It’s almost that great time of year when the finals are here and beyond that, teams are preparing for the Koori Knockout.
But what stood out for me from the weekend’s NRL just gone is that the Tigers can make the eight and the Dragons are going to struggle.
The Dragons – they look burned out and they look tired. I don’t know whether the Origin season has taken its toll on these guys but the Eels came out and just wiped them off the park.
It's a Tough Competition
On the ladder positions, it should have been a much different tale, but the thing about the competition this year is that every team that plays in the competition, they’re all strong.
Everyone in the bottom eight can beat anyone in the top eight. It just comes down to being prepared and being smart with their body and possibly taking a leaf out of the Melbourne Storm’s book.
The last 10 years they’ve played in six or seven grand finals. Whatever they’re doing is working. But the competition’s that strong that it doesn’t matter where you are on the table, you can be beaten and we’ve seen that on the weekend and we see it almost every week.
The Melbourne Storm this year, they’ve had a few slipups lately but they’ll be there come the pointy end - they’ll contend again. The Storm, Roosters, Rabbitohs or Cronulla look like they will win the comp.
The Storm, Roosters, Rabbitohs or Cronulla look like they will win the comp.
Again this week the coaching scenario was chaos and it goes back to an article I wrote last year; contracts are null and void, they’re a bit like toilet paper. They’re weak as toilet paper and they don’t really stand for anything anymore.
It’s frustrating for a lot of people but it’s just a part of the game and a part of the culture now. You coach well, other teams will poach ya. You play well, other teams will offer you more money.
Coaches also probably don’t demand the same respect they used to. Probably only Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett do, but that’s about it.
Tigers Clawing for the Eight
With a few more rounds, the top eight remains fairly set, but if the Tigers win this weekend against the Dragons and one of those seventh or eighth-placed clubs lose, the Tigers will come into the eight.
And although I thought the top eight was set, the Tigers have come out and under adversity they beat the Raiders in Canberra.
I think the controversy regarding Penrith’s vacant coaching position and speculation linking Ivan Cleary to a possible return to the Panthers will bring the Tigers together.
Cleary came out on Saturday and was pretty stern in dismissing the rumours and confirming his loyalty to the Tigers and I think that’ll bind them together. It certainly helped them on Sunday and Wests Tigers, if they make the top eight, they’re gonna beat some teams.
They can certainly cause a stir. They won’t win the comp, but they can knock a few off.
They won’t win the comp, but they can knock a few off.
What makes them so dangerous is they’ve just got a lot of football in them and if you are playing semi-final football, you don’t want to be playing against Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall. They’ve done it all before.
Late Season Injuries
Injuries are playing a big part at this time of the year too, which give a lot of young kids or fringe players a chance to show what they’re made of.
But Gareth Widdop’s got a season-ending injury – he popped his shoulder. Basically the Dragons are gone.
Clint Gutherson, I know that Parra’s struggling but he’s come back from major knee surgery and he’s going well, but it looks like he’s out for the season after injuring his shoulder in the same game as Widdop.
Ryan Hoffman’s retiring this year and he tore his hamstring. So he’s gone for the season.
So we’re starting to see a lot of injuries at this end of the season. Teams can be injury free and if they get in the top eight, they can give themselves an opportunity.
But it’s that time, in a long season, players’ bodies have taken their hits.
Some teams are collapsing and some teams are rising, but it’s hard to ignore all of the injuries at this point in the year.
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Owen Craigie is a Gamilaroi man and former NRL star. Owen has played for the Newcastle Knights, Wests Tigers and South Sydney Rabbitohs. He is co-host of NITV's weekly Rugby League panel program, Over The Black Dot.