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Wooden it be nice? - Australian Rugby league News
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globalrugbyleague - Tue, 13 Feb 2007 22:50:00 GMT
For many NRL fans, round 1 is the most wonderful time of the year.

Friday night television has a purpose once again, your partner (who hates footy with a vengeance) kicks off their 80 minute dog walks and you find out that your self-initiated prohibition from your favourite League forum has expired. Let the sledging begin.

But for some the opening fix of bash and barge means so much more. Play a little footy subtraction and for one group of supporters, they are only 24 rounds away from being crowned as the new titleholders of the not so glorious Wooden Spoon.

So who will win the jackpot this year and collect the greatest booby prize of all? Odds are all 16 NRL teams are in with a chance and here’s why.

Wests Tigers: This year they’ll hit the jackpot. They might lose both their five-eighth and their new halfback to either season ending If that happens, they won’t make the eight and the spoon will be within their grasp. But they’ll have to work hard for the wooden spoon. Other teams don’t want to walk away empty handed either.

Canterbury: If they get rocked by more injuries to their backline then they sustained in 2005 (the worst injury crisis to hit the club since 1981) and they lose Sonny Bill Williams, Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri and Brent Sherwin, the Belmore brigade are in with a chance. But they tend to keep playing hard no matter who they field and that could deny them their first spoon since 1964. You don’t really believe they won it in 2002 do you?

Canberra: For the last two seasons, the Raiders have been raging hot pre-season favourites to walk away with the most unsought after prize in the greatest game of all. And yet they continue to disappoint fans of other clubs by making the top eight. But this year they have lost Mathew Elliot, Clinton Schifcofske, Jason Croker and Adam Mogg. Losing that much talent in one clean sweep could finally push the Raiders over the edge especially under a coach making his NRL debut.

Cronulla: They haven’t won a premiership in 40 years yet they’ve already taken out this most glorious of titles twice (1967, 1969). They lost 10 in a row in 2006, so why not improve on that record and go the whole way. Become the first team to go on a full season losing streak since Eastern Suburbs in 1966. With plenty of former Roosters personnel heading to the shire, this could be the year.

Brisbane: They’ve won six premierships under Wayne Bennett and are the only team to have made every finals series since 1992. The Broncos are pretty poor at losing consistently early on in the season and that is concerning. Perhaps a committee could be formed involving all the head coaches of teams that beat the Broncos last season and a universal strategy could be promoted without being leaked to the media. Many believe the Broncos first Wooden Spoon is long overdue. They are a long shot to win it but miracles do happen.

Gold Coast: History has made the Titans strong contenders to live this down as the season to forget. 4 teams in the NRL have all come last in their debut season (Canberra, Cronulla, Parramatta and North Queensland while Souths have won three since their re-admission in 2002). There will be enough distractions on the gold coast to keep the players minds off the job. I rate them strong contenders to receive the Wooden Spoon from the Prime Minister on Grand Final night.

Manly: They’ll start as underdogs for the most prestigious award in Rugby League. But deep down they know that a piece in the puzzle will remain missing until they win their inaugural spoon. Definite dark horses. On paper they look like possible premiers but then again they are almost a carbon copy of the 2006 squad which couldn’t win any of the finals games they were involved in. Perhaps they need to go backwards to move forwards. If Jamie Lyon walks out because he’s homesick and misses St Helens, then Manly could give the Wooden Spoon a good shake.

New Zealand: They had their chance last year to win the WS after they had four points deducted before the start of the season for breaching the salary cap and blew it. They need to clock off after 15 minutes instead of 30 and pray for games with a turnout of less then 5,000. That could sap the spirit a bit. But would it be enough to lift the team into believing this could be their year to finally give their fans something really depressing to celebrate? They came close in 2004 (14th) but were saved by for and against figures. Can they recover?

Melbourne: When you lose a Grand Final, there are two ways you can react. You can buy thousands of dollars worth of Anthony Robbins tapes or see a hypnotist who tells you “You don’t want to walk out on the club” in which case you turn up and make back to back Grand Finals like the Roosters did between 2002-04. Or players can turn on each other and give up after round 1. Can’t see the Melbourne Storm doing the latter. But all out injuries to Greg Inglis, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk and let’s face it, even they are a chance.

Newcastle: Brian Smith has never won a premiership. He did however coach the Illawarra Steelers when they finished last in 1985. Nothing like a walk down memory lane. If Joey pulls a season ending injury, the Knights will be good odds to bet on.

Penrith: The Panthers have not won a Wooden Spoon since 2001. If you can win a premiership and still get released like John Lang and Brett Kenny did last season, then surely your job prospects must be safe if you come last.

North Queensland: With global warming playing with the weather patterns so dramatically this year, I wonder if the Cowboys will be able to adapt on the road. I think they may struggle to overcome the extra rain and colder temperatures. Origin could be a big distraction once again.

Parramatta: Michael Hagan is a man of many talents. He won a premiership in his first year at Newcastle and then took out a wooden spoon four seasons later.Finch and Smith. They could be the nightmare combination that other fans are hoping for while Blake Green may very well injure himself and be unavailable if Smith is dropped to the lower grades. No Jeremy Smith to save the Eels this time. They are contenders.

St George: I believe this could be their year. They’ve got the lack of depth in experience and have a great record at losing games they should win. This could be a good combination in 2007 and deliver something to the Kogorah faithful at long last.

South Sydney: The pressure is on early for the Rabbitohs given the changes they’ve made in the administrative, coaching and playing ranks. The talent acquisition has been brilliant which places greater expectations on the red and green. Can they handle the immense pressure to get results and soon or will their season go off like a lead balloon? They are traditionally short-priced favourites but they’ve got some more competition this year for the spoon, so I’ll say they can still do it if they put the hours in.

roosters: The loss of Brett Finch is going to be worse then when the Roosters failed to win a match in 1966. With no Fittler, Finch or Ricky Stuart, it’s hard to see any of the mob from Bondi feeling like chicken tonight. The club is celebrating their 100th season, so the timing of finishing last would be impeccable. - Read More, Here