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Featured post

Running Update – I’m a Marathoner

The Short Version

My last blog about running was in July and I was about to toe the line at the Gold Coast Marathon. My first ever marathon. I finished in 5:11:48. Not the sub-4:30 I was hoping for but after suffering severe cramps I was just happy to finish.

My final goal was to run a sub-80 minute City2Surf. And I smashed it. Finishing in a time of 1:17:50.

The Long Version

In January I tweeted out this:

2022 Goals

In My Marathon Journey I wrote about my journey up to the start of the Gold Coast Marathon. So I won’t go over too much of that. If you don’t know where I’ve come from it was quite a trip. I was basically weighing 140kg, felt like crap and had to make a change. Through a more balanced diet and regular exercise I dropped a few kilos and increased my fitness. I finished the Hawks Nest Triathlon with cramps, but I did finish. And I ran a strong first Half Marathon.

Gold Coast Marathon

I was aiming for a 4:25 marathon. I had a really good plan. The course is basically flat which made planning my pacing strategy easy. All I had to do was run 42 x 6:13 kms and I’d have my time. That all sounds too simple right? But it kinda checks out. Just get on the road, get into a groove, switch your brain off and cruise. And through 22km I did exactly that.

Gold Coast Marathon Start

We tacked on a family holiday to my marathon race and that included Ben and Thomas running the kids 2km fun run on the Saturday. Gold Coast Marathon is a full weekend affair. A lot of marathon festivals will run all their races on the Sunday. But Gold Coast use both days. On the Saturday they run the Half Marathon as well as the 2km and 4km Junior Dash and the 5km Fun Run. On Sunday is the Marathon and 10km running and wheelchair events. Our hotel was on the course at the 9km and 22km marks. Which I meant I was able to say hi to the family as I ran past. Getting in a couple of high fives along the way.

I was doing it really well through that second high five. The first four 5km splits were 31:26, 31:40, 31:25, 31:35. And through 21.1km I had run a half marathon time of 2:13:13 about 4 minutes faster than my SMH Half Marathon time. And right on 6:19 kms. Do it again and I’d have a 4:26 marathon. Simple.

Then it all fell apart. Pretty much straight after 22km I started feeling cramps in my thighs. I thought I might have been overcooking the run so I slowed down a little trying to get the muscles to loosen up a bit. Fixx Nutrition were the event sponsors and they have a product called CrampFix. I bought a sachet at the event expo as I had I experienced cramps before. Now was the time to test it out. It’s a horrid tasting thing. Basically a super salty, sour sachet of liquid. Kinda like pickle juice on steroids. They say the idea is to frazzle the pain receptors and reset them which will make your muscles fire correctly. They also have a really high salt content. It helped for a few km before the cramps came back. The only remedy was to slow right down. I started to walk/jog. Walking for 500m or so until the legs had recovered and then jogging at a relaxed pace until the pain got unbearable and I had to walk again. I pretty much did this dance for the next 15km of the race. Shout out to the bloke who thought an icy cold can of coke was exactly what I needed. I thanked him graciously as anything to help the legs was welcome. Around the next corner I was hunched over hurling the brown mess all over the nature strip.

In the hurt locker but putting on a brave face

The local running club had set up a hydration tent with about 7 and 3km to go on a section of out and back road. Shout out to the runner in front of me who took two cups of energy drink right before I had a chance to quech my thirst. I kept plodding along through those last 5km. By this stage I was in a group of people all in the same world of hurt I was. Everyone walk/jogging at their own pace. There was this one older lady who kept overtaking me on my walk section only for me to jog past her while she was walking. She’d gone a fair way past me with about 1km to go. Then we got back towards the race precinct and I started running. The crowd was overwhelming with support. Any marathon runner in that 5 hour group is in a world of hurt. But that crowd was so uplifting. I didn’t stop running that last km. I couldn’t. The wave of emotion of knowing I was about to finish one of the hardest things I’d ever done. Knowing the hard work had paid off and I was in the last lap. Whatever pain I endured now I could deal with after the finish line. Coming into the finishing chute I was waving my arms around like I was about to win the thing. In a sense I was winning my own battle. and as I crossed the line I clapped my hands knowing I’d done it. It was one of the proudest moments I’d ever felt.

Afterwards I caught up with Matt, another 2 Zoner, for a celebratory beer. I was at the finish line on Saturday to cheer him home in the Half Marathon and he’d delayed his departure for home to return the favour. The 2 Zoners are a great bunch of blokes who just like to run and support each other. Thanks Matty for sticking around. And the rest of you blokes for the support, footy chat and laughs.


I took a week off after the marathon before getting back into training for the City2Surf. I’d completed a few C2S in the past. I’m not sure exactly how many but it’s about 4. I’d never really trained for it. When I was in my 20s I did one but struggled to run it out suffering severe chafing. I pretty much walked the last 6km. Most recently I did a virtual City2Surf around my local area in 2021. I ran a 1:30:27 almost breaking my goal of 90 minutes. This year my goal was to break the 80 minute barrier. I kept the Zone 2 jogging up and threw in some quality speed sessions. Sprints up my local gentle hill were tough but very beneficial. I also love 1km repeats. Feels great to pump out 4 or 5 1km laps in quick time. All the hard work felt like it had paid off when I ran a 1:21 around the same virtual course a week out from the City2Surf. And I was tired from work that day. I felt confident that running fresh on a Sunday morning would be enough to get me over the line under 80 minutes.

I caught the train in and arrived very early so I could make bag drop before the trucks took off from Hyde Park to Bondi Beach. I was one of the first people hanging around in the park and it was nice just to sit there and relax watching the runners arrive in the park. There were serious runners and other running groups going through warm ups. Others were just catching up with mates. I even saw a couple of mates Ben and Josh and wished them well. Josh is elite for our age and he was hoping for some ridiculous time. I checked later and he smashed it. Ben was starting in the group behind me but is a faster runner than me so I told him to say g’day on his way past as he overtakes me.

The run went as well as I could have hoped. I’d forgotten just how hilly the first few kilometres are. The climb to Kings Cross and the old Coke sign is relatively gentle. But then through Edgecliff and Double Bay there’s some challenging little climbs before the big climb of the day Heartbreak Hill which takes you on a slightly winding climb from Rose Bay to Vaucluse. I monitored my effort up the climbs. Maintaining a steady pace without burning out too hard. And on the downhills I let gravity take over. I didn’t slow byself down much on each step, rather letting my legs go underneath me and picking up speed with each step. I overtook a lot of people on those descents. By the time I reached the top of Heartbreak Hill I had completed 7.8km of the course in a time of 43:55 for a pace of 5:38. Average goal pace for 80 minutes over 14km is 5:43/km. I was already in front of my goal pace and there was pretty much no more climbing and a hell of a lot of descending. At the top of Heartbreak I knew I was going under 80 minutes. All I had to do was not blow up over the next few kms before the long descent from North Bondi down to the beach. I cruised for a couple of kilometres to charge the batteries and when the long descent started I let my legs go and gravity did the rest. At the bottom of the hill there was still about 1500m to go. I just buried myself up Campbell Parade to the turnaround point. With 300m to go I was ready to blow up. A few people passed me in the last little bit. But I had done it. Official time 1:17:50. More than 2 minutes under my goal. I went so quick Ben finished shortly after me. He was way faster but the way they stagger starts he didn’t overtake me.

I think the 2022 City2Surf was the most satisfying race I’d ever competed in. I put in the work. Set a race strategy and executed it perfectly. It’s a great confidence booster for upcoming races.


After I recovered from Gold Coast Marathon I had a few demons to slay over the marathon distance. Cramping ruined what could have been a quick first up marathon. I’d put in the training but my body let me down. Or more accurately, my preparation and treatment of my body let me down. I had listened to a podcast about hydration strategy with Andy Blow. But I hadn’t taken on board all of the relevant information. As a known cramper I should have listened more intently. I believe what brought me unstuck was a condition known as Hyponatremia. In simple terms I took on too much water and not enough Sodium. I did the FREE Precision Hydration Online Sweat Test. After the online sweat test and a few emails back and forth from the team at Precision Hydration I had a better hydration strategy. I’m a high volume and high sodium concentration sweater. Meaning I have to pay attention to how much sodium I intake before and during long periods of exercise. What I did on the Gold Coast was exactly the opposite of goods preparation. I drank too much water thinking I had to hydrate before the marathon. But what I was actually doing was diluting the salt concentration in my blood. Setting me up for failure before the gun had even gone off.

So the plan moving forward is to eat carbs the day before, just a bowl of pasta or a pizza. Not going overboard. And to have a high sodium drink. Then the morning of the race I will have toast or porridge as usual with another high sodium drink in the half hour before the race. During the race I will drink the sports drink on offer and take sodum tabs at regular intervals. The water on course will go on the head to help cool me down. I’ll also take sachets of Precision Hydration 1500 in case of cramps as a quick fix. Each sachet has 750g of sodium to be used in 500ml of water. I’ll just add it to a cup of water on the course. This strategy should see me competing at my ability without my body failing me.

Sydney Marathon

Once I had the answer to my cramping situation I wanted to get back on the horse and go again. I signed up for the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Sydney Marathon. Sydney Marathon is a candidate to join the Abbott World Marathon Majors. That would be a great thing for running in this country attracting runners from all over the world to run around our city.

Training was going great. I stretched my long runs out to 28km practicing my new hydration strategy. I was ready. Then we played a basketball Semi Final and I rolled my ankle. We won the Semi which meant I would have had to run the marathon on the same day as our Grand Final. But with a rolled ankle there was no way I could get 42.2km. I could manage to get around the basketball court. But running was another proposition entirely. The good folk at Sydney Running Festival allowed me to roll over my entry to 2023. So that will be one of my target races next year. I’ll say more about my goal races in the future.


I took 3 weeks off from running which completely sapped me of my fitness. I think I also had a bit of a chest infection. Every test was Covid negative. But something was not right. I tried a 10km run to test my fitness and failed miserably. Then my next few easy jogs were difficult also. On Tuesday 18 October 2022 I did two easy laps of Jamison Park Penrith. 4.82km in 34:19 moving time. Not quick, and I was still struggling. But that was Day 1 of my comeback. I have jogged or run every day since then. Just forcing improvement out of me. Last night I jogged my virtual City2Surf course in Zone 2. I cruised around and I’m pretty sure it was my fastest Z2 time for the course. I say pretty sure because my Strava subscription lapsed a little while ago and I haven’t had the chance to renew yet. But I am most definitely back. Today’s easy jog will be day 18 of a running streak. All I aim to do is either 30 minutes or 5km every day. A quick 5km will slip under 30 minutes. But as long as I reach one of those benchmarks the streak is still on. Who knows how long I can keep it going for? But if I make it to the new year I’ll be on 75 days.

