Bats & Balls Podcast


Power Rankings

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.

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