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After just three rounds of the National Rugby League, I think I?ve been forced to review my pre-season predicted favourites.
While the Dragons showed signs of the form we?ve come to expect from them in recent years on the weekend against South Sydney, let?s face it, they weren?t outstanding and Souths were much worse. The Dragons are becoming renowned as the team similar to the good movie your mates tell you to see that turns out to be a stinker. At least on the weekend, the movie got three stars.
I think it was Bob Fulton who said that the Dragons played a 6 out of 10 game, but still won by 30. After watching the game I?d have to agree, it was certainly more of a reflection of Souths? inept play than the Dragons? brilliance. They were my favourites at the beginning of the season, while I haven?t written them or anyone else off for the title this year, I would have to go with the North Queensland Cowboys at this stage.
I think the notion that they are the only club who don?t rely solely on one player is a little off the mark though, without Johnathan Thurston I think they?d struggle a bit. But having said that, they have more depth this year and even though they do rely on Thurston, he has a near perfect record with injuries so he should get the best part, if not all, of the season played out. Although you can never be too sure, freak accidents do happen on the football field. But it must not be ignored that sides with players who are prone to injury are generally harder hit than those who aren?t.
Pundits were willing to throw Newcastle up the top as premiership favourites after their tremendous win over the Bulldogs. I tend to disagree, I think they?re going off a bit early. Didn?t they win the wooden spoon last season? Yes, yes, yes, I know, they didn?t have Andrew Johns. But doesn?t that tell you anything in itself? Johns hasn?t played a full NRL season since 2001, and let me tell you, the older you get, the harder it gets.
So Newcastle - with Johns, premiership contenders; without Johns, spoon contenders. At least we know where they stand. I think that in itself is enough of a reason to suggest why they shouldn?t be favourites.
I?m really trying to think of sides that don?t rely solely on one player, and to be honest, the only one that springs to mind is the Melbourne Storm.
Take the following players out of the following teams and they wouldn?t be the same:
Bulldogs: Sherwin or El Masri
Storm: (have a number of quality players)
Sea Eagles: Kennedy or Orford
Raiders: Smith (Even with him they are ordinary!)
Roosters: Anasta or Morley
As for the leftovers, the Rabbitohs and the Warriors, they really don?t have any players worth noting, but I think you get my drift.
The Storm are number one in terms of relying on a number of players, and while the Cowboys rely heavily on Thurston, they?d be able to get through without him for short periods here and there, particularly during origin.
So back to the premiership favourites, those two would be my two picks at this stage, the Cowboys and the Storm. But it is only round three, a lot can change.
Just on Penrith, I tipped them to win the wooden spoon at the start of the year, I think I have eaten my words there, they are top four contenders for sure.
I went off a bit early on the Bulldogs last week as well, while they can pull out the big performance here and there, they just don?t seem to be able to do it as consistently as they used to. Where they finish this season is a mystery to me, but I really can?t see them making the top four. They need to put Mark O?Meley back on the bench. He?s much more effective that way, a lot of his bite is taken away when he starts the game. They had it right against the Tigers but for some reason they wanted to change things.
I think I?d have to put the Roosters in the same boat. While they are probably more consistent than the Bulldogs, they don?t have the Bulldogs? tendency to win the big games. They can?t even do it occasionally any more. The 2004 grand finalists probably won?t be playing a part in that match this year.
The Warriors proved me wrong last week, they?ll finish above zero points this season. And the wooden spoon is not a foregone conclusion as thought also, watching the Raiders concede 126 points in their last two matches, the race is far from over.
The men from the nation?s capital should be rebuilding for the future. The Raiders should pay out his contract, get someone in for the long term and let Elliot prepare for his Penrith stint next season.
So all in all round three sprung up a few surprises, leaving this writer eating a bit of humble pie.