With the 2013 NRL regular season done and dusted, rugby league writer Daniel Boss grades each team on their performance over Rounds 21 to 26.
From Rounds 21 to 26, the average amount of points scored by one team in a game was 23.22 points. This was the highest average for any quarter over the past two seasons. It was a substantial increase from the third quarter average of 20.45 points scored per team per game. In the 2013 season as a whole, the average points scored per game per team was 20.54, which is a very slight increase on the 2012 average of 20.52. As done in previous grading articles, I have calculated standard deviations for the points scored and points conceded over the last 6 rounds. The standard deviation for points scored over the last 6 rounds was 35.62, which was slightly lower than the third quarter standard deviation of 36.96. On the other hand, the standard deviation for points conceded in the fourth quarter was 49.98, a substantial increase on the standard deviation of 33 seen in last quarter. The greater variation in defence can be attributed to the teams at the foot of the ladder lacking motivation to put in as much effort in defence as their premiership hopes faded. However, in the case of Canberra, it was the case of a side the just capitulated over the span of the past 6 weeks. Another possible reason for this large spread is that the sides at the top of the ladder were putting more emphasis on their defence as they know that a great defence is an important quality of a premiership-winning team. It’s finals time and I can’t wait for Friday night!
North Queensland 6-0 (1st quarter: D, 2-4. 2nd quarter: D, 2-4. 3rd quarter: D, 2-4)
Just like the Eels did in 2009 and the Warriors did in 2008, the Cowboys have come from nowhere to miraculously finish inside the top 8. Since the sacking of Neil Henry, the players have realised that they have no more excuses and have put together some great performances. This is shown statistically, as over the past six weeks the Cowboys have scored the most points per game (32.5) and conceded the fewest points per game (12) over any quarter measured over the past two seasons. Obviously, these are the best results for the season but there are mixed results when comparing the full seasons. In attack, the Cowboys scored more points in 2012 than they did in 2013 as they scored 21.13 points per game in 2013, compared to 24.88 in 2012. However, their defence did improve as North Queensland conceded fewer points in 2013 (17.96 per game) than they did in 2012 (18.54 per game). The Cowboys ended the season with the 7th best attack and the 6th best defence in the NRL. Aside from the increased motivation, a big factor in the improvement in the Cowboys’ form has been consistency at halfback and hooker. Robert Lui has been the answer at halfback, while Ray Thompson and Rory Kostjasyn have improved the play out of dummy half. These answers in key positions will be good news for whoever takes over the coaching responsibilities next season, but one question does remain. That question is: Who will replace Matt Bowen at fullback? Recruit Lachlan Coote should get the first go but this will be an issue. In regards to this season, the Cowboys only have one significant injury concern going into the finals and that is Matt Scott’s broken finger. He should be right to return for next week’s elimination game.
Both at home and away from home, the Cowboys recorded less wins than they did in 2012, even though they won 4 home games and both away games over the past 6 rounds. Their 2013 season records were 7-5 at home and 5-7 away from home, again these were lower than the 8-4 and 7-5 records at home and away respectively in 2012.
Melbourne 5-1 (1st quarter: A, 6-0. 2nd quarter: B, 3-2-1. 3rd quarter: C, 2-4)
From rounds 21 to 24, it appeared that Melbourne was rolling into the finals, but their performances over the last two games were not overly impressive. Their sole loss came at the hands of a fellow premiership contender in Manly and it appeared that the Storm was playing at a level lower than them. Statistically, the Storm had their best quarter in both attack and defence, as they scored 35.3 points per game (assisted by two 50+ point efforts against Canberra and Parramatta) and conceded 12.7 points per game. For the season, Melbourne scored 24.54 points per game, which was more than the 24.13 per game scored in 2012. In defence, the Storm conceded 15.54 points per game during the season, which was more than the 15.04 conceded per game during last season. Melbourne had the 2nd best attack and 3rd best defence in the NRL this season. Having the big three (Cronk, Slater and Smith for the uninitiated) around permanently since the Origin series has been a big reason why the Storm have won the majority of their games recently. Again, they will be very influential in this year’s finals series. At the moment, they have Brett Finch as their foil at five eight, but this position will need to be replaced next season with Finch’s retiring at the end of the season and Gareth Widdop moving to the Dragons. It appears that Ben Hampton will be the most likely to start there after a couple of impressive performances this season. Widdop did return to play in the Queensland Cup last weekend, so he may still be a chance of returning to the side during the finals.
In the last 6 rounds, Melbourne won all three home games and two of their three away games. For the season, their home record was 10 wins, one loss and one draw, while the Storm’s season away record was 6-6. The home record is better than the 2012 record (9-3), while the away record is worse than last season’s record of 8-4.
