A pessimist’s review of every NRL team after 10 rounds

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

By Ryan O'Connell, Ryan O'Connell is a Roar Expert


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    It’s hard to believe we’re already over a third of the way through the 2018 NRL season, but as they say, time flies when you’re having fun.

    Given that we already have a decent sample size to analyse each team’s play this year, it’s time to review how each club has looked, and ascertain just how full fans should consider their team’s glass.

    The twist? I’m going to be a Negative Nancy – which is off-brand, I know – and look at each team through the prism of extreme pessimism. Which, granted, is a lot easier to do for some teams.

    St George Illawarra Dragons
    The Dragons have surprised many, though – humblebrag alert – I did have them finishing in the top four. Given their 8-2 record, one would assume it’s hard to be too pessimistic, and to be honest, one would be right.

    Ironically, it’s the Dragons’ strong start that may end up being the issue, as Ben Hunt, Jack de Belin, Tyson Frizzel, Paul Vaughan and Tariq Sims may all earn Origin call-ups, testing the club’s depth, along with creating the dreaded ‘Origin hangover’ issue.

    Good problems to have, but problems nonetheless.

    Penrith Panthers
    The Panthers currently sit in second, despite missing gun half Nathan Cleary for a fair chunk of the season, so there’s not a great deal to be cynical about here.

    However, they have had a pretty easy draw, playing cellar-dwellers Parramatta twice, along with beating the other three teams in the bottom four – the Titans, Bulldogs and Cowboys.

    Throw in a victory over the Knights, and Penrith’s early-season success should be taken with a grain of salt. Let’s see how they’re tracking once the Storm, Dragons, Warriors, etc, have been played.

    New Zealand Warriors
    The Warriors have been another surprise packet, but they’ve teased us with their potential almost every season.

    It would be too easy to say the cause for concern here is that the Warriors have traditionally always run hot and cold, but it’s actually the 50-12 and 32-0 blowouts versus the Storm and Roosters that are the real drama.

    Big losses like that are seldom on a premiership team’s CV, even allowing for the fact that Shaun Johnson was out for both games.

    Melbourne Storm
    Despite sitting in their customary spot in the top four, the Storm have looked a little off this season, and a fair gauge of where they’re at is how easily the Dragons dismantled them in Round 9.

    I fully expect Melbourne to still be there at the business-end of the season, but with Cooper Cronk already moved on, Cameron Smith retiring from rep footy, and Billy Slater’s imminent retirement hovering, the Storm’s golden era is certainly inching closer to its inevitable finish.

    It may even already be over.

    South Sydney Rabbitohs
    Maybe Anthony Seibold being a rookie coach will become an issue for the Bunnies at some point? Perhaps even when it matters most, the finals? There’s a chance that a more experienced coach will undress him under the harsh spotlights of September.

    Otherwise, it’s hard to be too bleak about Souths based on the footy they’ve been playing. In short, they’ve been very impressive. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that they also appear to be playing with confidence, and having fun.

    The only (minor) concern is that Sam Burgess will be required to start paying rent at the NRL judiciary soon, such is the amount of time he spends there.

    Sydney Roosters
    Much was made of the Chooks’ off-season, when they snared the signatures of prized recruits Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco. Sadly, both have been somewhat disappointing.

    Cronk looks like exactly what he is: a brilliant ‘system player’ who is playing is a brand new system with new teammates. Meanwhile, Tedesco has been so poor that he has surely played his way out of his NSW jumper.

    If these two don’t start looking comfortable soon, the 2018 premiership will be an unattainable dream. Also (*whispering*) I think this pack is overrated and often poor defensively.

    Cooper Cronk

    Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

    Wests Tigers
    It’s probably influenced by the amount of Tigers fans that I’m surrounded by in my life, but I do enjoy putting the boot into this club every chance I get. Sadly – for me – there hasn’t been a lot of opportunities to do that this season, because the Tigers have been great.

    I’ll have to settle for the potentially misguided viewpoint that their bubble will burst soon and they’ll be brought back to earth with an almighty thud, as I just can’t escape the notion that they’ve overachieved greatly thus far.

    After all, ‘Reality bites Tigers’ is a great headline.

    Cronulla Sharks
    The Sharks have produced some courageous wins this year, but the reason why they’ve been courageous is the exact reason fans should be anxious: their horrible injury toll.

    Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Josh Dugan, Wade Graham and Andrew Fifita isn’t a list of Cronulla rep players, it’s a list of the players who have missed time this season. Quite simply, they need to stay healthy if they want to be a contender.

    Oh, and star recruit Matt Moylan not playing like dirt would help too.

    Brisbane Broncos
    When Jack Bird is playing halfback, some red flags should go up. Pinpointing exactly what is the cause of those red flags is a little bit trickier.

    Is Brisbane’s lack of quality in the halves the death knell for their season? Has the game gone past Wayne Bennett? Do the Broncos have an uneven roster? Are they legitimate contenders, or legitimate pretenders? Can Ben Hunt please come back?

    There are questions galore to mull over, and they’ll need to actually answer some of them if they’re to be a serious threat.

