Bats & Balls Podcast


Hammer's Power Rankings

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.

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