NRL Recap – Round 23, 2018

News came through yesterday that the All-Stars game is going to change from an Indigenous against the World format to an Indigenous Australia vs Maori NZ game. All I can say in response is, “Finally.” It makes a decision over who to support much more straightforward, allowing for some emotional investment in the game that’s been missing in the past.

Now if there’s a way to ensure some diversity in the commentators, so we don’t have to listen to the same old tired points of view, and the NRL might just be on to something. If the players turn up for it, as Beetson did in 1980, over time it may well build into something Origin-like. Commercially, it’s a winner. Just think of the jerseys. The All-Stars game is now a much easier sell for New Zealand. The real beauty is that, much as the NRL currently flogs off one of the Origin games to Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and elsewhere, they can sell the hosting rights to the All-Stars game to smaller areas, e.g. Newcastle, Townsville or Hamilton, where the stadiums aren’t big enough for Origin but the sport can still offer an appropriately scaled showpiece match in exchange for taxpayer dollars. I imagine something similar might happen with women’s Origin.

It’s a brave new world of relatively smart decision making. Just need the powers that be to organise a decent end of season Test/s and we may be able to make a fist of this rugby league thing without folding a bunch of Sydney clubs.

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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Normally, you’d think with two games to go and the top three teams on fifteen wins each, the minor premiership will probably go to, or even be split by, teams finishing on seventeen wins. The reality is that none of the forthcoming games are certainties:

  • Storm: at Titans, v Panthers
  • Roosters: v Broncos, at Eels
  • Rabbitohs: at Raiders, v Tigers

If I was a betting man, I’d be more confident that the Storm are going to ride roughshod over the Titans and Panthers than the Roosters will beat the Broncos or the Rabbitohs doubling up their wins, given that they lost to the Tigers only a few weeks ago.

The Stocky doesn’t really help much in projecting who might be the ultimate minor premier primarily because it’s still thinking about awarding part wins based on probabilities (and we don’t have much of a sample size left to draw on) and secondarily because it doesn’t deal with for and against, which is likely to be a factor. The Power Index is currently projecting one more win for each of our triumvirate but that’s mostly fence sitting.

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There’s two rounds left to play, so perhaps it would be wise to wait until the end of the season to really get into the finals headspace. Our two contenders this week are the Roosters and the Storm to go all the way to the premiership. There’s about a 50-50 chance at least one of them will feature in the grand final.

We see that Souths have fallen off in form, a reflection of their last couple of poor rounds of results, primarily due to injuries in the back line. Their comparatively low premiership odds is a reflection of the idea that they will lose their qualifying final to the Roosters before being eliminated by the much stronger Sharks in the semis.

Considering the Dragons don’t have to play a first week elimination final, being pegged at the same premiership level as the Warriors and only slightly ahead of the Broncos does not inspire confidence.

Hope

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The only team mathematically capable of making the finals on number of wins is the Tigers. Every other top eight team has enough wins to make their own case but Wests will need to win their next two games and for either Brisbane or New Zealand to lose both of their next two to have the thirteen wins required to get into the top eight.

Points difference is not the Tigers’ friend with the Broncos on +10, Warriors +1 and the Tigers -44. Two convincing Tigers wins and two convincing Broncos/Warriors losses might be enough to swing that but it is an extremely tall order.

Otherwise, the Eels have strung together enough good results recently to give the embattled Parramattariat something to look forward to next season. Then again, a semi finals appearance and a top four finish last season gave them something to look forward to this year and now the Eels are fighting to avoid the wooden spoon. Then again again, Souths finished atop the Hope Index last season and may well win the premiership this year.

Panic

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This week’s game between Parramatta and North Queensland should settle the spoon for 2018. The Eels face the Roosters in their final week, which you would assume will go to the boys from Bondi but their form has been as inconsistent as everyone else’s this season. The Cowboys are a good chance of sending Thurston off with a win against the Titans on the Gold Coast, so even this week’s fixture will not be totally decisive.

Manly and Canterbury, both on seven wins, can still conceivably finish last. It will require some significant beatings to be handed out to get their points difference below the loser of the Eels-Cowboys spoon-a-palooza. Conceivably, if the Eels narrowly win the spoon bowl, manage a respectable loss to the Roosters and the Cowboys go on to thrash the Titans and Manly/Canterbury cop 50+ floggings from Tigers/Broncos for the Sea Eagles or Dragons/Sharks for the Bulldogs then it’s game on.

Fortune

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Disappointment

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Intrust Super Cup Results

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In an NRL round defined by upsets, there were two even bigger ones in the Queensland Cup with both Mackay and Central Queensland recording wins on the same weekend. The Capras can still play spoiler this weekend in the final round.

The Dolphins are on top of the ladder, clear by a single point over the Bears. Burleigh are the only team left that can displace the Dolphins in the minor premiership. They need to beat the Tigers and have the Dolphins lose to the Falcons for the minor premiership to go to the Gold Coast. There’s no other scenario to prevent it from going to Redcliffe. Based on form ratings, I have a Burleigh minor premiership at roughly 12% (or $8.30 if you’re so inclined).

The finals places are more or less wrapped up with only Ipswich, for all the crap I’ve given them, being in a position to still make the top six. The Jets are 29 points difference behind the Pride and only one behind the Hunters but one win adrift. A loss for either Northern (against Tweed) or PNG (against Central Queensland) and a win for Ipswich (over Norths) could see the Jets make the top six if scorelines go the right way. There’s a one in three chance the results could come up for the green and golds but scorelines will be vital.

Norths (1-4 over their last five), Souths Logan (0-5) and Sunshine Coast (2-3) have had fairly disastrous runs to the finish and are now out of contention. In fact, the Magpies currently have the same number of wins as both Seagulls clubs, which is embarrassing considering they were top four for most of the year. Fitness seems to me to be a big issue at Davies Park, e.g. should have beaten Norths but didn’t because no one had any gas left to take advantage of the opportunities presented in the last fifteen, lost in the last minute against Easts on the weekend, terrible finish to the season after a strong start.