The 2020 competition is gradually drawing to a close and it has been an eventful year, to say the least.
Here are some good, bad and ugly moments for each club in the bottom eight to ponder.
The Good: Despite having a season to forget (if possible), the continued development of Payne Haas, Patrick Carrigan and Kotoni Staggs, together with the emergence of players like Herbie Farnworth and Xavier Coates, promise better days ahead for the Broncos.
The Bad: Is this the worst Broncos team in history? Well, not on paper anyway, but their performances this year can best be described as pathetic, leaving their supporters lost for words and the team at the bottom of the table.
Interestingly, the departure of coach Anthony Seibold hasn’t led to any noticeable improvement.
The Ugly: Seibold never lived up to expectations as a coach and he did the right thing by leaving the club. But did he leave purely for professional reasons, or was the vile online troll attack on him and his family the real reason?
Gold Coast Titans
The Good: The best news that the Titans had this year was the arrival of Justin Holbrook as coach and the positive influence he has had in turning the team around, from easy beats at the beginning of the year to a side that has now won four games on the trot.
The Bad: I can’t go past Kevin Proctor’s Hannibal Lecter impersonation in the Round 14 match against Cronulla, when he took a fancy to Shaun Johnson’s arm. Not a good look Kev.
The Ugly: I’ve seen a lot of bad haircuts over the years but Jai Arrow’s head takes the prize. When I first saw it I mistook him for an Ork from Lord of the Rings.
Manly Sea Eagles
The Good: Every cloud has a silver lining and the club’s high injury toll has lead to the emergence of some very promising playing talent, including Morgan Harper, Albert Hopoate and Taniela Paseka.
The Bad: Tom Trbojevic is clearly one of the best players in the NRL, and his serious injury in Round 6 effectively ended any hope the Manly team had of making a noise in this year’s competition. Some guys just can’t be replaced.
The Ugly: Addin Fonua-Blake has, let’s say, a chequered history of behaviour, but he reached a new low with his Round 8 tirade against referee Grant Atkins. Pathetic. Probably a positive for Manly that he’s moving on after this season.
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
The Good: At the time of writing the Dogs have just crept off the bottom of the table and now have a chance to avoid the wooden spoon that appeared to have their name on it for much of the competition.
The Bad: Dean Pay was handed a poisoned chalice when he took up the club coaching role in 2018. He inherited a poor roster and a massive salary cap problem, and was ultimately shafted by the club in July. That’s no way to treat a club legend but not surprising given the club infighting and power struggles.
The Ugly: The standing down of players Jayden Okunbor and Corey Harawira-Naera as a result of the school girl sex scandal was just what the both the club and the NRL didn’t want as it emerged from the Covid lock down.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Good: Despite just winning four games to date, Jason Taumalolo continues to be the game’s premier middle forward, and averages over 200 run metres in his 15 games this year. For the 14th placed Cowboys, he continues to be a lone diamond in a pile of gravel.
The Bad: The Cowboys have not been competitive since the 2017 season when they just snuck into the top eight. Since then they’ve won just 32 per cent of their games and now need some major surgery in order to climb back up the ladder. I feel it will take much more than replacing coach Paul Green with the untested Todd Payten.
The Ugly: Josh McGuire, no further explanation is required.
The Good: Despite playing in a consistently beaten team, David Nofoaluma continues to impress, scoring 17 tries in 19 games and running at an average of over 180 metres per game. Arguably the competition’s best winger at the moment.
The Bad: Having one of your best players on loan like a book from the library is going to be a problem when it’s time to send him home, and the Tigers will struggle without Harry Grant when he heads back to Melbourne next season.
The Ugly: Benji Marshall is a club legend, making his debut for the club in 2003, and playing over 260 games for the Tigers. So how did he find out that his services were no longer required after this season? In the paper of course. This says everything about the poor culture at Wests.
St George Illawarra Dragons
The Good: After a fruitless seven-year (that’s right, seven!) coaching stint, Paul McGregor finally fell on his sword and left the Dragons.
Hopefully, his long overdue departure and the appointment of replacement Anthony Griffin, heralds a new dawn for this once mighty club.
The Bad: Corey Norman. Where do I begin?
The Ugly: The Jack De Belin issue has now been hanging around the club’s neck for nearly two years. Many believe it’s been a significant distraction, and he has been taking up nearly $600K of the club’s salary cap each year.
Hopefully, for both his sake and that of the club, he gets some good news at his upcoming day in court.
New Zealand Warriors
The Good: The Covid shutdown has put more pressure on the Warriors than any other club, and the way they have responded has not only been an absolute credit to them, but also vital for the ongoing success of the game.
Despite their hardships, and the loss of coach Stephen Kearney, they have been very competitive in recent weeks and done themselves proud.
The Bad: The Warriors have been arguably the worst team in the NRL in recent years having made the finals only once in the last nine years, and are currently sitting in 11th place.
Given the quality of the players that have represented the club during this time it’s hard to reconcile their continuing poor results.
The Ugly: New coach Nathan Brown has not yet moved into the role but it is reported that he will be “assisted” by Phil Gould. What could go wrong?