Almanac Rugby League: ‘Interesting season unfolding’

The title is a rip-off of JTH who made this particular observation about the 2019 AFL season, accurately I might say. It could be applied equally to the NRL after the first four rounds. And for those of us north of the border, it’s not a pretty sight with the Queensland teams making up three of the bottom four places on the ladder.

 

The weekend’s matches constituted a study in contrasts. At one end, the Roosters smashed the Broncos, the Warriors were far too strong for the Titans and the Raiders were all over the Cowboys. (See what I mean about a bad weekend for the northerners?) In the middle, surprise packets, the Eels, were too good for the Sharks while the Storm did enough when it counted to put away a courageous Bulldogs outfit. Then, at the other end of the scale, we had three ‘golden point’ thrillers with the Panthers, Sea Eagles and Dragons breaking the hearts of the Tigers, Rabbitohs and Knights respectively.

 

So where are we at and what have we learned so far? The Storm are undefeated, no surprises there, but can be ruffled as we saw yesterday and, more tellingly, in last year’s Grand Final. Cameron Smith missed a tackle yesterday (!) but Cameron Munster is growing more and more into an effective game manager. The Roosters are physically strong and skilful to boot – too much of everything right across the paddock. Luke Keary is a star! They’re still my title favourites. The Raiders look better this year, the Rabbitohs are ‘iffy’ but top eight and the Eels are maintaining their surprise form. Raiders v Eels this weekend should reveal more of both teams’ prospects for the year.

 

The Sharks haven’t quite clicked yet but have a good squad on paper, but what’s going on in the background? Are Manly getting their act together or will the injury to Tom Terrific set them back? DCE seems ripe for the Queensland No. 7 jersey. Can the Warriors win away from their NZ home base? Historically, that’s been an issue but this week their opponents, the Rabbitohs, are also ‘away’ as the teams clash on the Sunshine Coast. The Dragons are enigmatic but Corey Norman is hot – two winning field goals in extra time in consecutive weeks have earned his pay cheque for the season. The Panthers are unconvincing but somehow hung in and snatched a win on Friday night –  the Tigers must have been furious to let that one get away! The Broncos are just awful and disorganised at the moment, the Bulldogs are brave but need Foran on the park, the Cowboys appear shapeless and the Titans are way off the pace.

 

But, in spite of all this, it’s still an interesting season. What gets me is that there have been a few upsets and near misses already. If this becomes the pattern for the year, then we’re in for a good time as fans. Yes, we’ll have to put up with Melbourne and the Roosters dominating throughout the year and, quite possibly, playing off for the title again. But the real story is about what the rest are doing or are capable of doing. The Eels revival is significant and with the likelihood that they’ll lose few players to the Origin season, they’ll stay pretty much at full strength, barring injuries. Both the Panthers and the Sharks have very good squads and you can’t see them not making a run at some stage. They just have to find the missing few percent. The Raiders (yes, I know I belt on about them) are potentially exciting and play a good brand of footy. Wouldn’t it be good to see the Green Machine revved up again? Surely the Broncos can’t be this bad for very long – and they won’t lose many to Origin duties either at the current rate. The Tigers have almost learned how to roar and could go on a run.

 

So many possibilities! Therefore, ‘interesting’ indeed. Let’s sit back and enjoy it.

 

Meanwhile, in the QRL, Easts Tigers and Sunshine Coast Falcons are unbeaten and meet this weekend as the curtain raiser to the Warriors v Rabbitohs match. Should be great! Wynnum Manly Seagulls are on a roll while the Blackhawks are spluttering a bit – well below expectations. Burleigh Bears and Norths Devils need greater consistency while Ipswich Jets have won a couple in a row and might be getting back to form – and not before time. There’s a bit of a logjam in the middle of the ladder and it may not be as much of a two-paced season as I feared just a fortnight ago. Down the bottom, Redcliffe Dolphins look shot at 1-4, the Capras seem out of their depth and the PNG Hunters have yet to break their duck. Looks like a season dominated by the Tigers, Falcons and WM Seagulls.

 

At the same time, in the AFL, my Bombers finally got up while our two northern teams both had wins. It seems a long time since the Lions looked so good. I saw a bit of Geelong and liked their younger brigade. West Coast looked strong, ominous almost, and GWS are promising a lot again – but can they deliver at the business end of the season? Methinks the Tigers are in big strife! My mate Paul is a Blues fan and so I pray for him. ‘Roos and Demons – try again next year, thanks.

 

‘Ah, footy, you’ve just got to love it!’ (The irrepressible Matt O’Hanlon.)

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

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