I’ll be back in a while with an update and my plans for 2023.

Featured post

My Marathon Journey

The Short Version

After Covid-19 lockdowns and eating porridge every morning my weight ballooned to 138kg. I needed to do something. I ate healthier, I started cycling again, and then I took up running. A bloke on Twitter called Bogues got me onto Zone 2 training. Then I entered a few races including the Virtual City2Surf with Melina, Hawks Nest Sprint Triathlon with Neil and Jenn and the SMH Half Marathon. Now I’m a few days away from toeing the line for my first marathon on the Gold Coast.

Josh’s GCM Donation Page for PanKind

The Long Version

In the last few months I’ve joked on Bats and Balls Podcast that the show has become more about sim racing and running than about NRL, AFL, and other sports. In part that’s because our lives have drifted that way. I can’t speak for The Producer and the fun he’s having playing GT7 but I can speak to the influence running and fitness in general have had on my life in the last year. 

Since my teenage years I was always heavy. But as a teenager I was super fit. I left school at 100kg playing hours of basketball every day. I could dunk in Year 12. The following year I was in the Army and during Infantry School I ran an 18:30 5k at 105kg. That was probably the fittest I’ve ever been. I only did one year full time Army. Since then my weight has fluctuated even though I have consistently played sport. Basketball, cricket, soccer, I even played two seasons of Aussie Rules. More recently I have played Masters of Rugby League and I still play Basketball. But throughout that I also ate and drank a lot. And playing park level sport doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stay in peak physical fitness to be competitive.

Fast forward to 2021. Like half the population I’d spent my disposable income on a new bike because what else could we do with it? But after lockdowns and eating porridge for breakfast every morning, the bike was gathering dust in the garage after a few rides here and there.

3 April 2021

I stepped on the scales and it read 138.15kg. I’d been heavier. At one point I had blown out to 143kg before a concerted effort on the Man Shakes brought me back into line. But this time I drew the line at 138. I was feeling lethargic and just generally in a bad way physically and mentally.

The last time I weighted 138kg

The next day was Easter Sunday and I took the kids to Wylde MTB Park. Just played around on the pump track but it felt good to get the legs moving again after so long. The day after I went with Brendan and Erik to the Easter Monday game between Parramatta and Wests Tigers. Two days into this latest health kick I was keen to make a change. We parked for free far from Stadium Australia and I made the boys walk there with me. Then instead of the standard pie and sauce I had a Vegan Rainbow Bowl. Blody tasty stuff. I was away. But the exercise didn’t come quite as quick as the dietary changes.

Vegan Rainbow Bowl

I adjusted what I ate. Mostly just reduced carb intake and ate way less take away. It wasn’t a full on vegan diet or keto. I just ate less pizza and sandwiches. Dinner was often chicken breast cooked in the air fryer with broccoli and brussels sprouts. I often had Man Shake for breakfast. But none of this was hard and fast. Mostly I just made sure there were more vegetables than before. I stopped having porridge for breakfast every morning and started eating more eggs.

I began cycling again. My first ride was a 25km spin down to the M7 cycleway. That was about my limit. I noted on my Strava that I listened to Episodes 7 & 8 of FitBet Pod. It was around this time that I decided to only listen to FitBet on the bike. So every hour of cycling was equal to one hour of FitBet. And I wouldn’t let myself listen to the pod off the bike. The podcast had been going since 2018 as a $1000 bet between comedians Dilruk Jayasinha and Ben Lomas to see who could get under 100kg first. I found a lot of similarities between their stories and mine. And it was a big part of the motivation to keep going. There was a huge back catalogue so I had plenty of episodes to catch up on.

By July I had dropped around 15kg. The knees didn’t hurt as much after basketball. So I started running. My Strava calendar in July 2021 is balanced between cycling longer distances and short runs out to about 6km. I found an out and back 5km course which I used as my benchmark. 17 July 2021 – 31:39, 23 July 2021 – 32:10, 24 July 2021 – 30:54. It was around this time I posted something on Twitter and started DMing Bogues. He introduced me to the concept of Zone 2 training. I’d understood the idea of fat burning zone as exercise related to weight loss. The idea that a long fast walk was better than running fast for fat burning. But I’d never considered it for training. My first Zone 2 test resulted in 6.5km in 1 hour at 9:16/km. Turns out my HR was a little low averaging 124bpm. I started researching HR zones. That sent me down a YouTube wormhole I still haven’t emerged from. I think my ideal Zone 2 heart rate is in the range of 137-142bpm. Now I’m completely on board with training slow to run fast. If any of this sounds like something you want to try check out Phil Maffetone and give the Extramilest podcast a listen. They’re good starting points.

Then in August our suburb was locked down to exercise only 5km from home. No more long bike rides. And running in Zone 2 took on more importance. Bogues introduced me to the 2 Zoners. Just a motivational group of blokes who like to run and support each other. The Zone 2 runs continued and it was amazing how quickly my pace improved while running at the same heart rate. Not that pace matters that much when on an easy run. But I’m down around 6:25/km on my easy runs.

18 October 2021 – Virtual City2Surf

The first time I really had a chance to test out my training. The City2Surf was not run on course because of Covid-19 concerns. But you could still run a virtual race as a lot of other large runs around the world had done. Melina entered and I walked the entire course with her. She was battling to finish and I motivated her to the point of exhaustion but I was so proud when she completed the 14km walk. A few days later I ran my virtual race over the same course. I paced the race really well. Comfortably running the first 8km before slowly ramping up the pace over the final 6km. Finished the 14km in a time of 1:30:27 to earn my Virtual City2Surf finishers medal.

All of this exercise had me in a really good place mentally as well. I was so motivated that I earned a promotion at work. My first promotion in 22 years. By Boxing Day 2021 my 5km time was down to 27:33. I sold off all of my homebrew gear because I really don’t drink that much these days. That was a hobby I poured my heart into for a long time. I won awards at the national competition. But I just didn’t feel motivated to brew anymore. So I moved all my gear on to brewers still keen on the process. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a bath beer every now and then. But I drink way less than I used to. And that is a healthy thing.

March 19 2022 – Hawks Nest Triathlon.

Training progressed well and my mate Neil asked if I wanted to enter a triathlon. I’d never done one before but I entered the Sprint distance with Neil. Jenn her sister Booz and some trail running mates also entered. Jenn’s accomplishments in running over the years have been inspiring. Our suburb was out of extreme lockdowns so I could ride longer distances. I bought a used road bike off Facebook Marketplace which meant I didn’t have to ride my mountain bike with road tyres anymore. Compared to the tank of a MTB my used road bike was a sports car. Not quite the Ferrari of an Ironman bike. But a quick coupe at least. I even managed to get a couple of swims in. Though I didn’t do nearly enough swimming training. Hawks Nest Triathlon was a fun weekend in March. I stayed in the camper trailer next door to the transition area. As our Sprint distance race was the last of the day, we watched a few of the other races and soaked up the atmosphere. While I’ve swum all my life and could bob around in the surf all day I’ve never tried to swim out past the breakers. One of the turning buoys was right where the waves were forming and it took me three attempts to get around it. Then I was disorientated and wound up about 10m further out to sea than the rest of the competitors swimming in single file towards the next buoy. Eventually we turned and made it back to shore. Lungs were burning from the effort of the swim and I knew I had to settle it down a bit. I took my time in transition before heading out on the 20km bike ride. Neil was comfortably in front of me. I never expected to beat him but I did attempt to catch him or at least shorten the gap. All of that pushing on the bike had my calves pinging in the last 2km of the ride. By the 5km run I couldn’t stretch out and run at all. I basically ran the whole leg with my calves threatening to cramp at every step. But I did finish in a time of 1:42:25 with a 5km run time of 31:55. For the record, Neil finished it in 1:26:59.

with Neil after the Hawks Nest Triathlon
Jenn is a machine

May 15 2022 – SMH Half Marathon

Around the time I got talking to Bogues my ultimate goal was to run a full marathon. I think that was the basis of my first message to him. How to train for one. But one of the most significant events for me was racing the SMH Half Marathon around the streets of Sydney. I’d stretched my long runs out past 21.1km already. But I’d never run one at race pace. Always in easy training pace. The best part about racing the SMH Half was putting all the training and theory into practice in a race situation. The best lesson was race day preparation. Two weeks out from the SMH Half I ran a long run under fatigue. I was completely spent by the end of it. I had worked overnight shift and run 8km the day before. The following week I did the same run fully rested, nourished from a decent meal the day before and well hydrated. I also had my new hydration vest purchased to make long runs easier. That run was extremely confidence building with a strong last 5km just to test the legs out. I went into the SMH Half Marathon full of confidence. I set my Garmin Pace Pro strategy on my watch and ran close to my goal time of 2:10. I didn’t expect the course to be quite so hilly and that ended up slowing me down a fair bit. Looking at the results I did pace the race really well though. First half 1:06:53, Second half 1:10:17 for an overall time of 2:17:11. Of note my positions for each split: First half 5557, Second half 4686. That meant my pacing strategy worked and I could trust my training as long as I attempted an achievable pace.

SMH Half Marathon finisher

Gold Coast Marathon

All of that has led to this next chapter. I don’t say final chapter because this fitness caper has become a lifestyle rather than training for one specific goal. My training is going well. A mate once told me that if you can get a training run out to 32km then the adrenalin and crowd will get you to the finish line of a full marathon. I managed to complete 5 laps of the Nepean river walk a few weeks ago thrown in with some car key issues which had my alarm going off every lap when I went for my hydration. But I did it. And the last kilometre was the fastest of the run. So my fitness is where I need it to be to finish a marathon. Last weekend I had one last confidence building run where I ran my virtual City2Surf course of 14km attempting to maintain race pace without looking at my watch. Each km lap when the watch buzzed I checked to see how the pace was compared to my goal pace of 6:15/km. I pretty much nailed it for a large chunk of the run. And then I finished off with a quick last 2km home and the legs had plenty left in them. Finished the course in 1:25:12 or 5 minutes faster than the Virtual City2Surf in October 2021. And that was at marathon pace, not racing for a fast 14km. After the SMH Half I’ve decided a confidence builder the weekend before the race is my way to go.

