‘I am bewildered by that!’
With fifteen rounds done and five to go we are rapidly approaching the business end of the season.
The last round went pretty much as expected, although the under-strength Melbourne Storm will be disappointed to lose, while Cronulla Sharks, Wests Tigers and Manly Sea Eagles supporters would have dropped their pies when they saw the final score-lines.
The sixteen-team competition has now clearly split into the top eight and the bottom eight, and it’s hard to imagine that any of the latter will be appearing in the finals in six weeks’ time.
The remaining five rounds will be interesting, and this is how I see it playing out (the points in brackets are the points each team will pick up in the remaining five rounds).
Penrith Panthers (10 points) – will continue on their winning run and not lose a game leading up to the finals. The only possible loss will come at the hands of Parramatta, but for this to happen, Parramatta will need to improve markedly on their current form.
Penrith should easily account for Wests, Broncos, Cowboys and the Dogs.
Melbourne Storm (10 points) – despite last week’s loss to Parramatta I can’t see the Storm dropping another game, particularly as they reassemble their formidable spine. Souths may provide some opposition but I don’t see any hope for Manly, Cowboys, Tigers or Dragons.
Parramatta Eels (6 points) – without significant improvement on past weeks, I expect the Eels to lose to both a red hot Souths this week, and Penrith three weeks from now. The Eels should have no trouble against Warriors, Broncos or Wests.
Sydney Roosters (10 points) – the Roosters are gradually getting their team back together, and although both the Raiders and Souths will give them a run for their money, I expect the Roosters to win the next five, including the Broncos, Sharks and Knights.
Canberra Raiders (8 points) – the Raiders have a relatively easy run home and apart from a probable loss the Roosters, should notch up wins against the Dogs, Dragons, Warriors and Sharks.
Newcastle Knights (8 points) – another easy draw should see the Knights defeat the Warriors, Sharks, Dragons and Titans, but I expect them to lose to the Roosters.
South Sydney Rabbitohs (6 points) – despite a huge win last weekend Souths aren’t convincing and I believe they’ll lose to both the Storm and the Roosters on the run home, but defeat the Eels, Tigers and Dogs.
Cronulla Sharks (4 points) – the Sharks look unconvincing and I expect them to be defeated by the Knights, Roosters and Raiders, and pick up wins against both the Cowboys and Warriors.
That’s the top eight, but don’t see any joy for the bottom eight teams:
Wests Tigers (2 points) – will beat Manly but lose their remaining games to Penrith, Souths, Storm and Parramatta.
St George Illawarra Dragons (4 points) – should beat both the Titans and Cowboys but I can’t see them competing against the Raiders, Knights and Storm.
Manly Sea Eagles (4 points) – after last week anything could happen, but I expect them to rally and defeat both the Dogs and the Titans, but will go down to the Storm, Tigers and Warriors.
NZ Warriors (2 points) – as the isolation bites deeper I expect the Warriors to lose their next four games to the Knights, Eels, Sharks and Raiders, but finish with a win against Manly.
Gold Coast Titans (0 points) – I expect the Titans to lose the rest of their matches this year against the Dragons, Dogs, Broncos, Manly and Knights.
North Qld Cowboys (0 points) – no joy here either as the Cowboys will lose to the Sharks, Dragons, Storm, Panthers and Broncos. That’s right, I said Broncos.
Brisbane Broncos (4 points) – the Broncos will lose the hard games against the Roosters, Panthers and Eels, but will have enough to defeat their fellow Queensland teams, the Titans and the Cowboys.
Canterbury Bulldogs (2 points) – the Dogs should lose comfortably to the Raiders, Manly, Souths and Panthers but record one further win for the season against the Titans.
If I’m right, the top eight will look like this:
Penrith 37 points
Melbourne 34 points
Eastern Suburbs 30 points (better for/against)
Parramatta 30 points
Canberra 28 points
Newcastle 27 points
South Sydney 24 points
Cronulla 20 points
You’ll note that it’s pretty much as we have now, except the Roosters finish just ahead of the Eels. So there’s your tipping taken care of for the next five weeks – bring it on. Of course, I may be wrong!