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They are a forgotten trio and betting has been suspended on their premiership chances. However, there will still be plenty of pride on the line in the final few rounds for those at the wrong end of the table.
The Manly Sea Eagles (18 Pts -167), New Zealand Warriors (16 Pts -186) and South Sydney Rabbitohs (15 Pts -289) are locked in a three way battle to avoid the game?s most unwanted prize, the wooden spoon. Parramatta?s 44-22 win over the Sharks appears to have put them out of the running unless something bizarre happens. Brian Smith is under enough pressure already with the Eels more than likely to miss out on the eight for the second straight season.
I have listed the run home for the bottom three teams and what a wooden spoon could mean for the clubs and their supporters.
13th- Manly Sea Eagles (18 Pts -167)
Rabbitohs (North Sydney Oval), Dragons (Oki Jubilee), Storm (Brookvale).
Last Sunday?s 48-10 thrashing of Newcastle will have many Manly fans thinking the club is safe from the threat of it?s first ever wooden spoon. However a loss to South Sydney and a Warriors win at Parramatta this weekend could again see nerves raised on the peninsula. Manly fans proudly boast that their club hasn?t ever gained the wooden spoon in their 57 year history, so with not much to cheer about for several years now, they?ll desperately want to hang on to some of their pride.
14th- New Zealand Warriors (16 Pts -186)
Eels (Parramatta), Roosters (Ericsson), Bulldogs (Ericsson).
In my opinion the New Zealand Warriors out of all the wooden spoon contenders can least afford to claim the ?prize?. The Warriors have been arguably the season?s biggest under performers. Their current home crowd average of 10,411 is also well down on recent seasons. The Warriors have been playing with more spirit lately but continue to lose through a combination of poor handling and poor organisation. A wooden spoon could drive away more support and make it all the more difficult for the Warriors to re-build in 2005, even with star recruits Steven Price and Ruben Wiki.
15th- South Sydney Rabbitohs (15 Pts -289)
Sea Eagles (North Sydney Oval), Broncos (Aussie), Raiders (Canberra).
The ?bunnies? are a sentimental favourite for a good portion of the NRL?s supporters. When the wooden spoon topic is raised, most people I?ve talked to say they?d prefer that Souths didn?t get it this time. Unfortunately sympathy votes don?t win football games. While Souths deserve credit for their improved showings under Arthur Kitinas in the second half of the season, they have to beat Manly this weekend or they are highly likely to retain the wooden spoon. North Sydney Oval is the ?neutral? venue for this Sunday?s clash against the Sea Eagles and one thing the green and reds can count on is crowd favouritism from any ex Bears fans.
Wooden Spoon Prediction: Sorry Souths fans, but I can?t go past the Rabbitohs, as much as Manly or the Warriors might deserve it for their abysmal seasons.
The wooden spoon won?t help South Sydney?s cause in trying to re-build themselves into a Rugby League force, but CEO Shane Richardson has a proven record of turning struggling clubs around. Penrith finished 12th in their first season with him (2002), but surprised everyone by taking out the premiership in 2003. So who knows, 2005 could be the year when South Sydney finally turn their fortunes around.
Michael Allen Freelance Journalist [email protected]