An earlier (pre season) blog on the subject of each team’s draw strength sought to highlight who had the best chance of getting off to a good start in season 2014.
Now that we’re one sixth of the way through the 2014 draw, how is it looking? More importantly, given the surprises that have marked the early rounds and the odd look of the NRL ladder, how does the next group of games look?
The Cowboys are the notable failure so far on this metric. They haven’t even left Queensland, and won’t until Round 6, yet have won just the solitary game. They’re off to a slower start than the 40 year old virgin, and that’s with a fantastic draw. I likened their Auckland 9s success to teh US Masters par 3 tournament, but didn’t think they’d fall out of contention this quickly. The only positive thing to say is that there is still 20 games to go … there’s time to resurrect this abomination of a start.
Of course, based on any metric at all, favourable draw or not, the Bunnies have stunk up the joint, and are beginning to resemble the North Sydney Bears and the 2007 Dragons all in one. The former couldn’t win finals matches and were boring with boring jerseys (yes, I choose my wine based on the label), and the latter began to drop off the face of the earth after failing in two consecutive Preliminary Finals. What you will see below won’t give their fans any cheer whatsoever!
The Dragons and Bulldogs have managed to overcome what appeared to be a fairly tough draw for the first two months of the season, though it must be said, of that eight week span, the Dragons’ first half was monumentally easier than what they are about to face in the next four weeks. Put it this way, if they are on top of the table after the Roosters match in Round 8, I’ll do a lap of Coogee beach in my birthday suit! The Bulldogs’ performance is far more meritorious, and for that matter, so is that of the Titans.
As if the Melbourne Storm needed a good run, right? Along with the Sea Eagles, they have been the best performing of last year’s Top 4, and now both appear to have a rails run into Anzac Day. At the other end of teh spectrum, the Dragons (as noted) and Bulldogs will find it tough to maintain their positions on the ladder, as will the Broncos.
But here’s the thing – the 2014 form guide is so different to last year’s, even the latter half ot the season, that it makes sense to recalculate the strength of draws basd on this year’s form. Looking at it this way, the next four weeks looks like this:
If you thought the Rabbitohs were up against it, check out their draw! It’s the most difficult of any team for the next month, much of it due to having three of their four games away from home, but also in recognition of the form of their upcoming opponents. Sitting 13th now might not be getting a whole lot better in a hurry.
The Warriors didn’t take full advantage of their early draw (surprise, surprise(, and now face a difficult task to tread water if 2014 form continues across the NRL field.
The Titans have done what was asked of them in the first four rounds, and if they can remain in the Top 8 after Round 8, then they are well on the way to securing a finals spot (Origin period notwithstanding).
The bolter here could be the Panthers. Sitting mid-pack and faced with a relatively kind draw (it’s never easy, it’s NRL after all!), it’s not inconceivable that these pokie-playing mountain men will be a Top 4 proposition, and won’t that set the cat amongst the media pigeons. Phil Gould might even go to a game!
When all is said and done, though, I’d expect Manly to be leading after Round 8 from the Storm and Roosters, with a remaining Top 8 that no one would have picked pre-season.