NRL Recap – Round 20, 2018

We’ve been talked at a lot about refereeing shockers but the media have been having some serious howlers of late. Here’s a selection of some recent headlines from Fox League:

  • ‘Courting disaster’: Experts unload on Widdop’s new hairdo
  • ‘Get rid of touch judges’: Elias’ big call after refereeing shocker
  • It has been described as one of the worst refereeing howlers in the history of the game… and it has cost the @RaidersCanberra their season.

Then there’s The Roar which, in between really good thinkpieces and standard coverage of, you know, the actual sport, will offer you any angle you like:

  • Referees boss admits Bunker got O’Sullivan try call wrong
  • Why the O’Sullivan try decision was correct (and how the referees boss got it wrong)
  • Bring in Gould to fix the refereeing mess
  • Do we care about the health and wellbeing of our referees?

And, while I’ve normally got a bit of time for Tim Gore, I can’t let The great integrity of Paul Gallen go without being included. People who stick to their own moral code with no reference to the world around them are generally referred to as psychopaths, not held up as beacons of integrity. Bending a word past its breaking point is not a useful contribution to the discourse.

Meanwhile, we have the NRL’s official website reporting that a Test will go ahead between Tonga and Australia in New York, except no one bothered to ask if the promoter had any money before going to press. Now that it’s been more or less killed, no one will ask why or what happened or if there’s anything we could do to get it back on track.

And that’s before we get the absolute self-serving agenda-driven dreck served up by Andrew Webster in the Ninefax papers over the weekend:

I haven’t even got to the commentators, the crisis merchants and the has-beens serving up rants that are about as well-reasoned as a three year old chucking a tantrum and whatever the fuck this is:

This is just getting embarrassing now.

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Results

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Indices

The ladder doesn’t tell the whole story. Sometimes, we can see other things – like hope, luck and disappointment – in the statistics. That’s what why we have the Indices.

Don’t get what you’re looking at? See the primer.

Power

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A loss to the Tigers and a narrow win over Parramatta mean that Souths is not as highly rated as Melbourne. Even though both sit on 14-6 records, the Storm are nearly twice as likely (and almost evens against the entire comp) to win the minor premiership. Sydney have leapfrogged their bitterest rivals thanks to superior points diff and remain an outside threat for a late charge to the top of the ladder.

Otherwise, the Power Index is pretty much looking like the ladder.

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I’m having flashbacks to 2017 when the Storm’s premiership chances slowly mounted towards 100% and there was nothing the rest of the league could do about it. This year is looking mighty similar and the conveniently timed end of the refereeing crackdown is looking like a major factor in the renaissance that Sydney and Melbourne are enjoying. Consequently, the Roosters and Storm are our main contenders. The Rabbitohs and Sharks are outsiders and the rest will need to knock over a few massive wins between now and the finals if they are to stand a realistic chance.

If you wanted my opinion, I am bravely – like everyone else – looking… well, not forward, but to a Roosters v Storm grand final. Souths and Brisbane or Cronulla will be bowing out at the prelims and the Warriors will be bowing out first week with whoever loses Brisbane v Cronulla, which I find hard to call right now.

Hope

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It’s perhaps a big tick for the NRL that the recent draw has been so balanced for so many teams. There’s an unusually high number of ‘medium’ degrees of difficulty whereas we’d normally expect a few more highs and lows.

The Storm, Broncos and Roosters top the Hope Index which, given these are the three most hated clubs, will probably rankle a few readers. You can’t deny the recent turnaround in form and when only six teams have won more than 40% of their last five games, there’s an unusual divergence forming in the league as we head into August.

(Weekly reminder that the finals chances are based on wins, not points difference)

Panic

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After a week where all the contenders were briefly equal on wins, the Cowboys and the Bulldogs snagged wins to kick clear of the Eels yet again. Manly failed to win which, interestingly, drags them down into the spoon race. We have them at a one-in-five chance of getting their first spoon since entering the premiership in 1947. Of course, Parra still lead the way and are about as likely to finish last as the Storm are to finish first.

Like the premiership was a few weeks ago, the wooden spoon race is attention-grabbingly open.

Fortune

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Disappointment

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With only five rounds remaining, we can start to guesstimate which teams are going to have disappointing, or not disappointing, seasons. I would say that the Storm are potentially capable of winning four of their last five given their form and the Broncos may even win three of their last five. Any teams above that, including the Dogs, Eels, Eagles and Cowboys, are absolutely going to fall short, with not enough games remaining, but really the only team below that might not meet their target is the Titans if they can’t quite win two of their last five. They will join the Knights, Warriors, Rabbitohs and Dragons in having not disappointing seasons.

Intrust Super Cup Results

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I said both Souths and Norths look cooked and they now sit eighth and ninth on the ladder, disappearing from the view of our little recap window. The Devils are at least behind on points difference, the Magpies are a win off the pace and still have to face the Hunters, the Bears and the Tigers over the next three weeks.

This week, the Tigers, Falcons and Hunters all managed wins, varying in degree from extremely narrow for the Sunny Coast to extremely emphatic for Easts. The late charge from teams that would normally be regular contenders throws yet another curveball into the mix of what has already been a tough and tight season.

Losses for second through fourth have seen the Blackhawks emerge as the sole contender for the minor premiership. I still think the Dolphins can give them a run for their money late into the finals but I’m not sure the Bears will be consistent enough to be there in the final weeks. The Tigers are a wildcard, coming into some massive form (just one rating point behind Townsville after struggling for most of the season) right at the death.