bookies are particularly good at picking them at this point in the season. The pecking order will soon begin to become clearer…

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