Wayne Bennett, who knows a fair bit about the sport of rugby league, said that if you listen to the punters, eventually you end up sitting with them.
Well, it might be time for The Roar‘s Power Rankings to pull up a pew beneath the line, because the clamour for Souths to be taken down a peg or six has been heeded.
The Power Rankings have always been about a theoretical strength, casting forward to the Finals when the best meet the best. On that logic, the potential ceiling for the Bunnies was high enough to merit inclusion high on our rankings…but no more.
After flattering to deceive one final time, the long-standing backing that Latrell & co had has been withdrawn. It might return, but it’ll take plenty for that to happen.
Beyond that, it was another topsy-turvy week in the NRL: the Raiders good/rubbish (delete as appropriate) season was rubbish again, and will until it’s good again, while the Sharks’ ability to thrash bad sides continues to keep them in the Royce.
Parra, though…poor Parra. It’s another year for the Warrington of the Southern Hemisphere that will end in disappointment. They’re still a chance, but you just know that they’re an outside chance.
Penrith had the chain rattled a little by Manly’s tactical approach, but got there in the end, roughly the same way they always do.
There might be something in the style that Anthony Seibold used to attack that could be a guideline on how to defeat a side obsessed with controlling every phase of the game, but it’ll be a brave side that tries it in the Finals.
Brisbane remain the most impressive side that isn’t Penrith, and by far the closest challenger they will have. Smashing the Eels told us nothing new, but results everywhere somewhat crystallised the feeling that the gap between the top two and everyone else is now vast.
Melbourne finally shift up the rankings because, despite widespread failings, they’re probably going to be the most likely of anyone to beat either Penrith or the Broncos. They won’t win the Premiership barring a miracle, but they tend to beat the Warriors and the Power Rankings is officially withdrawing support for Souths until further notice.
The Warriors move into fourth at a time where, really, they’ve actually not been as good as before. It’s a five game streak for the Kiwis, but the last three have been very shaky indeed.
The logic in moving them beyond Souths is that they are at least in a good position, if not form, and have three tune ups to get that out of their system before the Finals. There’s a lot to be said for winning even when you’re rubbish, too, and they’ve done that a fair few times now.
Last week it was promised that Souths were on their last chance, and they duly flunked it. Yes, they won, but in the least convincing way possible.
This side is miles below where it was mid-season and it now feels like that run was the anomaly, rather than the bad form of late. St George Illawarra are genuinely dreadful and they did everything in their power to lose to them, before sneaking home late.
All the excuses about travel, injuries, Origin and whatever are over. That was basically a first choice team and they were useless.
They drop two to fifth because they might yet kick into gear – more than can be said for the sides below them – but it looks highly unlikely at the moment.
Newcastle got it done, again, and in some style. Their attack is motoring and their defence was barely tested by a Bulldogs team that might as well have turned up with a bucket and spade.
If Jackson Hastings is out, you’d make them outsiders against the Bunnies and Sharks, but with him, they’re more than a shout. That will be key, as there’s not really any Plan B. Well, Adam Clune.
There’s a minor inkling that Souths are going about as bad as they can go and the Knights are pretty much at the peak of where they could be, given the talent available, so it’ll be very interesting to see how this particular cookie crumbles on Sunday lunchtime.
The Sharks look great against bad teams, especially those that can’t defend, so beating down on the Titans is probably to be expected.
The interesting bits will come now: the Cowboys are off a bye and at home, so it will be a huge win if Cronulla can manage it. Failing that, it’s Knights away, then Raiders at home.
The flat-track bullies will get a chance to prove the world otherwise. It’s in their hands.
North Queensland didn’t play and two of their rivals fell on their face next to them, so a great week all round. They absolutely have to beat the Sharks this Thursday, though.
Parramatta are done. They’re not actually done, but come on: they’re done. Mitch Moses is their best player and it’s hard to see a world where anything happens without him on the field.
Whoever loses on Friday night at Commbank between them and the Roosters is goneskis, and the Chooks are suddenly huge favourites.
So you’re saying there’s a chance…
It’s not exactly in their hands, but a focused and firing Roosters side are a major problem for anyone.
They know that they can trouble teams, and if Sam Walker comes back, that doubles if not triples. He’s the most expansive, creative attacking player in a side that had lacked sorely in those areas.
Neutrals rarely want the Chooks to win, but a last round showdown with the Bunnies is what the punters need to see. Make it happen, Roosters.
Canberra’s run of close wins or thrashings continues, but in the wrong category as far as they’re concerned.
This team rarely don’t respond, but the overall feeling that they’ll get papped out of the Finals at the earliest possible opportunity – and that they have benefitted from an incredibly soft draw – does loom large.
Manly were really fun on Thursday night. If you’re going to lose, lose in a way that makes fans think that you had a crack. That’s what they did.
They’re not quite mathematically out – three wins from here could do it, with other results and a points swing – but, realistically, they’re out.
Have a red-hot go at the Warriors, given the somewhat streaky form they’ve been in, and build momentum into next year has to be the best choice.
The Dolphins went 7-5 through the first 13 rounds – with a bye – and have gone 1-9 since. Everyone predicted them to struggle with depth, and here we are. They’ll be better for it next year and are playing with house money anyway.
The Titans couldn’t tackle a fish supper, as we say back home. No amount of ten-year contracts will help until they get other blokes who can get in front like Tino Fa’asuamaleaui can.
15 – Bulldogs (-)
The Dogs cannot wait for this season to end, and you really can’t blame them. They’re really not very good and aren’t getting better.
There’s no point kicking the Dragons when they’re down, but they’ll be annoyed in themselves that Souths basically fell over in front of them and somehow, St George Illawarra conspired to lose anyway.
Just when you think the Tigers couldn’t disappoint more, they finally produce some great football, albeit from two players they already decided to ditch for next year.
Daine Laurie’s best and worst are a long way apart, but Saturday was a decent reminder that he can be a really, really exciting player…for Penrith.