The NRL ladder is congested and we are now starting the run down the stretch to the playoffs. Who will make it? Who will miss out? The Budge Power Index tries to make sense of it all, factoring in the draw, possible returns to form or drop offs and the like.
Forget them, they’re done
16 Knights (16th, 14 points)
15 Tigers (15th, 14 points)
14 Titans (14th, 16 points)
13 Eels (12th, 18 points)
These teams are done. No way back from here. The Knights and Tigers will fight each other to avoid the wooden spoon. Gold Coast’s disappointing year looks to be over after a limp showing against Manly on Monday night. They’ve shown some character this year but the wheels could fall off quickly here. The Eels are a different beast at Pirtek Stadium but they just don’t have enough games left at the venue.
All but gone
12 Sea Eagles (13th, 16 points)
11 Panthers (11th, 18 points)
Manly just won’t go away. They have a tough run in and should struggle but this is a side that has incredible self-belief and a winning attitude. They should be out of it by now but are showing just enough of late to make me thing there is a possibility they go on a run and sneak in the back door. I can’t recall a side being decimated like Penrith has two seasons in a row. It happened towards the second half last season and didn’t prevent them from a playoffs spot but the whole of 2015 has been impacted. They showed they’re capable a fortnight ago against the Rabbitohs and will get some key players returning in the coming weeks but it might be too late by then.
Scrapping for the back-end of playoffs
10 Sharks (9th, 20 points)
9 Dragons (7th, 20 points)
8 Raiders (10th, 18 points)
7 Warriors (4th, 22 points)
6 Storm (6th, 20 points)
The Storm and Dragons are hoping to hold on to spots earned in the first half of the year. Melbourne will be better for having come through the difficult State of Origin period but they won’t have Billy Slater until next year. The Dragons are in free fall at the moment and need desperately to get a win and a shot in confidence that the first half wasn’t a mirage. Canberra can match the best teams on their day but need to eliminate the too frequent “off days” they seem to be plagued by. A favourable draw will help, though home games haven’t translated into wins this season for the Green Machine. On current form, I have them making the top eight but an upset loss along the way would end it. Cronulla has turned around a slow start to being playing consistent footy. They are a solid defensive outfit that frustrates sides into errors and in Jack Bird, Ben Barba and Valentine Holmes, the Sharks finally have some match-winners. They are a smoky to sneak in and could provide nuisance value should they play into September. I have them missing out narrowly but an upset win over a top five side changes all of that. The Warriors appear to have turned the corner with some strong recent form. They have found themselves in this same position in each of the past couple of years only to fall over in the final few weeks. This side seems to have a little more about it but I don’t see a top four placing as realistic.
Should be contenders
5 Bulldogs (8th, 20points)
4 Rabbitohs (5th, 22 points)
The Bulldogs have not been able to put the same side on the field consistently this year due to injury and Origin selection. I like this team and think they will make the top eight. From there, anything is possible as they demonstrated last year, going all the way to the grand final. The Rabbitohs are the defending premiers and are just struggling for their best form this year. Injuries have certainly played a part but they have class throughout their line-up and you figure they’ll find their touch before the season is done.
3 Broncos (1st, 30 points)
2 Roosters (3rd, 24 points)
1 Cowboys (2nd, 28 points)
The Roosters look ominous. Mitchell Pearce and co will be reeling from the NSW performance and he just looks more at home in a Roosters uniform, where his form hasn’t been questioned. They have the ability to hit a level no other side in this competition can match and they have a decent base from which to try and find that now. The Broncos have been the mark of consistency and have come through the troublesome Origin period with flying colours. There is enough in their attack now to safely assume they have as good as chance as any from this point on. The Cowboys are my pick to win it all. The pack carries them forward, they have X-factor in Jason Taumalolo, role players like Kane Linnett and Gavin Cooper, a game-breaker like Jake Granville and a fella called Johnathan Thurston, who might be in career-best form. That being a career that will surely result in him becoming a future immortal.
This piece will serve as discussion on Radio Sport’s The Vox with Kent Johns midday-4pm today.
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