FIRE DOUSED | After returning to finals action in 2015, the St George-Illawarra Dragons struggled un...
27 hours ago - 3 Likes
Bully takes a look at how the National Rugby League clubs are performing at the halfway point of the season and predicts where your club will finish the year:- BULLDOGS Current position: 1st Predicted finish at end of regular season: 1st Positives: The Bulldogs have won ten straight and things couldn't be better at Belmore. The 'Dogs forwards are smashing the opposition, their halves are creative and centre Nigel Vagana continues to sniff out tries. Negatives: A dream run with injury has been marred with the loss of NSW prop Mark O'Meley to a broken jaw, leaving a hole up front for the next six weeks. Halfway hero: Brent Sherwin - just about the competition's form halfback save for Andrew Johns.
NEWCASTLE Current Position: 2nd Predicted finish at end of regular season: 3rd Positives: While the Knights have skipper Andrew Johns, they have bright prospects. His cause has been helped by the development of young players like Clint Newton and John Morris. Negatives: Club has had to cut loose some players due to salary cap constraints. Hopefully that won't turn out to be a distraction as the season progresses. Halfway hero: Johns - defies belief each week with his form.
NZ WARRIORS Current Position: 3rd Predicted finish at end of regular season: 2nd Positives: The emergence of five-eighth Lance Hohaia and talent of PJ Marsh has taken pressure off Stacey Jones. The forward pack can match it with any in the league. Negatives: The Warriors are yet to show they can do it against the competition heavyweights. They have a win over the Knights, but the premiers were missing a handful of State of Origin players. Halfway hero: Ali Lauitiiti - scores tries, makes tackles, great hands.
BRISBANE Current Position: 4th Predicted finish at end of regular season: 4th Positives: Allan Langer's return has given the Broncos some direction in the halves while their forward pack is as devastating as ever. Coach Wayne Bennett is still the league's canniest operator. Negatives: The representative season is again causing damage. The Broncos need to stay in touch with the top three until it's over. Continuing controversy over Gorden Tallis' Test captaincy aspirations could also be a distraction. Halfway hero: Langer - 35 years old and still getting the job done.
PARRAMATTA Current Position: 5th Predicted finish at end of regular season: 5th Positives: Yet to hit their straps but still within touching distance of the top four. Have the bulk of the side which lost last year's grand final and a smart coach in Brian Smith. Negatives: Their are still plenty of question marks over the halves pairing of Adam Dykes and Andrew McFadden. Dykes has a shoulder problem while McFadden has been inconsistent. Halfway hero: Brett Hodgson - the fullback has overcome a slow start to become an Origin star for NSW.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS Current Position: 6th Predicted finish at end of regular season: 6th Positives: Brad Fittler's retirement from representative football has been a boost for the Roosters. He's been in scintillating form along with halfback Craig Wing. Negatives: Depth remains a question mark. Struggled early in the season with injuries and appear to lack class compared to the top five. Halfway hero: Wing - has filled the void at halfback and is only getting better.
WESTS TIGERS Current Position: 7th Predicted finish at end of regular season: 13th Positives: Showed what they can do with early season wins over Bulldogs and Parramatta. Remain in the top eight despite some very ordinary recent form. Negatives: Where do you start? There are question marks over the coaching of Terry Lamb, the side is playing without passion and injuries have robbed them of the core of their senior players. Halfway hero: Robbie Mears - the hooker was thrown a lifeline by the club and has consistently been among their best.
NORTHERN EAGLES Current Position: 8th Predicted finish at end of regular season: 12th Positives: The Eagles have discovered a host of youngsters who could form the backbone of a good side in seasons to come. Brookvale Oval is once again a fortress, now all they have to do is decide whether it's their permanent home. Negatives: Uncertainty - over the club's future home, name and playing staff. The Eagles need to win back supporters they've lost through some ill-fated decisions. Halfway hero: Steve Menzies - has been the best player week in-week out for the Eagles.
CANBERRA Current Position: 9th Predicted finish at end of regular season: 10th Positives: An early-season change of ownership has guaranteed the club's future and coach Matthew Elliott is starting to get results with his young side. Negatives: The Raiders need to tie up halfback Brett Finch, who is off contract at the end of the season. They also need to start wooing back the Canberra faithful stolen by rugby's Brumbies. Halfway hero: Clinton Schifcofske - dropped by Queensland but has never let the Raiders down.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA Current Position: 10th Predicted finish at end of regular season: 8th Positives: A side full of quality, with Trent Barrett, Shaun Timmins, Jason Ryles and Mark Gasnier among the best players in the game. If coach Andrew Farrar can get them to click, the finals are still beckoning. Negatives: The club is still searching for a halfback despite Willie Peters having his best season since joining the club. The sudden departure of Nathan Blacklock deprives the Dragons of a try-scoring machine. Halfway hero: Timmins - has been an inspiration since returning from a career-threatening knee injury.
MELBOURNE Current Position: 11th Predicted finish at end of regular season: 11th Positives: There haven't been many in recent weeks. Only the form of Scott Hill has saved the Storm from an embarrassing season, but at least he's fit and firing. Negatives: The Storm can't seem to avoid controversy. From the axing of Robbie Kearns as captain to the club's continuing problems with referees and the league, this season promises to be one Melbourne fans will want to forget. Halfway hero: Hill - The Storm will only go as far as he can take them.
CRONULLA SHARKS Current Position: 12th Predicted finish at end of regular season: 7th Positives: At one stage lost seven in a row, but remain in touch with the top eight. The cavalry has now arrived for the Sharks and halfback Brett Kimmorley is regaining the touch that once made him the Test halfback. Negatives: The Sharks run of outs mean the top four is out of the question. Coach Chris Anderson also has plenty of work to do to win back the Cronulla faithful, who have lambasted him for limited use of Preston Campbell. Halfway hero: Kimmorley - is still the No.2 halfback in rugby league.
PENRITH Current Position: 13th Predicted finish at end of regular season: 9th Positives: The Panthers are building something special out west, with chief executive Shane Richardson and coach John Lang grooming a winning culture despite eight straight losses to open the season. Negatives: It seems funny to say, but there haven't been a lot of negatives at the Panthers despite a poor start to the season. This is a club on the way up. Halfway hero: Luke Lewis - young star who's shown a nose for the tryline.
SOUTH SYDNEY Current Position: 14th Predicted finish at end of regular season: 14th Positives: No matter where they finish this season, the Rabbitohs will be there next year. That's the one comfort Souths fans can take out of their club's plight. Negatives: The momentum the club took into the season continues to be eroded with each loss. The Rabbitohs need to find a halfback quick smart. Halfway hero: Paul Stringer - Souths prop has been outstanding and must be pressing for representative honours.
NORTH QUEENSLAND Current Position: 15th Predicted finish at end of regular season: 15th Positives: The Cowboys have a good crew of young players and coach Graham Murray looks like he can finally bring out their potential. North Queensland is hopeful a re-built club will bring the fans back. Negatives: The Cowboys remain inconsistent and that's the price you pay with young players. The retirement of Tim Brasher and ongoing injuries to captain Paul Bowman have robbed North Queensland of experience. Halfway hero: Matt Bowen - the diminutive fullback is one of the game's excitement machines.