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Just how wrong can a pre-season ladder prediction be?

James Graham, getting angry for the Dragons. Will he be able to play a part in turning their season around against Newcastle? (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Expert
28th June, 2018
24
2666 Reads

And so with ten rounds to play in this super-fine season of National Rugby League, it behoves a man who can’t think of a column on a Thursday arvo to rake over the embers of one’s pre-season predictions for who would occupy the top and bottom halves of the competition.

And just how wrong and/or right a man can be?

The answer comes in three parts:

1. Bang on.
2. There and thereabout.
3. So wrong as to be illegal

And so our hits and misses, listed in order of their current ladder positions, are:

1. St George Illawarra Dragons have been top-of the-pops since round one, are 11-and-3, and undefeated in eight starts at home.

They’re chock-full of Origin players, and sport quick-footed backs and big-bodied forwards who hit like the Great Recession.

And where’d I have ‘em? Yeah, spit it out man… I had ‘em 15th. Fifteenth! Second-last! Because “they’re a bit light on for stars, the Dragons, big light on for everyone.”

Verdict: Really, really wrong. So wrong as to be barely legal.

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2. Like a bad tweet leaving an electronic fingerprint, a tip like this can follow a man like vengeful herpes. And the tip was this: South Sydney Rabbitohs for the wooden spoon.

Yes, yes, I know. Last. The Bunnies. I am no ordinary idiot. Yet on the basis, effectively, that someone had to come last, and that Souths were but three men – Sam Burgess, Greg Inglis and Dane Gagai – and that only the latter was expected to be on the field for significant periods of time, I touched up Souths with an imaginary spoon.

How’s that saying go? You idiot! The Bunnies are 11-3 with a bye up their sleeve, and have won nine of their last 10. The Bunnies are smokin’.

Verdict: Bad Boy Bubby wrong. Like arguing against gravity wrong.

Greg Inglis

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

3. Penrith Panthers have been humming along all season and I picked them to hum along all season and end up 4th. And that’s what they’re doing. They could win it, the Panthers. Like ’em.

Verdict: Bang on, champion.

4. New Zealand Warriors, somehow, are running fourth and not 10th where I figured they’d finish. But they could yet end up 10th for they are the Warriors, a bigger basket case than Bad Boy Bubby.

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Verdict: Wrong. But powder dry.

5. Melbourne Storm I tipped for seventh on the basis that Cooper Cronk’s a Rooster and the other two champions turned 35 on the same day in June. So they’re going okay, Storm, without really being Storm. Keep safe, as they say.

Verdict: Standing by it.

6. Sydney Roosters – on the back of James Tedesco and Cooper Cronk and a “pack full of meat-eating madmen who love to dominate their enemies and hear the lamentations of their women” – I predicted the Chookies would finish in 3rd position upon the ladder.

Verdict: The Roosters will finish in third position upon the ladder.

7. Cronulla Sharks I tipped to run 5th because they have a lot of tough old blokes and fast ones and good ones, and they are a tasty burger. And now they have Aaron Woods to complement Fifita and Gallen and all the rest, and they could win it, also.

Verdict: Owning it.

8. Through considered analysis that consisted completely of “I just don’t like ‘em”, I tipped Brisbane Broncos to run 9th on the competition ladder. And that, as many a Raiders fan will tell you, is where one hopes they do finish.

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Verdict: Owning this also.

And so outside the selections for 15th and 16th which couldn’t have been more wrong had I tipped Hawthorn to win from Chelsea, my predicted top eight was not the work of an ordinary idiot. But give it time. Because my premiers were…

9. Canberra Raiders! Ha. Yes, the Raiders, the harum-scarum weirdos of this National Rugby League who welcome back Josh Hodgson but will no more run first than Hawthorn or Kylie Minogue or a meat lovers pizza.

Verdict: Bad Boy Bubby strikes again.

10. Wests Tigers, eh? Going okay for a while. And they do have Robbie Farah back. And Benji Marshall is alive, it seems. And I do like their coach. But their predicted placing of 12th appears about right.

Verdict: Didn’t take Nostradamus. But as the receptionist says in Ghostbusters: We got one.

Kevin Naiqama

(AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

11. Gold Coast Titans are perennial duds, like the entire Gold Coast is for sports teams. You could take Real Madrid to the Gold Coast and they’d end up in Spanish third division. I tipped ‘em for 14th. If they stay 11th they’ll have over-achieved.

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Verdict: Correct. But harder to tip the dawn.

12. The year’s big improvers, I foresaw, and you foresaw, and all of war-torn Warsaw foresaw, were the dear sweet Newcastle Knights, and it’s nice that it’s come to pass because like they meek they’ve had a heck of a time.

Run last three years straight the only way is up, and thus big improvement. I liked the Knights so much I tipped ‘em for 10th.

Verdict: I still like the Knights, and I still like ‘em for 10th.

13. North Queensland Cowboys – who I and many millions of people tipped to run 2nd and then probably go on to win the National Rugby League, are really, very, indecipherably poor.

They’ve had all their players. One of them’s going to be Immortal. The No.13 is Superman. And yet, here they are among the competition’s trough lollies.

Verdict: Wrong – but so was everyone else in the entire world.

14. It seems a long time ago, a more innocent time, but there was a time that I believed the Manly Sea Eagles would run 6th in the 2018 premiership. And I was not laughed out of school. And yet Manly have been, I believe the term is, completely shit-house.

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Verdict: Wrong, but an understandable wrong.

15. The Bulldogs I tipped for 13th and that seems a long way off for them at the moment. The Dogs are very bad Dogs.

Verdict: No joy in it. But correct.

16. Parramatta Eels I had running 8th though Jarryd Hayne came last in a training run well behind the coach, 43-year-old Brad Arthur. Again – it seems a long time ago. Parra is rubbish. Poor Parra.

Verdict: Wrong. But so was Nostradamus.