Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 15: Is it moving time on the ladder?

In golf, we talk about the third round of the tournament being ‘moving day’ as players attempt to position themselves for a run at glory on Sunday afternoon. In the AFL, the third quarter is often referred to as the ‘premiership quarter’ as teams attempt to impose themselves on both the opposition and the scoreboard to put themselves into a strong winning position. Do these things actually exist? Or are they just part of the folklore of sport? Does it matter, as long as we believe that it just might be so?


I missed the second quarter of the NRL season (Rounds 7-14) because of an overseas trip. Yes, you can keep up with the scores and read about it a bit on the internet but you lose touch with what’s happening and how things are faring at individual clubs, on the ground and on the ladder. Suddenly, we’re into the third quarter of the season and, if some teams don’t get a move on, it’ll be ‘all over, red rover’ by the end of July (Round 19). That’s the case already for the Titans and the Bulldogs; it probably has been for several weeks already in their cases.


The clubs in imminent danger of joining those two in season 2019 irrelevance are the Panthers, Dragons, Broncos, Cowboys and Warriors. All of them may be only one game and points differential out of the top eight but, based on what we’ve seen to date, do you really expect any of them to come home with a wet sail by the end of the minor round? The Dragons and Cowboys clash this weekend with the result likely to just about put paid to the loser’s season. Similarly the Warriors v Panthers match, with the Panthers also having a large negative points differential to overcome. The only thing going for the Panthers is that they have two byes, and therefore four competition points, up their sleeves, but they have to start winning and keep winning regularly. The Broncos will be up against the odds in Newcastle on Saturday night, so we could well see at least three more sides fall too far behind by the end of the weekend.


The Tigers are next most threatened and they play the South Sydney Rabbitohs who sit second, the first of about half a dozen consecutive matches for the Tigers against teams above them on the ladder. July should tell their tale.


So that’s the grim picture for the lower half of the current ladder.


The Eels sit eighth, equal on 14 points with the Tigers, but with both byes in hand. That should be enough to keep them relatively safe and ahead of those below them. Out of the Sharks, Sea Eagles and Knights (all on 16 points), the Sea Eagles have both byes in hand and the others one each – again, you’d have to say that they are safe. But can they do well enough to break into the top four? Difficult to see that happening.


The Raiders, fourth, are only one win out of second spot and have both byes in hand. Any slip-ups by those ahead of them and they could cash in. But are they consistent enough? I think lots of league fans would love to see the Green Machine-cum-Vikings forge ahead but they have a habit of losing games they should win. That’s why this weekend’s game against the Eels is so important. The Raiders should win; they’re expected to win; it’s exactly the sort of game they have to win to cement a top four finish.


The clash of the weekend is Roosters v Storm on Friday night – at Adelaide Oval! A win for the Storm puts them  at least two games clear with a comparatively huge positive points differential over all their rivals. They’d have one hand on the minor premiership. A loss to the Storm changes little – still at least one game clear and retaining a good differential in their favour. The Roosters need to win to maintain their overall challenge for a top two spot and to get into the Storms’ psyche. A loss may put a bit of doubt in their own minds. A mouth-watering prospect, this one.


So a good weekend of footy ahead. Given the overall picture, it may well turn out to be the start of ‘moving month’, both for better and for worse at all levels of the ladder. It’s why we keep watching!


My winners: Rabbitohs, Dragons, Roosters, Sea Eagles, Knights, Raiders, Warriors and Sharks.


About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.

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