    Newcastle Knights
    I’d argue the Knights have been the gutsiest team in the NRL for a number of seasons now, and this year is no different. You could never accuse them of the effort not being there.

    However, depth was always going to be a worry for them, and they couldn’t afford injuries to key players. Sadly, Newcastle had a lot invested in Mitchell Pearce, and his injury all but ended their promising start to the year.

    Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce.

    AAP Image/Darren Pateman

    Canberra Raiders
    Canberra just can’t win the close games. They lost their first three matches by a combined five points, and have been in the contest in almost every game they’ve played, yet sit in 11th spot with just four wins.

    In this competition, a few measly points will end up separating the eight from those watching the finals on TV.

    I can’t help but think the Raiders’ close losses will come back to haunt them.

    Manly Sea Eagles
    The Sea Eagles have committed their future to Daly Cherry-Evans, signing him to an eight-year contract in 2015.

    Can you win the comp if DCE is your best player? I say yes. Can you have a strong team culture, with a collection of players that all get along, enjoy playing with each other, and avoid gossipy headlines about rifts and personality clashes, if DCE is your club captain? Hhhmm. The jury is well and truly out on that one.

    That’s all without even mentioning the messy, political, off-field dramas that seem to always be prevalent with Manly these days.

    Daly Cherry-Evans

    Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

    Canterbury Bulldogs
    The Dogs look putrid in attack, and their fifth-tackle options remain limited and poor.

    That analysis in isolation may not seem that bad, as it should be able to be fairly easily addressed, but the problem is that fans have been saying it for five years.

    If that wasn’t bad enough, the looming salary cap disaster means that a team that is struggling to win games now will also have to ditch some talent at the end of the year. Yuck.

    North Queensland Cowboys
    I don’t subscribe to the theory that Johnathan Thurston has played on one season too long, but his slow return to elite form from injury has stilted the Cowboys.

    North Queensland don’t look cohesive in attack, and have struggled to score tries in a number of games.

    There is plenty of time to turn it around, but the 3-7 start is certainly not what we expected of one of the pre-season favourites.

    Cowboys Johnathan Thurston and Jason Taumalolo

    AAP Image/Dean Lewins

    Gold Coast Titans
    The Titans’ biggest issue is that they have no identity as a team. They don’t have a style of play. They don’t have a superstar player or strong leader. With all due respect, they’re just making up the numbers in the competition. They’re like room-temperature water.

    They have enough talent that they’re not an embarrassment, but they need a personality or clear direction.

    They made a major mistake not signing the Walker brothers as their coaches; it would have at least given them a genuine point of difference, and generated some interest.

    Parramatta Eels
    Your halves are the metaphorical ‘brain’ of your football team. You rely on your halfback and five-eighth to be level-headed, calm, mature, and direct the team around the park, while also being cerebral players who make smart decisions.

    The Eels’ halves are Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman.

    The prosecution rests, Your Honour.

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (34)

    • May 16th 2018 @ 6:21am
      mushi said | May 16th 2018 @ 6:21am | ! Report

      How is the roosters pack overrated? People have been hammering them since last october!

      • May 16th 2018 @ 7:44am
        JN said | May 16th 2018 @ 7:44am | ! Report

        the roosters pack has been pretty average for most of the year. For a while, they didn’t average over 100 metres, and he is right about our defense, especially on Blake Ferguson’s edge, as highlighted in the Manly game, where Blake keeps sliding back close to the line. The forward backs have also been lazy too, case and point the Rabbitohs game, and in general all the penalties they give in defense.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 9:54am
          shaun said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

          He isnt saying they are good. He’s saying that they were never over rated. No one has been raving about them since last October.

          • May 16th 2018 @ 11:31am
            Mushi said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:31am | ! Report

            Spot on. They’d need to commit ritual suicide at kick off to under cut expectations

    • Roar Rookie

      May 16th 2018 @ 6:36am
      up in the north said | May 16th 2018 @ 6:36am | ! Report

      You’ve been very kind towards the Cowbies Ryan.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 7:38am
      Larry1950 said | May 16th 2018 @ 7:38am | ! Report

      6 potential contenders, 10 teams making up the numbers. Upsets will happen but the race is really only between a few teams, subject to injuries.

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2018 @ 12:51pm
        Matt H said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

        Agreed. Like every year, we get to around this point and it’s usually down to half a dozen.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 7:50am
      Monday QB said | May 16th 2018 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      At 3-7 that seems to be the optimistic view on the cowboys. Surely the pessimistic view is that the cowboys are gone and are the biggest flop of the year (based on pre-season expectations)?

    • Roar Guru

      May 16th 2018 @ 8:23am
      BA Sports said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:23am | ! Report

      Wait a minute – The 6&7 at Parramatta are their weakness? The 6 & 7 have also been two of their best three players…. Yikes.. no wonder they are 16th

    • May 16th 2018 @ 8:45am
      Duncan Smith said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      Here’s a pessimistic prediction for all teams except Melbourne: Smith’s rep retirement helps Storm go back to back. NOOOOOOOOOOOO……………….

      • May 16th 2018 @ 1:45pm
        andrew said | May 16th 2018 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

        Duncan you make a very good point. lets see if you are right!