Weather forecast is for rain and a sourtherly wind. Which means the first 16km into a headwind, followed by 21km tailwind and a final 5km push into the breeze to finish it off. I love training out and back with a headwind first followed by a tailwind. One of my favourite training runs was a long run down along Botany Bay to Georges River into the headwind with a tailwind home. I’ve downloaded the course for Gold Coast Marathon to my watch and set the Pace Pro Strategy for 4:25:00 or around 6:13/km pace. I am confident I can run the time after all my training. But I won’t be afraid of slowing down if my body isn’t feeling that pace. I’ve done the work, now it’s time to put it into practice.


You may have noticed that I haven’t even mentioned weight for most of this post. That’s because weight hasn’t really factored into my thinking since I started getting fitter. For what it’s worth I’m sitting around 110-112kg most of the time. I feel ridiculously healthy though. If I could drop a few more kilograms that might make me faster on the bike so it’s not undesirable. But weight really hasn’t been my focus for a long time. My body is definitely carrying less fat. My legs are a lot stronger. And I think more important than all of that, I’m in a really good headspace. I have a positive outlook on most things these days. Though the Parramatta Eels, GWS Giants and New York Knicks test me on a weekly basis.

If you’ve got anything out of this please consider donating to my Gold Coast Marathon donation page. I’m raising money for PanKind – The Australian Pancreatic Cancer Foundation. We lost Mum 8 years ago to Pancreatic Cancer. So it’s a charity that is close to my heart.

Josh’s GCM Donation Page for PanKind

What Next?

Maybe try an ultra in the bush. Almost certainly another triathlon to slay the demons of the surf. And then, who knows?

Oaks Day Tips

Check out the selections and best bets from Pies, The Producer and guest tipster Mrs Pies.

If you have any luck, let us know on our socials

NRL Mid-Year Report Card

NRL Grades and Predictions

In episode 271 The Producer and Pies run through the mid-year report card for every NRL team.

We look at how they’ve gone so far, and then predict the future using The Producer’s own scientific method, Draw Difficulty Rating.

Draw Difficulty Rating gives the team coming first 16 points, second 15 points, down to last 1 point. Then we add up the scores for each opponent for the rest of the season.

Draw Difficulty Ratings (Easiest to Hardest) for the rest of the 2021 season
1 – 68 – Cronulla Sharks (11 games left)
2 – 69 – Newcastle (10)
3 – 78 – New Zealand Warriors (11)
4 – 82 – Manly Sea Eagles (11)
5 – 82 – Brisbane Broncos (10)
6 – 83 – Wests Tigers (10)
7 – 87 – South Sydney Rabbitohs (11)
8 – 89 – Melbourne Storm (10)
9 – 90 – Gold Coast Titans (10)
10 – 91 – Canterbury Bulldogs (11)
11 – 97 – North Queensland Cowboys (11)
12 – 99 – St George Illawarra Dragons
13 – 102 – Penrith Panthers (10)
14 – 104 – Canberra Raiders (11)
15 – 105 – Sydney Roosters (11)
16 – 105 – Parramatta Eels (10)

Melbourne Storm – Mid-Year Grade – A
1st (24 points, +294 differential) 12 wins – 2 losses
The run to the finals (5 Home, 5 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 89

Penrith Panthers – Mid-Year Grade – A+
2nd (24 pts, +285) 12-2
The run to the finals (5 Home, 5 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 102

Parramatta Eels – Mid-Year Grade – B+
3rd (22 pts, +176) 11-3
The run to the finals (5 Home, 5 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 105

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Mid-Year Grade – B-
4th (22 pts, +59) 10-3
The run to the finals (5 Home, 6 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 87

Sydney Roosters – Mid-Year Grade – C
5th (20 pts, +148) 9-4
The run to the finals (5 Home, 6 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 105

Manly Sea Eagles – Mid-Year Grade – B
6th (16 pts, +33) 7-6
The run to the finals (6 Home, 5 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 82

North Queensland Cowboys – Mid-Year Grade – B-
7th (14 pts, -119) 6-7
The run to the finals (5 Home, 6 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 97

St George Illawarra Dragons – Mid-Year Grade – D
8th (12 pts, -13) 6-8
The run to the finals (6 Home, 4 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 99

Cronulla Sharks – Mid-Year Grade – D
9th (12 pts, -46) 5-8
The run to the finals (5 Home, 6 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 68

Canberra Raiders – Mid-Year Grade – D-
10th (12 pts, -64) 5-8
The run to the finals (5 Home, 6 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 104

New Zealand Warriors – Mid-Year Grade – B
11th (12 pts, -66) 5-8
The run to the finals (5 Home, 6 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 78

Gold Coast Titans – Mid-Year Grade – D
12th (10 pts, -62) 5-9
The run to the finals (5 Home, 5 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 90

Wests Tigers – Mid-Year Grade – C
13th (10 pts, -82) 5-9
The run to the finals (4 Home, 6 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 83

Newcastle Knights – Mid-Year Grade – D-
14th (10 pts, -135) 5-9
The run to the finals (5 Home, 5 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 69

Brisbane Broncos – Mid-Year Grade – D
15th (6 pts, -204) 3-11
The run to the finals (7 Home, 3 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 82

Canterbury Bulldogs – Mid-Year Grade – D-
16th (6 pts, -204) 2-11
The run to the finals (6 Home, 5 Away)
Draw Difficulty Rating – 91

0:00:00 – Intro
0:07:52 – Melbourne Storm
0:11:53 – Penrith Panthers
0:19:58 – Parramatta Eels
0:26:06 – South Sydney Rabbitohs
0:29:41 – Sydney Roosters
0:35:58 – Manly Sea Eagles
0:42:16 – North Queensland Cowboys
0:46:35 – St George Illawarra Dragons
0:52:00 – Cronulla Sharks
0:57:46 – Canberra Raiders
1:00:04 – New Zealand Warriors
1:04:23 – Gold Coast Titans
1:07:53 – Wests Tigers
1:13:28 – Newcastle Knights
1:19:49 – Brisbane Broncos
1:23:36 – Canterbury Bulldogs
1:26:50 – Predictions

Hammer’s NRL Power Rankings Rounds 14 and 13

NRL Ladder predictions after round 14: Dragons crash and burn again. Cronulla’s remarkable rise.

(NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (1st) Holding. Just keep rolling on and my decision to keep them in front of Penrith on this ladder predictor has been justified as they now sit number 1 on the NRL ladder. I honestly just can’t see them getting beat, no matter who takes their spot in the starting side. Tigers are in real trouble against them next week, before my predicted Grand Final preview against the Roosters.

2. Penrith Panthers. (2nd) Holding. Back to back losses. Has the bubble burst? Time will tell. Outplayed in every department in the first half before a comeback, proving that the young blokes can match it with seasoned NRL players, but it proved too late. Roosters and Parra next will sort out their Origin issues and we’ll have to see how they come out of it.

3. Parramatta Eels. (3rd) Holding. Finished up with a great completion rate after some early dropped ball by their forwards. Opposition errors outweighed theirs and Parra were able to get on a great roll, scoring some classy tries. Back on track.

4. Sydney Roosters. (5th) Holding. Nearly blew a 26 point lead with 24 min to go. Well they did blow the lead but were classy enough to score the final try and nail the match winning field goal. A game that had everything and they keep finding a way to win, and I think that will continue into the semis.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (4th) Holding. Always had Newcastle’s mettle and I thought Mitchell had an outstanding 80 mins backing up from a great performance in Origin. As I said pre-season, their campaign hinges on him staying fit and out of trouble. Reynolds continues to perform and nail sideline goals for fun.

6. Manly Sea Eagles. (6th) Holding. After conceding a 12 point lead I thought “Here we go, no Turbo no win”. From that point on they were pretty destructive, and the Cowboys had no answers. Turbo’s return back in round 5 has sparked this team into a genuine semi-final contender and have now learnt how to play without him. Very impressive.

7. Nobody. (new entry). Nobody deserves to be playing finals footy except for the top 6 right now.

8. Nobody. Ditto the above.

=9. Cronulla Sharks. (9th) Up 3 spots. 3 on the bang now plus a bye has them in touching distance of the 8. Wouldn’t have picked that a month ago but huge kudos to them for turning it all around and knocking off the Premiership favourites (!) after a horror 7 straight losses. A great game of footy to watch.

=9. Gold Coast Titans. (12th) Down 1 spot. Continue to concede massive numbers in defence. True, it was a great comeback, (thanks to a rare sin-bin), but I’ve lost count of the number of times they’ve let in 30 points or more. Even if they do make the semis they won’t go anywhere unless they can shore up this massive problem.

=10. North Qld Cowboys. (7th) Down 1 spot. Blew a 12 point lead and ended up conceding 50. Ordinary completion rate and allowed 52 tackle breaks coupled with 13 errors. Next 2 games are winnable before facing Rabbits and Roosters. Their points differential is diabolical given they are currently inside the top 8.

=10. New Zealand Warriors. (11th) Holding. A farewell Maumalo hat-trick in the last 20 min was the only joy for the Warriors who led 2-0 after 22 min before the Storm just went bang, bang, bang. For and against will be critical for teams finishing around the bottom of the 8 and theirs isn’t crash hot at this stage. Really need to beat the Knights away next week before they face another side vying for position, the Dragons.

11. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (8th) Down 4 spots. Diabolical. Have now lost 7 from past 9, have a shocking run home and obviously have short memories. It’s a complete farce that they remain in the 8 on the NRL ladder.

12. Wests Tigers. (13th) Down 1 spot. Failed in the first test of a run against 3 of the top 5 after a great recent vein of form. Just never in it after Parra led 14-0 early. Even 2 opposition blokes in the bin didn’t assist their cause and I think they showed their true colours today. Which is a bottom 6 team.

13. Canberra Raiders. (10th) Up 1 spot. 12 point half time lead against a Broncos team that are more than struggling. Decent possession and completion rate was all they needed to do against that mob. A much needed win on the back of the bye though.

14. Newcastle Knights. (14th) Down 1 spot. Dropped a bomb first touch and never recovered after Souths scored straight away. Their slide to the depths of oblivion continues. Need to rediscover that form in the Manly game.

