With the first Maori versus Indigenous All-stars game and another edition of the World Club Challenge in the history books, our attention turns to the NRL season ahead.
As with last year, I’m going to do a SWOP – Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Prospect – analysis for each team. My general philosophy for judging a team’s prospects is that where a team finishes on the ladder the previous year is a more or less accurate reflection of their level, give or take a win or two. If no changes are made, we should see a similar performance if the season was repeated. There are exceptions, e.g. the Raiders pathological inability to close out a game should be relatively easy to fix and the Knights’ managed maybe two convincing wins in 2018 but still finished eleventh, but broadly, if a team finishes with seven wins and they hope to improve to thirteen and make the finals, then we should look at what significant changes have been made in order to make that leap up the table.
Last year’s Rugby League World Cup introduced the sport to a lot of new potential fans around the world. If anyone in rugby league administration could see past their nose, they’d be trying to win over these new converts to the game’s top competition: the National Rugby League.
The 2018 season starts this week and if you’re new to the sport, trying to navigate the franchises and understanding why nine teams are based in Sydney can be an arduous task, doubly so if you’re American. I’m here to help by giving you a small overview of each team, just like you guys did for us.
If you need a wider perspective, check out the Complete History of the NRL and the Complete History of the NRL (nerd edition).
The only thing more reliable than March bringing rugby league back is the slew of season previews that each and every media outlet feels the need to produce. I’m no different in this regard and here is what is likely to be the longest post I’ve ever compiled.
This year’s season preview takes a look at each team and is a mix of my usual statistics, a bit of SWOT analysis and some good old fashioned taking a wild punt and hoping it’ll make you look wise come October.
(A SWOT analysis is where you look at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. There’s only one threat in the NRL, and that’s the other fifteen teams, so it’s more of a SWO analysis)
We tend to think of the North Queensland Cowboys as an indisputable top team but in doing this, we forget just how crap they were when they first started out in 1995. The Cowboys joined the ARL as an expansion team at the same time as the Warriors, South Queensland Crushers and Western Reds. Only two of those teams survive today and it was tricky going as the Cowboys established themselves and searched for acceptance in the early days. Eventually, North Queensland built a following in regional Queensland, particularly around their home in Townsville, and their rivalry with the intrastate Brisbane Broncos is one of the most fiercely contested in the NRL.
Since superstar halfback Johnathan Thurston has came to the helm, the Cowboys have strung together a series of finals appearances as good as any team in the league, featuring every year since 2011. Their zenith was reached in 2015 when North Queensland won their first premiership, twenty years after their founding, beating the Broncos in golden point.
With the conclusion of round 14, it’s just over half time in the 2017 NRL season. It’s the ideal time to do what everyone else is doing and look back at the season so far. This week we’re looking at the back half of the NRL.
Part I, from Brisbane to Newcastle, was last week.
A reminder of the benchmarks that define each place on the ladder –
And where grand finalists and premiers come from on the ladder –