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The Half-Year report - Australian Rugby league News
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globalrugbyleague - Wed, 13 Jun 2007 09:56:00 GMT
The GRL Phantom's half yearly report could make the footy students cringe and others very happy. Take a deep breath and enjoy.

Melbourne: They lead the competition with 20 points and shade Manly on percentages. As a first class team, they set the benchmark as the team to beat but I am prepared to say they won't win the competition.

Michael Crocker's loss is a big one and the club remains unsure if he will make it back this year. Craig Bellamy is still the best coach in the game. But their remains a hoodoo which keeps repeating itself as far as runners-up concerned; only 10 teams in the history of the game have lost a grand final then win the title the next year.

I worry about a few of their players under extreme pressure, did they miss the boat last year?

Manly: They are the most improved team in the competition, are well coached, possess tremendous defence, were flat against Penrith but will learn not to leave their defensive line so compressed against teams which like to play sideline to sideline. Steve Menzies is back soon and this will strengthen their chances to make the grand final.

North Queensland: They are a tremendous team while Jonathan Thurston clears the competition as the best player in the game. I like the Cowboys' style and rugged pack. They are well coached, launch good strikepower and should get through the Origin period okay. This team will win the competition. You have to love the combination of Matt Bowen, Jonathan Thurston, Brenton Bowen and Ty Williams; Steve Southern and Ray Cashmere have also gone to a new level with Luke O'Donnell out injured.

Parramatta: I have been pleasantly surprised by the Eels. They are a very well balanced team which contains good speed via Jarryd Hayne, Ben Smith and Luke Burt in the backline. They field a solid pack with a good set of skills. Feleti Mateo is a star in the making. Watch the Eels make the finals.

Wests Tigers: Coach Tim Sheens has worked wonders with his talented, young team. I worry if they get too many injuries, with Benji Marshall and Brett Hodgson out for extended periods, then this could test their depth. They bring a plethora of speed and skill with hooker Robbie Farah only a year away from Origin footy I believe. They could make the finals, but cannot win the competition. They lack genuine size and have trouble with teams who can off-load the ball, as was shown with Parramatta. They can only win if in front in a game and are a bad team well behind on the scoreboard.

Newcastle: The Knights have done well with a stack of injuries, team changes and some internal upheaval. They lost Andrew Johns - an immeasurable loss, and the post-Johns era shall be interesting. Danny Buderus is a champion who I would rate as the third best player in the game behind Jonathan Thurston and Darren Lockyer. Brian Smith will do well to get the team to the finals before they start to really sizzle in 2008.

Cronulla: They’ve been the kinder surprise of the competition. Well coached, strong defensively and improving in attack, Ricky Stuart has added the physical and mental steel that the Sharks have needed for a very long time. They are super consistent yet have lost two games in golden point this year. Watch them make the eight and then put up a true challenge for the title next year.

Gold Coast Titans: The new kids on the block have done well after losing three in a row. They are a solid team, who are well coached by John Cartwright, but will falter late in the year. I worry about their depth and the mid-season signings of Josh Lewis and Ian Donnelly was an admission that the team lacked some extras.

Canberra: Neil Henry must be named coach of the year if this team makes the eight. The Raiders talented youngsters, who occasionally don't ``come up'' and put in an average effort, have brought bring plenty of skill and speed to the field while lock Alan Tongue and Lincoln Withers have been outstanding. They will make the eight next year - put the rent money on this.

Souths: They started well but then lost five straight - four of those five straight losses by narrow margins. The halves is their problem yet they have good workers in the pack while Nathan Merritt remains a true try scorer. They need John Sutton back to create second phase plays around the halves. They won’t make the eight but they will learn a lot this year and remain competitive.

Bulldogs: They’ve been been up and down like a yo-yo. With genuine talent and size and power in the forwards, if the Dogs get all troops firing, they are top four material. They need to get Willie Tonga's motor running at full throttle to make a title challenge. Luke Patten has been their best player while Andrew Ryan, and Sonny Bill Williams continue to improve with each game.

Penrith: Matt Elliott is a fine coach and I suspect the second year at Penrith will see the best from him .He is a very different coach from John Lang. On their day they are a genuine finals team, but I am prepared to risk them this year. Peter Wallace is a big loss to Brisbane. No, he is a dreadful loss. Can you believe he wasn't made a formal offer from the Panthers? He is a natural footballer if ever I saw one. I am prepared to predict he will be the NSW five-eighth in 2008. Remember where you read it first.

Warriors: I thought the Warriors would make the top four and I still believe Ivan Cleary is a fine coach. Brent Tate will strengthen the centres next year. Steve Price and Ruben Wiki remain great forwards and the heart and soul of the team. There is plenty to like about them at times and they still could challenge for the top eight , but they can't win the competition. Once were warriors, now are worriers.

St George Illawarra: They’ve used 29 players this year including loads of rookies while coach Nathan Brown has copped more stick than a mother-in-law. The Dragons are rebuilding and if they can make the eight it will be the greatest comeback since Lazerus. Injuries however have cruelled the team, especially amongst senior players.

Brisbane: I said from the start that the Broncos couldn't and wouldn't and they will not win the competition. They’ve lost several games by narrow margins in the first few weeks of the premiership and it has taken it's toll. They will miss the eight and struggle for the rest of this year while failing to learn anything new from coach Wayne Bennett.

roosters: They have Improved in recent weeks but lack the ability to win the tight games. They definately won't make the finals but coach Chris Anderson is prepared to blood youngsters and rebuild the club. Season 2008 will see the revival of the Roosters.

The Grand Final Verdict: The Cowboys will play Manly and win their first premiership, giving five-eighth Jason Smith a fitting farewell. - Read More, Here