15. Canterbury Bulldogs. (16th) Up 1 spot. Makes you wonder why they don’t play like that every week. Great completions, excellent defence and good enough acting to fool the bunker and referees. Looking way better than the Broncos at this stage. Won’t win for a least another 4 games though.

16. Brisbane Broncos. (15th) Down 1 spot. The only realistic goal for them is to stay clear of the Bulldogs. How many halves combinations have they tried so far? Normally their best forward, Matt Lodge had a shocking first half. That was not a send off though, they are kidding. Certainly didn’t help their cause although they didn’t play too badly when down to 12.

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NRL Ladder predictions after round 13: Knights on the slide, Dragons and Tigers up a spot.

Stat of the week: Matt Dufty pulled off a perfect 10 in the old Rugby League Week ratings with 2 tries and 5 try assists in arguably his best performance in a Dragons jersey. He’s off contract and unwanted. Whose going to sign him?

(NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (2nd) Holding. Nearly lost top spot on my ladder but got the job done eventually with desperate defence against a Titans side who just couldn’t finish. Now within a game of Penrith in the fight for the minor premiership. I am stunned that Sportsbet have paid out Penrith as Minor premiers and Premiers already. Ridiculous when you have a very strong Melbourne Storm side winning 10 on the trot.

2. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Holding. I guess “great depth” only goes so deep. Burned by the Origin bug and hardly the first team in history to suffer from this. Their charge to the finals now hinges on how busted their top players are after the origin period.

3. Parramatta Eels. (3rd) Holding. Finished up with a great completion rate after some early dropped ball by their forwards. Opposition errors outweighed theirs and Parra were able to get on a great roll, scoring some classy tries. Back on track.

4. Sydney Roosters. (5th) Holding. Had the bye. Next 3 Titans, Panthers, Storm.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (4th) Holding. Had the bye. Next 3 Knights, Broncos, Tigers.

6. Manly Sea Eagles. (6th) Holding. Had the bye. Next 3 Cowboys, Titans, Bulldogs.

7. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (8th) Up 1 spot. A completely different team with returning players, notably Ravalawa who is unstoppable near the line, de Belin who gave an extra dimension to attack and, in particular, Dufty who had an absolute blinder. Conceding 24 points may be a worry, but it doesn’t matter when you score more than 50.

8. Gold Coast Titans. (12th) Down 1 spot. Started both halves really well and had every opportunity, particularly in the 2nd half, to at least take this game to golden point. Forced numerous line dropouts but couldn’t get it done, the worst example when Kelly had his winger unmarked but chose to take the advantage and came up with an error instead of a potential match levelling try.

9. North Qld Cowboys. (7th) Had the bye. Next 3 Manly, Sharks, Knights.

10. New Zealand Warriors. (9th) Had the bye. Next 3 Storm, Knights, Dragons.

11. Wests Tigers. (11th) Up 1 spot. Good enough to take advantage of the Origin-less competition leaders and have now gone back to back for the first time this season. Unfortunately for them they have Parra, Storm and Souths coming up before the bye so I expect them to slide backwards again.

12. Cronulla Sharks. (10th) Up 1 spot. Had the bye. Next 3 Panthers, Cowboys, Broncos.

13. Newcastle Knights. (14th) Down 2 spots. Crashing back to earth and ended up copping a thrashing on Old Boys Day. Too much dropped ball and that premiership 20 years ago is really a fading memory. They’ve got nothing without Pearce and Ponga.

14. Canberra Raiders. (13th) Holding. Had the bye. Next 3 Broncos, Dragons, Titans.

15. Brisbane Broncos. (15th) Holding. Albert Kelly looks really dangerous in attack but once they let Dufty score under their noses on the stroke of half time and copped a sin-binning they really lost their way and just got flogged. Again.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs. (16th) Holding. Had the bye. Next 3 Dragons, Eels, Manly.

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Hammer’s NRL Power Rankings Round 12

NRL Ladder predictions after round 12: Half way mark of the 2021 premiership. 4 points separate 6th to 14th on the actual NRL ladder hence why its difficult to move this group of teams around too much. Predictions also take into account upcoming games.

Stat of the week: 4 teams in equal 8th at the half way mark of the comp. 11 teams have an even or worse win/loss record and 10 of those teams have a negative points differential, giving weight to the argument that an 8 team semi-final series is too many.

(NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (2nd) Holding. Not missing their big name players one little bit. Just an awesome footy team and the club culture at Melbourne has been strong forever.

2. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Holding. A little flat early but an opposition error gave them a comfortable enough half time lead. Started to click in the 2nd half and their line was only broken with a couple of minutes left.

3. Parramatta Eels. (3rd) Holding. Defensive right edge exposed again as Souths ran riot down that side. Back to back losses for the first time this season. Is it time to panic? I think not, next 3 games very winnable before facing Penrith.

4. Sydney Roosters. (5th) Holding. Manu a revelation a five-eighth. Roosters continue to find coverage for missing players and quickly regrouped after the shock loss last week and a 10-0 early deficit. So difficult to move anybody in the top 5 as they all look awesome at full strength.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (4th) Holding. The season reset came pretty fast as a near full strength Rabbits look really good, particularly their backline having a field day. Have a bye coming up then 3 easy games.

6. Manly Sea Eagles. (6th) Holding. Ill discipline burst their bubble. Failed to score decent points aside from an early try, and a loose pickup from Saab. Let’s see how they cope without Turbo during the origin period, although their draw appears favourable.

7. Gold Coast Titans. (10th) Holding. Again their defence was horrible, only looked sound when down to 12 men. Unfortunately for them, their attack didn’t click much this time around, and strangely, their best period with the ball was when they were a man short.

8. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (8th) Holding. Pretty clear this club is suffering badly from injuries and suspensions as at stages it looked like these guys had never played together before. Have dropped at least 5 must win games so far this season and have lost 6 from their last 7.

9. North Qld Cowboys. (7th) Up 1 spot. Holmes and the Hammer pulled it out of the fire after establishing a great half time lead before a Warriors comeback. Into the 8 for the first time this season even though it may be temporary.

10. New Zealand Warriors. (9th) Down 1 spot. A sin-bin for a late hit was very costly in hindsight and this 1 point loss may prove costly. Defence and inconsistency still a major issue.

11. Newcastle Knights. (11th) Holding. Stop Turbo and you’ll beat Manly. That seems to be the key, although the Knights errors and their inability to score points against 12 men is a concern. Still, a great 2nd half defensive effort got them a crucial win.

12. Wests Tigers. (13th) Up 1 spot. Another sound performance in attack although a better opposition will tear their defence apart. Managed the game well, in particular, their trainer. Unsure how a player gets to remain on the field once the trainer stops the game.

13. Cronulla Sharks. (12th) Up 2 spots. Have had a great season turnaround in the last 2 weeks. The bye next, while guaranteeing 2 points, probably comes at a bad time for them, seeing they seem to have hit some great form.

14. Canberra Raiders. (14th) Down 2 spots. Again blew a great start and wound up conceding a stack of points. In hindsight, flogged again and next week’s bye will be a welcome relief. Their total points conceded this season is getting way out of hand.

15. Brisbane Broncos. (15th) Down 2 spots. Couldn’t back up their great win last week but in fairness they were playing the defending premiers and, in my opinion, this year’s favourites.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs. (16th) Holding. Looked determined and put the competition leaders under a fair bit of pressure but errors crept into their game which sealed the very predictable result.

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Hammer’s NRL Power Rankings Round 11

Round 11 NRL Ladder predictions: Storm keeping Panthers off top spot. Top 8 unchanged. 3 of last years top 8 aren’t going to make it.

Stat of the week: Ben Cummins AKA Alan Harper broke the all-time record of first grade games refereed with 394. 393 too many in my opinion.

(NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (2nd) Holding. Overcame a bad start to comprehensively beat the struggling Raiders. Not missing their spine. Not one little bit.

2. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Holding. Continue to be faultless. Unlucky not to be first on my ladder but the Storm are the defending premiers and look awesome when in adversity.

3. Parramatta Eels. (3rd) Holding. Only their 2nd loss of the season, again to a non “big 5” club. No need to panic yet.

4. Sydney Roosters. (5th) Holding. No-one saw that coming. If you put your house on them at $1.05 you’d be leaping from a top story window right now. A minor hiccup and they’ll be better for it. The big crackdown could destroy Radley’s career.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (4th) Holding. Their returning players had every right to be rusty but this flogging is a major concern. They need to reset, and fast.

6. Manly Sea Eagles. (6th) Holding. Great win powered by emotion and their fantastic season turn-around continues.

7. Gold Coast Titans. (8th) Holding. Got the job done but their current defence will not see them go far come semi-final time.

8. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (7th) Holding. Guts, grit, determination, resilience. All these things are great but they had every opportunity to ice this match and didn’t. They’ll pay for it later in the season.

9. New Zealand Warriors. (9th) Up 1 spot. Got the job done but remain as inconsistent as the Titans and, similarly, their defence is highly questionable.

10. North Qld Cowboys. (10th) Up 1 spot. Good job and on the improve.

11. Newcastle Knights. (12th) Down 2 spots. Every time I see them play the worse they get. Frizell must be wondering why he ditched the Dragons captaincy to go to a “better” team.

12. Canberra Raiders. (11th) Holding. Still sliding badly and only a massive improvement can save their season. Worlds away from the club that has been a regular feature in the finals of recent years.

13. Brisbane Broncos. (15th) Up 2 spots. What an awesome win. Only the second side this season to knock off a “big 5” club (before Manly made it 3 on Sunday). Their next match against the Storm will show how much they’ve improved.

14. Wests Tigers. (14th) Down 1 spot. Another inconsistent side. Let’s see if they can back up their recent good wins with another against the Dragons this week. Hopefully not.

15. Cronulla Sharks. (13th) Down 1 spot. Have only won 3 games this year, 2 against the Dragons. I don’t think they’ll be able to lift again.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs. (16th) Holding. Another spoon coming their way. 4 points adrift plus a huge difference in for and against means only a miracle will save that unwanted award.

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Hammer’s NRL Power Rankings Round 10

Round 10 NRL Ladder predictions: Not so Magic Round. I’ve commented little on each team given the craziness produced by the NRL’s latest experiment.

(NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (3rd) Holding. Send offs and sin-bins ruined what might have been an interesting contest. Didn’t miss their stars.

2. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Holding. Another game ruined by a send off. Crazy times.

3. Parramatta Eels. (2nd) Holding. Easy win, nice debut by Jakob Arthur.

4. Sydney Roosters. (5th) Holding. A sin-bin apiece cancelled out the advantages, led by heaps early and were never going to be run down.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (4th) Holding. Decent half time lead despite another sin-binning, and another side who weren’t ever going to get run down.

6. Manly Sea Eagles. (7th) Up 1 spot. Really on a roll now, looking good for a bottom 4 semi spot if Turbo stays fit.

7. Gold Coast Titans. (9th) Down 1 spot. Fifita missing and a send off certainly didn’t help in a game they were going to lose anyway.

8. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (6th) Up 2 spots. Played with 12 men for 68min and 11 men for 6min. Not good when playing the Storm. Not many sides would have bagged 4 tries though. Pity they let in 9. Should have led at half time.

9. Newcastle Knights. (11th) Down 1 spot. No Ponga, no win. Ruined most tippers for the round.

10. New Zealand Warriors. (10th) Down 1 spot. A game where it was 13 on 13 for 80min. Amazing. Just not good enough to match it with the top 5.

11. North Qld Cowboys. (12th) Holding. Another side who won’t match it with the top 5 this season.

12. Canberra Raiders. (8th) Up 1 spot. A gutsy performance given they were also down to 11 men for a period in the 2nd half. Questionable opposition but a crucial win if they are any hope this year. In the 8 but down on my ladder given their upcoming draw.

13. Wests Tigers. (13th) Up 1 spot. Did enough in the first half to secure a comprehensive win. Starting to turn things around but need to turn up each week.

14. Cronulla Sharks. (14th) Down 2 spots. A better performance but their season is already gone.

15. Brisbane Broncos. (15th) Holding. Ouch. If it weren’t for Canterbury they’d be pocketing another spoon. Struggling for a decent halves combination.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs. (16th) Holding. Had a huge opportunity to take down a 2020 finalist who were on struggle street but just can’t get it done.

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Hammer’s NRL Power Rankings Round 9

Round 9 NRL Ladder predictions: Dragons partially forgiven, Roosters injuries slide, Raiders in a hole, Many on the rise.

(NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (3rd) Holding. Just awesome in destroying Souths who were missing some key players. Never looked like losing and continue their defence of their premiership in great style.

2. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Up 1 spot. Finally had a comprehensive win, albeit against a side in a world of trouble. Continue their perfect record and it’s difficult to see where their first loss will be.

3. Parramatta Eels. (2nd) Up 1 spot. The round 5 home loss to the Dragons is still the only blemish on their record and did well to beat a side who never give up. Will be missing some players in the coming weeks due to poor displine.

4. Sydney Roosters. (5th) Down 2 spots. Injuries finally caught up with them, although they were always in it. When back to full strength, or close to it, they will be very hard to beat.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (4th) Holding. Comprehensively flogged. Had nothing in attack, showing how important Reynolds is to the team and equally confusing why they want to let him go. Mitchell still missing has not helped their cause.

6. Gold Coast Titans. (7th) Holding. Did enough to win against a spirited opposition. My tipping record in games involving this club is horrible.

7. Manly Sea Eagles. (9th) Up 2 spots. Have truly turned their season around and Turbo Tom is playing freakishly.

8. Newcastle Knights. (10th) Down 1 spot only due to Manly’s great form. Great comeback insipid by Ponga and should string a few in a row now.

9. New Zealand Warriors. (8th) Down 1 spot. So inconsistent but to be fair, the opposition – well their fullback at least, was on fire. Saab continues to be brilliant and horrible at the same time.

10. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (6th) Up 6 spots. A much better performance, but the opposition are very ordinary and the Dragons mistake rate is still high. A few on debut along with some inexperienced backs but got the job done. A top 5 team would have won by 50, especially given a Dogs Sin Binning, where the Dragons scored 3 tries.

11. North Qld Cowboys. (11th) Down 1 spot. Not the first time they’ve pulled off a 1 point thriller against the Broncos. Val Holmes really starting to prove his worth and I still remain confused as to why he started the season on the wing.

12. Cronulla Sharks. (13th) Holding. Woeful, terrible, a night to forget. Perhaps already looking to next season which is strange given so many off contract. Last year’s top 8 spot is a distant memory.

13. Canberra Raiders. (12th) Down 2 spots. They a really in a massive hole. Papalii stood up but he was the only one. It’s hard for any club to drop players in the current NRL climate but they need to do something radical, fast.

14. Wests Tigers. (15th) Holding. Couldn’t back up their great win last week. Probably scored enough points but unfortunately the opposition scored more.

15. Brisbane Broncos. (14th) Holding. Looking a lot better but when it mattered, they lost. Playing better and still losing won’t make you happy come seasons end.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs. (16th) Down 3 spots. Showed nothing in attack, their only points coming from a strip and an intercept. Back to the bottom 3 for them.

Hammer’s NRL Power Rankings Round 8

Round 8 NRL Ladder predictions: Dragons crash, top 5 holding, everybody else up 1 spot.

(NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (5th) Holding. Made a few first half errors and maybe had a few tippers wondering why they hadn’t taken the Sharks great record at Melbourne into account. All fears laid to rest in the second stanza, laying on 7 tries and not many goals. When they click they look unstoppable.

2. Sydney Roosters. (4th) Holding. One positive from the Roosters growing injury toll is the emergence of Sam Walker. A dead set superstar at just 18. Suaalii should definitely get a debut next week given the loss of Morris. They are ruthless when on top right now and look to do things easy. As I said in the pre-season, always find a way to cover for loss of players.

3. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Holding. A closer game than the scoreline showed, as has been the case a few times this year. Their 5th game this season against a non top 8 side from last year hence why they’re not rising to the top yet on my ladder. 2 potentially easy games coming up.

4. Parramatta Eels. (2nd) Holding. Took their foot off the pedal for only 10 min early in the 2nd half but were otherwise pretty clinical. Their last try showed how good their spine is with Mahoney to Brown to Moses, bat on by Gutherson to the ultimate finisher in Sivo. Chugging along very nicely.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs. Holding. (3rd) Hopping along well, 7 wins on the trot now. Seem to be only playing one half of footy each week but still getting the job done. Storm, Panthers and Eels amongst the next 4 games so that will really show where they are at. Benji loving the faster game and even managed to fool the bunker. Reynolds out for 4 to 6 weeks along with Mitchell will show if they’ve got depth.

6. Gold Coast Titans. (8th) Up 1 spot. If you score a stack of points early you’ll usually beat your opposition, but defence will win you premierships. It’s a bit like “Drive for show, putt for dough”. Clocked off after the first quarter and Fifita went missing in the first half. Perhaps too much on this 21yo shoulders but when he performs, so do they. Mitch Rein had his best game for a long time. Conceded 10 points thanks to a very questionable sin-binning.

7. Newcastle Knights. (11th) Up 1 spot. Best they could do was force back to back drop outs but aside from that had nothing in attack despite a huge advantage in “tackled in opposition 20” stats. Just got flogged by a hungrier team and they just lack intensity in key minutes. Stuck in a logjam with a stack of teams on 6 points, none of whom deserve to be in the 8 at the end of the season based on what we’ve seen so far.

8. New Zealand Warriors. (7th) Up 1 spot. Did enough in the first half to win. Thanks to this mob and the Titans, I’m done doing 8 leg multis.

9. Manly Sea Eagles. (10th) Up 1 spot. This is not the same team that lay down for the first 3 rounds of the competition. They can be forgiven for letting the last try in as the clock was against them. The half time rev up from Des certainly had some effect. Turbo Tom continues to eat metres, though a long range intercept try helped this stat. Couple of very winnable games coming up.

10. North Qld Cowboys. (12th) Up 1 spot. Mounted a mini comeback but 24-4 at halftime was too big a hurdle. Can look fantastic in attack but like most teams outside the top 5, too inconsistent.

11. Canberra Raiders. (9th) Up 1 spot. Pretty good in the first half and went into the break with a slim lead. 3 second half tries put them to bed though and couldn’t match it with the smarts of Souths when they had a 12 man opposition and a chance to snatch it in the last 8min. Again they conceded 30 plus points but it was against a top 5 team this time. They really must win against the Knights next week and then it gets a little easier. For a week.

12. Cronulla Sharks. (13th) Up 1 spot. Great first half, absolutely destroyed in the 2nd. Had more possession, couldn’t use it. More pain to come next week.

13. Canterbury Bulldogs. (16th) Up 1 spot. Playing a lot better than they were a few weeks back but a world away from the class of the top 5. Playing well and losing by 22 says a lot about where they are, and that is deep in the bottom 3.

14. Wests Tigers. (14th) Up 1 spot. Clearly showed they had something to play for and wanted it more than the Dragons. Big Kudos to them. Zac Cini looked really good on debut and completely outplayed his opposite number.

15. Brisbane Broncos. (15th) Up 1 spot. Looked like they were going to concede a cricket score for a while there. Did very well to grab only their 3rd win in 27 games and come back from a nightmare opening 15 min where they conceded 22 points. Another QLD derby next v Cowboys.

16. St.George Illawarra Dragons. Down 10 spots. (6th) A disgraceful performance. 44 missed tackles while only completing 67%. Scoreboard flattered them and basically soundly beaten by one of the worst teams in the comp. Ravalawa being rubbed out for 2 weeks is disastrous and it clearly showed today. The defence that had them 4 and 1 has gone missing and have now lost 2 games we shouldn’t have in the last 3 weeks.

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Hammer’s NRL Power Rankings Round 7

Round 7 NRL Ladder predictions: Top 5 starting to gap the rest. Sharks crash, Broncos and Tigers down 3. Sea Eagles and Cowboys up 4.

Stat of the week: Raiders averaging over 30 points conceded in their last 3 games.

(NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (4th) Holding. Too much class, still the best team in the comp and will go a long way defending their premiership. Let in some late tries but they were celebrating the win very early in this one.

2. Sydney Roosters. (5th) Holding. Again found the ability to cover for missing players. Once they built a 10 point lead they were impossible to stop. Continue to impress and nearly wiped out the Dragons positive for and against in one hit. Still my tip to play the Storm in the big dance.

3. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Holding. Standard win. Held the opposition at bay for 65min before the scoreline unfairly blew out. Back 3 really good this week. Still, 7 and 0, can’t do much better than that. First of 3 consecutive home games and they shouldn’t really be tested until round 11.

4. Parramatta Eels. (2nd) Up 1 spot. Highlighted the fact that the gap between the top and bottom teams is as wide as the Sydney Heads and then some. Sivo back to his best, Cartwright really arrived and the Opacic try early in the 2nd half was beautiful to watch. Dogs next then Roosters.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (3rd) Down 1 spot. Again they were under the pump early but do what Souths always do and sailed home with a near faultless 2nd half, shoring up their competition rate. Benji had a blinder, winding back the clock 15 years. Raiders next and they should continue along their merry way. Still conceded 30 points, hence the drop.

6. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (6th) Holding. Lost the game at the back end of the 1st half when they let in 2 tries while down to 12 men. Once the Roosters found their rhythm the Dragons defence had no answers. Failed to capitalise when playing 13 on 12 themselves. Still at the top of the chasing pack, highlighting the gap between the top 5 and the rest.

7. Gold Coast Titans. (7th) Up 2 spots because they put 30 on a top 5 side and others deserved to slide. Another explosive first half from Fifita and, after leading by 14, really should have gone on with it in the 2nd half. Instead they leaked 30 points and have now conceded 76 points in 2 games, a very worrying trend for the coach and supporters. Perhaps this is the consistency that has been missing and may slide until they match it with a top 4 side.

8. Newcastle Knights. (10th) Up 2 spots despite the loss. Stuck with the Panthers for a long time before losing by 18. Scoreline not really indicative of how the game went and would have gone close to beating most teams based on their performance. Did well to keep Kikau quiet and they fought hard all game.

9. New Zealand Warriors. (9th) Down 2 spots. Yes they copped a dubious sin-binning but 26-4 at half time meant they were gonski. A couple of late tries but is still a thrashing in anyone’s book and again the Warriors remain in a ding-dong battle with the Titans as the most inconsistent team in the comp. Good luck tipping next week’s game against the Cowboys.

10. Manly Sea Eagles. (11th) Up 4 spots. A completely different team from a few weeks ago. Just tore the Tigers apart with brilliant attack. As a wise man recently said, the best way to stop leaking points is to score plenty yourself. An average competition rate (sic) didn’t stop them racking up another huge win.

11. North Qld Cowboys. (12th) Up 4 spots. 3 in a row now and this was an impressive come from behind win at home after being 18 points down. 2 winnable games coming up so they could be making a charge after a less than impressive start to the season.

12. Canberra Raiders. (8th) Down 1 spot. Blew a 24-6 lead and have now conceded 91 points in their last 3 games as well as losing 4 from their last 5. Their next 5 include Rabbits, Knights, Storm and Roosters so they could be out of contention for the 8 after that, if they aren’t already.

13. Cronulla Sharks. (13th) Down 5 spots. Maybe took the Dogs a little lightly but deserved to be down at half time. A shoulder charge sin-binning didn’t help their cause, although they didn’t leak any points during this time. Had around 10 try scoring opportunities and a mountain of 6 agains but couldn’t get the job done. This team is in trouble on and off the field.

14. Canterbury Bulldogs. (16th) Up 2 spots. A fantastic opening 20 where they built an 18 point lead and then did really well to repel the Sharks again and again, stopping at least 3 try scoring opportunities in the first half. Their 2nd half defensive effort was outstanding despite a weight of possession against them. An outstanding win.

15. Wests Tigers. (14th) Down 3 spots. After establishing an early lead they were simply flogged, as Manly ran in 40 unanswered points. Conceded 35 tackle breaks and just looked awful. Had a better completion rate and less errors than the opposition, but obviously these stats mean nothing. Dragons next in Wollongong.

16. Brisbane Broncos. (15th) Down 3 spots. Didn’t handle the humidity as well as their opposition and it took it’s toll after staying with Parra for the first 25min. Dropping the kickoff didn’t help and they were punished for it straight away. Just not good enough to match it with the top teams yet.

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Hammer’s NRL Power Rankings Rounds 6 and 5

NRL Ladder predictions: Top 6 unchanged, Warriors up to 7th.

Stat of the week: In the first half against the Titans, Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic ran for 166m compared with 171m for the entire Titans forward pack.

Round 6 (NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (4th) Holding. A little clunky early until about the 50min mark when they came into their own and the weight of possession proved too much for a brave Roosters who again had to deal with some injuries. Still look really good and are still the team to beat.

2. Sydney Roosters. (5th) Holding.Not really a game worthy of a Grand Final preview but it’s still early days. Roosters are beginning to struggle with player losses and their ability to cover for what’s missing is starting to become a bit strained. The annual Anzac day clash against an in form Dragons next week may show how resilient they are but we will have to wait and see.

3. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Holding. Found a way to win on the back of a great 2nd half by Cleary in a game where stats were mostly even. It was glaringly obvious they had not had to travel in well over 18 months and for this reason they need to finish first because if they end up playing the Storm in Melbourne in a semi, they won’t be there for the big dance. Both wingers had an ordinary night with their hands.

4. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (2nd) Holding. Really off their game early but sealed it late with a very controversial golden point try. So much for downward pressure these days. Muffed more than a few opportunities to ice the game after a great comeback which is very unlike them.

5. Parramatta Eels. (3rd) Holding. A very patient and professional performance, and they reaped the rewards at the end. Excised any demons lingering after last week and now appear to be back on track. Well done to the loyal supporters who made the long trek south.

6. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (6th) Holding. Too many missed tackles and struggled to keep a rampaging opposition from making metres. A good start to the season was critical and while they’ve done that, this would be a game they expected to win. A depleted Roosters next in the traditional ANZAC day match, which will be a truer indication of where they are at, however the better team won today.

7. New Zealand Warriors. (8th) Up 3 spots. RTS had a blinder in his 100th for the Warriors and, along with Nikorima, kept the Dragons guessing all day. Their forwards were relentless and kept punching holes in the advantage line all day. A ridiculous team to try and tip given their 3 wins have been all against teams probably expected to make the 8, while their 2 of their 3 losses have been against sides who won’t.

8. Cronulla Sharks. (11th) Down 1 spot. Nearly got the win in a game where both sides were desperate. Unfortunately pipped at the post to cap off a tumultuous week and are now seriously starting to lose touch with the leaders. Will continue their slide down my ladder until they can put a top 8 side to bed and play for 80min.

9. Gold Coast Titans. (7th) Down 1 spot. Didn’t really play that badly, just blown off the park in the first half. Fifita given no room to run and their errors really started to build towards the end of the game. Challenging the Warriors as the biggest nightmare to tip. Need to find some consistency if they are seriously going to challenge around the back end of the season.

10. Newcastle Knights. (10th) Up 1 spot. A huge 80min effort from Frizell and a couple of individual pieces of brilliance from Ponga were the difference against a desperate Sharks. This much needed win keeps them in touch with the 8, although not necessarily my 8.

11. Canberra Raiders. (9th) Down 2 spots. Not good enough. Conceded 30 points for the second week running. I’m prepared to say not only can’t win the premiership they just about can’t make the 8 unless something dramatic happens because from what I’ve seen, they’ve been ordinary all season.

12. Wests Tigers. (14th) Holding. What a difference a week makes. So unlucky not to win and put their supporters through a real rollercoaster ride. As long as their heads don’t go down they’ll be better for the experience.

13. Brisbane Broncos. (14th) Up 1 spot. An outstanding performance really considering most experts had them on the wrong end of a cricket score. Perhaps they’ve now set a blueprint on how to beat the Panthers by maybe taking a leaf out of the Dragons playbook. Have every right to be proud of their effort in a so far dismal season.

14. Manly Sea Eagles. (12th) Up 1 spot. Absolutely scintillating with Tommy Turbo running rampant in the first half, along with a near perfect completion rate. Once they got a roll on they simply looked unstoppable. Went on with it in the 2nd half and really valued their line to keep their first clean sheet in 7 years.

15. North Qld Cowboys. (13th) Down 2 spots. An ordinary win against an ordinary team. Did what was required. Can’t rate anybody properly who plays the Dogs. Tougher gig next week.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs. (16th) Holding and only a miracle will see them off bottom spot. Ordinary. Playing with 12 didn’t seem to help their cause either although their best attack came when a man down. Should give the Sharks a much needed win next week.

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NRL Ladder predictions: Dragons continue to rise, Roosters the big movers, GF prediction still Storm/Roosters.

Stat of the week: 0 days since the Dragons finished a round in the top 4 after a 966 day drought. Mikaele Ravalawa has not dropped a ball all season.

Round 5 (NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (6th) Holding. First team to crack the 50 mark this season albeit against a struggling side. Perhaps once the dogs came back to 18-36 it was the spark the premiers needed, but they were always going to win. A preview of this year’s Grand Final next week perhaps when they take on the Roosters at home.

2. Sydney Roosters. (2nd) Up 3 spots. For 60 minutes it looked like their injuries were going to hurt them. However, as I said in the season preview, they always find a way to cover what is missing. They just went bang, bang, bang, bang and goodnight Cronulla. Big game next week before Anzac Day.

3. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Down 1 spot until they learn the meaning of humility. Once they stopped being show ponies and trying for the miracle every play and were prepared to work hard for it, they looked a lot better. Gifted a crucial 6-again call on the Raiders line with 15 to go that resulted in a try that sealed the game with a 14 point lead. Home ground advantage again like most of their matches against last years top 8 and an easy away game next.

4. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (3rd) Holding. A bit of a yawn fest really against a side in a world of trouble. Did what they needed to do without over-exerting themselves and managed a few field goals just to break up the boredom. Could have won by a lot more really, but they did score some great tries.

5. Parramatta Eels. (5th) Down 2 spots. The first of my top 5 to fall to a team outside my top 5. Stop Parramatta’s offloads and you will stop the Eels. Surprised they didn’t see it coming, as the Dragons knocked them over at Bankwest late last year. The opposition forwards got on top early and were relentless, while bombing the Dragons also proved ineffective. Maybe it’s the wake up call they need and they should win at least 2 of their next 3.

6. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (4th) Up 1 spot. Dragons coach must have read my spiel last week as the Eels barely got an offload away in the first 60min. Discipline, or at least the referees interpretation of it, is a bit of a concern, but that’s the “in your face” defensive style they’ve adopted and they seem to be coping. Another outstanding win. They were paying $3.50 v the Knights last week and $4 tonight so I expect the bookies will be changing their tune, along with a lot of doubters.

7. Cronulla Sharks. (9th) Down 1 spot. Had a huge chance to be the first team outside my top 5 to knock over a team inside my top 5. Looked brilliant for most of the game and then just collapsed and looked shell shocked by the end. If they put together a solid 80min performance they’ll match and even beat most teams. It just didn’t happen this match and not for the first time this season.

8. Gold Coast Titans. (7th) Up 2 spots. A really dominant performance. I’d like to see some consistency and a good performance against 1 of my top 5 before I rate them any higher. Fifita just about unstoppable.

9. Canberra Raiders. (8th) Down 1 spot. Too many mistakes blew a golden chance to match it with last year’s Grand Finalists who were really off their game early. The coach says that Penrith are simply just a better football team than them. Interesting comment given that they will need to beat them if they expect to move forward at the end of the season. Everybody has the Raiders as 1 of the “big 6” but I don’t.

10. New Zealand Warriors. (10th) Down 1 spot. Don’t deserve to in my top 10 but neither does anybody below them. Their lack of intensity early allowed Manly into a mistake riddled game. They paid very dearly for this and it’s not the first game they’ve thrown away in a season that’s yet to really get started for them. Most teams in the comp would have won this diabolical display of football.

11. Newcastle Knights. (11th) Holding (luckily). Just terrible. Blame injuries all you like but every team in the comp has to deal with adversity and who deals with it best while managing their top 30 roster will always come out on top. Ponga looked good in patches but putting the kickoff out on the full was the catalyst of things to come.

12. Wests Tigers. (13th) Holding. Just. Booed off at half time by their own home crowd on a day where they had everything to play for. Maybe in front of a packed house remembering Tommy they expected it all to just happen for them verses an opposition that has struggled to beat time this season. Not in 2021, and not in this competition. Came back in the end but the Cowboys simply played better and deserved to win.

13. North Qld Cowboys. (14th) Up 2 spots. Scored some brilliant individual 1st half tries and just grew in confidence as the game wore on. Wests came back towards the end but a 22 point lead always seemed enough, despite a 3 try burst in 10min during the 2nd half. Holmes at home at fullback and JT still to return.

14. Brisbane Broncos. (12th) Down 1 spot. Standard 2021 performance against another heavyweight. Looked OK for 15-20 minutes but were never going to match it for 80min. Another disastrous week looms for them with Penrith next up at Suncorp.

15. Manly Sea Eagles. (15th) Down 1 spot despite the win. Got the job done at the death against a side who were equally as bad as they were. Despite the errors it was a more enjoyable match to watch than a 48-0 flogging we’ve seen a few times so far. They are a long long way off being a top 12 team at this stage.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs. (16th) Holding. Well done to them for putting on 18 points against the premiers. Unfortunately, this sprung the opposition into action and destroyed the Dogs late inflicting another flogging. Firming as spoon favourites given the other winless sides snagged victories and 2022 can’t come quick enough, which shows where they are as we’re only 5 games into 2021.

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Hammer’s NRL Power Rankings Round 4

NRL Ladder predictions: Warriors on the slide, a clear top 5

Stat of the week: Had the Dragons lost to the Knights, the NRL top 8 would currently contain the same final 8 from last year. The average score this round was 35 to 9. Is this an indication that the salary cap is no longer working or is it poor management from the bottom half? Or does it come down to better coaching and training techniques from the top half? Will revisit this question at the halfway mark of the season.

Round 4 (NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (7th) Up 2 spots. Very similar to the earlier Souths games where the opposition looked good for 25min (and even led – albeit off a Storm error) before a 12min 24 point Papenhuyzen blitz put the Broncos away. The longer the game went, the more relaxed and clinical they looked. Still the team to beat for the premiership.

2. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Holding. Defence is awesome. Attack looked clunky early but decided to play touch footy in the 2nd half and carved Manly up badly. Yet to put a foot wrong. Great early season form usually means plenty picked for origin but Penrith are blessed with a stack of Islanders so shouldn’t affect their run too much.

3. Parramatta Eels. (2nd) Down 2 spots. Note to opposition – wrap up the ball. Parramatta’s offloads killed the Tigers in the first half and their forwards are all so mobile. Bomb diffusal let the Tigers back into the contest with early tries coming off the high ball but Parra always had the class and strength to get a lucky win this round. Dragons next who actually beat the Eels at Bankwest late last season, which sparked the Eels decline.

4. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (4th) Up 1 spot. Faultless really. I think they were paying $1.08 but that was too generous. Definite top 4 side and the longer the comp goes on the clearer it is that there are 3 tiers playing footy. Top 5, next 6, bottom 5. The race for spots 6 to 8 will be very interesting.

5. Sydney Roosters. (3rd) Down 1 spot. They always find a way to cover their missing players and round 4 was no different. Down 12-4 early, the come back was always on and this team looks like they’ll beat anybody outside the top 4 everytime. I’m yet to change my mind about a Storm/Roosters GF.

6. Cronulla Sharks. (8th) Up 1 spot. Did what they were expected to do against a terrible opposition. Missing a stack of players with injury and suspension, while also having to deal with game day injuries and having to reshuffle. Still looking pretty good but a tough one next week v Roosters.

7. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (6th) Up 1 spot. An outstanding win in a great game of footy. Just bashed the Knights into submission. The bunker clearly hates them and the lop sided six again/set restart count went against them again but the Dragons showed they are a way different footy team than last year.

8. Canberra Raiders. (5th) Up 2 spots. Didn’t make the same mistake as last week and really locked it down once they hit a 10 point lead against a side who are becoming a tipsters nightmare. Just much better than their opposition on the night. Play Panthers at Panthers next Friday night followed by Parramatta so that will sort out where they are.

9. New Zealand Warriors. (11th) Down 3 spots. Started well and led by a healthy enough margin but were always going to struggle holding an in form Roosters side that always play for 80. Offloads hurt them a bit but there are some sides in this comp that would take a 20 point loss against the top 5. They need to take care of Manly next week before they face the Dragons.

10. Gold Coast Titans. (9th) Down 1 spot. They played good for a while but lost all their structure once the lead against them got out to more than a try. So difficult to rate properly yet.

11. Newcastle Knights. (10th) Holding. A much improved performance however it’s back to back home losses despite 10-0 set restarts and a 12 point turnaround following a very questionable Dragons no-try. You could say their forced spine reshuffle due to injuries may have played a factor but the Dragons just refused to lose a brutal game.

12. Wests Tigers. (13th) Holding. Really soft defence at times. Took advantage of a 10min lapse by Parra in the first half and gave them a big scare in the 2nd half with a bit of a comeback. Inconsistent from game to game and minute to minute. Can’t see them beating any of my top 5 this season unless they firm up their errors and stop giving away big leads.

13. Brisbane Broncos. (12th) Holding. Looked ok for a while. Certainly not in the top half of the teams in the comp and will struggle all season to get out of the bottom 5. Difficult to be too hard on them given they played the Storm in Melbourne but facts are facts, they got flogged.

14. Manly Sea Eagles. (16th) Holding. Never in it. Led most attacking stats for a while but still found themselves 22-0 down. Tommy Turbo’s return is imminent but he won’t stop the dropped balls and teams putting cricket scores on them. Jason Saab is a long way off being a first grader and will lose his spot when Taufua comes back from injury.

15. North Qld Cowboys. (14th) Up 1 spot. Not willing to work hard for points and clearly just not good enough. Aren’t playing as a team. Need to aim up against Tigers next week. Thrashed for the second week in a row.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs. (15th) Down 1 spot. The victory they were looking for was actually scoring a point. The game went pretty much how I thought, competed well for 20, then dropped their heads a bit. Were always going to get flogged in the last 20. The good news is they are playing the Cowboys in 2 weeks. The bad news is next up are the Storm.

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Hammer’s NRL Power Rankings Round 3

NRL Ladder predictions: Newcastle and Wests Tigers the big movers this week.

Stat of the week: 685 days since the Dragons found themselves inside the 8 at ANY stage of any round and 966 days since they last touched the top 4. Time to reset the counter on both of those numbers.

Round 3 (NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Parramatta Eels. (2nd) Up 3 spots. Only put away an injury ravaged Sharks in the last 10, although they lost Moses early themselves. They’ve done what they’ve needed to do so far and their next 5 games are against non top 8 teams from last year. A very favourable home and away draw is going to help this team that doesn’t really need it.

2. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Up 2 spots. Finally played a decent opposition and were just relentless all night. Never gave up and that got them the win despite ultimately losing 3 of their first choice spine, proving they have outstanding depth. Have a very favourable short term draw with the harder games at home.

3. Melbourne Storm. (11th) Down 1 spot. Fantastic contest worthy of a Grand Final rematch. Very unlucky not to win and I think the result would have been reversed had it been played in Melbourne. Very rare back-to back losses but they’ve had no easy games and have had to travel to probably the two biggest fortresses in the NRL, Bankwest and Penrith Park.

4. Sydney Roosters. (3rdt) Down 3 spots. Losing Keary is massive and I can’t see them winning the comp with Hutchison/Lam as the halves combo. Did well to win the 2nd half but the game was gone at 24-0.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (7th) Down 2 spots only due to Parra and Penrith. On fire against the ladder leaders going into the round and just blew them away early. Always a traditional grudge match and the Roosters weren’t quite up to it in front of Russell Crowe and his mates. There seems to be a clear top 5 at the moment proving very difficult working out who’s who in the pecking order.

6. New Zealand Warriors. (9th) Up 3 spots. A great comeback win but need to watch out giving big leads to better teams. Can’t fault their start to the season too much, unlucky not to be 3 from 3.

7. Cronulla Sharks. (12th) Up 1 spot despite the loss. Looked good for 70min dealing with adversity but looking good while not winning won’t get you up the ladder and the Sharks need to start doing that soon or they’ll lose touch with the front runners. Should win at least 2 of their next 4.

8. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (5th) Up 2 spots. Time will tell how they go against the better teams, starting with the Knights next week. All their games so far have been winnable, and to pull 4 points from a tough roadtrip/short turnaround shows they’ve found some resilience. Trying hard not to get too excited about them too early but they deserve their spot in my 8.

9. Gold Coast Titans. (4th) Up 1 spot. Their much talked about forwards really stood up and the offloads really killed the Cowboys. Most experts have them in their 8 but I’d rather see how they perform against the top teams first. Helped by some woeful defence.

10. Canberra Raiders. (6th) Down 3 spots. They can complain all they like about forward passes, which actually looked ok to me, the fact remains they blew a 21 point lead, at home, against a side they should beat most days. Not good enough and will struggle win the premiership.

11. Newcastle Knights. (8th) Down 5 spots. Played well for about 5 mins. Ordinary completion rate but led most of the distance stats. Not a top 8 side at the moment and certainly not premiership contenders. Can’t lose games like that at home and expect to play finals footy. Terrible performance.

12. Wests Tigers. (13th) Up 4 spots. A really tough win but they let in some really soft tries and made some shocking errors. Kudos to them for ruining Pearce’s 300th and winning an important away game. Still a long way from matching it with the top teams.

13. Brisbane Broncos. (10th) Up 1 spot. Had a much needed win but it was only due to 2 individual efforts from Isaako with about 20 to go in a disgraceful game of football before the floodgates opened. They can’t win for another month and are likely to be 1 and 6, and in a red hot fight for the spoon.

14. Manly Sea Eagles. (16th) Up 1 spot. Simply got thrashed. Although the coach remains positive if I were a supporter I wouldn’t be. Should of conceded 50 and the scoreline of 38-12 made them look better than they were.

15. Canterbury Bulldogs. (15th) Down 3 spots. Their discipline is terrible as is their finishing highlighted by their complete inability to score points, which is surprising given that Barrett was lauded for the Panthers great attack last year. Need to turn it around quickly but they won’t win for at least a couple of weeks.

16. North Qld Cowboys. (14th) Down 3 spots. Just terrible. Todd Payten will be looking for a new job soon. Handling and defence not good enough and let the Titans run all over them. Missed Morgan and Taumalolo badly.

Hammer’s NRL Power Rankings Round 2

Better late than never (our fault, not Hammer’s), here are Hammer’s Power Rankings following the 2nd week of action.

Stat of the week: Brett Morris the first player to score back to back hattricks in the opening 2 rounds of the comp in the wettest round of rugby league since 1961.

Round 2 (NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Sydney Roosters. (1st) Up one spot. Way too classy for Wests and are the early form team of the competition. Look unbeatable at this stage of the season.

2. Melbourne Storm. (9th) Down one spot. Some dummy-half deficiencies highlighted and possibly underrated their opposition but I still think they are the real deal.

3. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (8th) Holding 3rd in my eyes. Quality of the opposition left a lot to be desired but got the win and their spine looks superb. Have a bit of an injury toll at the moment.

4. Parramatta Eels. (5th) Up 4 spots. Outstanding upset win against the defending premiers. Bankwest is truly a fortress. Big wraps to the few supporters who had the balls to tip them. Sivo the difference in the end.

5. Penrith Panthers. (2nd) Down 1 spot. Again had a massive amount of possession in the opposition’s 20 with the score only blowing out after a questionable sin-binning. Some Kudos for their great defence but next Thursday night will tell the tale of where they are really at. Yet to play a decent side.

6. Newcastle Knights. (4th) Like Penrith, down 1 spot more due to Parra’s great win than their own form. Poor handling from the Warriors gifted them another win and it will be a few week’s before they play a decent side so I just can’t put them in the top 4 yet. Having said that, you can only play what’s in front of you.

7. Canberra Raiders. (3rd) Holding 7th at the moment. Don’t look like premiership material at this point. Maybe Croker will make a difference when he is back in a week or two. Far from their 2019 form when they made the GF.

8. Cronulla Sharks. (6th) Down 2 spots. Had ample opportunity to win the game but Townsend’s kicking resembled me off the first tee, although his general play looks really good. They do have Johnson back in a month.

9. New Zealand Warriors. (7th) Lucky to hold 9th, only because of what’s below them. Let a great opportunity slip and time will tell how badly that costs them later in the season.

10. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (11th) Up 2 spots due to Brisbane’s poor form and Bulldogs inability to play for 80. Diabolical start, plenty of mistakes by both sides. Hunt had a blinder and brilliant defence in the last 15 sealed a critical away win. Only conceded 1 line break.

11. Gold Coast Titans. (10th) Up 2 spots. Looked a lot more organised this week against a very questionable opposition. Time may improve their low position.

12. Canterbury Bulldogs. (14th) Down 1 spot. Not getting any favours from the refs. Their defence looks pretty sound to me despite the flogging from Penrith helped by ill-discipline.

13. North Qld Cowboys. (13th) Up 1 spot by default despite losing at home. Struggled in attack. Missed Taumalolo while Val Holmes is wasted on the wing. Probably should have gone on with it after scoring early.

14. Brisbane Broncos. (12th) Down 4 spots. Completely forgotten how to win. Massive problems and the coach will be desperate to get Payne Hass back.

15. Manly Sea Eagles. (16th) Holding. All in all pretty poor in disgraceful conditions. The form of their spine is a big worry, particularly DCE.

16. Wests Tigers. (15th) Holding. Showed glimpses in attack but gave up way too early and were ripped to shreds by one of the premiership favourites. Can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

Hammer’s NRL Power Rankings Round 1

Welcome to the first edition of Hammer’s NRL Power Rankings. Hopefully we can make this a regular fixture.

Stat of the week: Anthony Griffin used the phrase “you know” 49 times in the presser.

Round 1 (NRL ladder position in brackets)
1. Melbourne Storm. (8th) I tipped them to play Roosters in this year’s GF and have seen nothing to change my mind.
2. Sydney Roosters. (1st) Lack of a goal kicker may cost them later in the season when it counts but otherwise red hot.
3. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (9th) Did well to come back and stop the pain against the Storm. Difficult to rate properly at this stage of the season.
4. Penrith Panthers. (2nd) Kept a mistake riddled Cowboys to zero but given the huge number of tackles in the opposition 20 early should have won by a lot more.
5. Newcastle Knights. (4th) Got ambushed early by the Dogs but got the win assisted by the ref’s interpretation of the ridiculous 6 again rule.
6. Cronulla Sharks. (5th) Great competition rate and looked sharp in attack. Defence under the bomb a little worrying.
7. Canberra Raiders. (3rd) Difficult to rate given the oppositions poor ball handling in their own 20. Got the rub of the green from the ref.
8. Parramatta Eels. (7th) Found a way to win after being down early against a much-improved Broncos.
9. New Zealand Warriors. (6th) Great start for them but time will tell what side turns up each week.
10. Brisbane Broncos. (10th) Much improved from last season despite the loss.
11. Canterbury Bulldogs. (13th) Another side that looked much improved.
12. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (12th) Woeful first half. Comeback cruelled by the bunker. Need to be a lot better.
13. Gold Coast Titans. (11th) Completely failed to live up to the hype. A couple of good signings does not always transform an average team into a good one.
14. North Qld Cowboys. (15th) The only highlight was some desperate defence against a Penrith side permanently camped inside their 20. Handling was diabolical.
15. Manly Sea Eagles. (16th) Another side difficult to rate given the form of the opposition. Mistake rate terrible and lucky not to concede 60.
16. Wests Tigers. (14th) Threw away a great start and looked terrible from that point onwards.

Episode 220 – New Year New We

New Year 2020

Happy New Year! Even though January is almost over, holidays, sickness and apathy have meant this is our first show back for 2020. Welcome back to our long time listeners and if you’re new to our audience we hope you enjoy the show.

After holiday pleasantries we’re back into it with a recap of how much Australia pumped New Zealand in the Test Series. It turns out they aren’t that good on big boy grounds eh?

We catch up on the NFL Playoffs and look ahead to Super Bowl LIV in Miami. We tip the winner of one of the more intriguing big games in a while.

The Summer of Tennis has been fantastic. Plenty of Aussie heroes and one major redemption story in Nick Kyrgios. Who can win it from here and can Ash Barty keep the party going for two more matches?

After Pies departs, The Producer and Big Mendy talk about the new season of Rugby 7s, Soccer and Basketball.

Then Mendy wows us with his Other Sports segment. Featured sports this week include: WWE Royal Rumble, Darts, Youth Winter Olympics, Downhill Skiing, Rally Motorsport, Field Hockey, Water Polo, Bathurst 12 hour, UFC, Boxing, NRL and possibly our first time talking about Sumo!

0:00:00 – Happy 2020
0:15:00 – Cricket
0:33:00 – NFL Super Bowl LIV
1:07:00 – Tennis
1:22:00 – Rugby 7s
1:32:00 – Soccer
1:42:00 – Basketball
1:52:00 – Other Sports

Bats and Balls is part of the No Phony Podcast Network
Find us on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, iHeart Radio or click on the player below.

2019 Melbourne Cup Tips


No preview show this year. In the past Big Zacko has tipped us the Exacta. So pay attention.


Race 7 – Melbourne Cup 3200m

Big Zacko
1 Cross Counter
2 Mer De Glace
3 Master of Reality
20 Il Paradiso

23 Vow and Declare
12 Prince of Arran
9 Rostropovich

The Producer
3 Master of Reality
18 Surprise Baby
19 Constantinople
20 Il Paradiso
Best Roughie – 5 Southern France

Master of Reality 3rd back in June when competing against Stradivarius (Frankie Dettori ride) was enough for Frankie Dettori to ask for the ride on this horse. It will need a slow paced race but with a good barrier should be a chance. Surprise Baby’s win in the Bart Cummings was outstanding. A run like that again should see it near the top. Constantinople. Unlucky 4th in the Caulfield Cup should see this horse near the top with a clear run. Il Paradiso hasn’t raced much but from what I have seen has a bit of ticker and should stay the distance. Light weight can help to see it fighting in the finish.

5 Southern France
23 Vow And Declare
8 Mustajeer
3 Master Of Reality
20 Il Paradiso

The Stradivarius form looks the best overseas form this year. Southern France finished close up to that horse in May and has outstayed Master Of Reality at their last two meetings. Vow And Declare beat all bar the winner in the Caulfield Cup. Should get the journey, has won over 3000m in Brisbane. Mustajeer was very good at Caulfield and was a strong winner in the Ebor before coming to Australia. Il Paradiso blinkers first time, pushed Stradivarius over 2 miles two starts back.

23 Vow And Declare
11 Finche
2 Mer De Glace

Race 1 – Darley Ottawa Stakes 1000m

14 Unblushing

Race 3 – TAB Trophy 1700m

Big Zacko
1 Etana

Race 4 – The Macca’s Run 2800m

Big Zacko
13 Kentucky Diva

Race 5 – Schweppervescence Plate 1000m

Big Zacko
15 Hearty Lass

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