Manly 4-2 (1st quarter: A, 5-1. 2nd quarter: C, 2-3-1. 3rd quarter: B, 4-2)
Out of any side in the top 4, Manly is the team that is continue to be impressed by. I am taking nothing from the last round loss to Penrith as the side’s main focus was to stay healthy for the finals. I am expecting them to be at their best form over the next four weeks. This side will be tough to beat. The Sea Eagles scored 27.8 points per game over the last 6 weeks. It wasn’t as good as the previous quarters’ average of 33.3 points scored per game but it was better than the averages in the first two quarters. Defensively, Manly saw a slight improvement as they conceded 18 points per game, which was less than the third quarter average of 18.7 points conceded per game. However, this wasn’t as strong as their defensive performance seen in the first two quarters. Manly scored 24.5 points per game over the season, which was a substantial increase from last year’s average 20.71 points scored per game. The Sea Eagles also improved defensively as the conceded 15.25 points per game; a decrease from the 16.79 points conceded per game in 2012. This defence was the 2nd best defence in the league this season, while Manly’s attack was tied for 2nd in the NRL. Brett Stewart and Anthony Watmough have injury concerns going into the finals, while the Sea Eagles are without forwards Jason King, Joe Galavao and Jamie Buhrer. Other forwards such as Justin Horo, Brenton Lawrence and Richie Fa’aoso will need to continue their strong form to make up for these absences, as they have done all season. Manly will lose Galavao and Brent Kite next season, but have made a few lower profile signings for 2014 as they have done in previous seasons with great success. They have signed Cheyse Blair, Jayden Hodges and Josh Starling, all who aren’t in the top 17 of any NRL side at the moment. This may change by this time next year.
In the last 6 games, Manly won two games from three both at home and away from home. This means that their season records were 8-4 at home and 7 wins, 4 losses and a draw away from home. The home record is not as strong as last year’s home record of 9-3, while the away record is slightly better than the 2012 record of 7-5.
Sydney Roosters 4-2 (1st quarter: B, 4-2. 2nd quarter: A, 5-1. 3rd quarter: A, 5-1)
I was very tempted to give the Roosters an ‘A’ as they were able to clinch the minor premiership with a last round victory over Souths. Their form in the month prior to this big win was a bit sketchy, however the performance in the last game showed that they are ready a premiership charge. Statistically, there were mixed results for the Roosters over the last 6 weeks. They scored more points over this period (32.3 per game) than in any other quarter this season, but they also conceded more points over this period (19.3 per game) than any other quarter in 2013. Comparing the statistics for the whole year compared to last season, the Roosters have shown dramatic improvement in line with their climb up the ladder. In attack, they scored 26.67 points per game in 2013 which is much higher than the 19.25 scored per game last season. The Roosters conceded 13.54 points per game this season, which is far lower than the 26.08 points per game last season. Along with finishing first after 26 rounds, the Roosters had both the best attack and defence in the NRL in 2013. They should welcome back Roger Tuivasa-Sheck from injury and Luke O’Donnell from suspension next week for the finals. The Roosters are hoping that they can get Boyd Cordner sometime during the next month but this looks unlikely at this stage. In regards to 2014, the big issue for the Roosters will be the retention of Sonny Bill Williams. At the moment, their focus is on the finals.
Over the last six rounds, the Roosters won one of their two home games and three of their four away games. This takes their season records to 8-4 at home and 10-2 away from home. This is far better than last year’s records of 5-7 at home and 3 wins, 8 losses and a draw away from home.
Cronulla 4-2 (1st quarter: C, 2-4. 2nd quarter: B, 4-2. 3rd quarter: B, 4-2)
Out of any side outside of the top 4, the Sharks are the team most likely to cause any significant damage in the finals series. It was somewhat of a mixed bag for Cronulla in the final quarter as they mixed some great performances with some disappointing home losses. In attack, the Sharks had their best statistics for any quarter this season (and last season as well) in the fourth quarter as they scored 23.7 points per game, which was better than the average of 21.5 points scored per game last quarter. Over the last 6 games, Cronulla conceded 20.2 points per game, which was a slight improvement on the 21.3 points conceded per game in the third quarter. However, this wasn’t as good as the averages in the first two quarters, 15.2 and 20 points conceded per game respectively. For the season, the Sharks scored 19.50 points per game which was an improvement on the 2012 average of 18.54 points scored per game. In defence, Cronulla didn’t improve from last season as they conceded 19.17 points per game which is more than the 18.38 points conceded per game in 2012. The Sharks finished with the 11th ranked attack in the league and the 7th ranked defence. For the finals, Cronulla will welcome back Todd Carney, Jayson Bukuya and Wade Graham from injury. All three could have played last week but didn’t need to. They will be better off for the rest. The Sharks will also get Paul Gallen back from suspension. For next season, Cronulla will add to their depth in the backline through the signing of Blake Ayshford (another Tiger). However, they will lose some depth in the forwards with the departures of Tyrone Peachey and Jayson Bukuya, as well as the retirement of Ben Ross. The Sharks will also lose their backup half as Chad Townsend is also leaving the club. Barring any dramatic event, the Sharks should still be a top 8 contender next season. The only issue could be the age of the team.
In the last 6 rounds, Cronulla won one of their three home games and all three away games. As mentioned in last quarter’s grades article, this is what they needed to surpass last season’s records, as their 2013 records were 8-4 at home and 6-6 away from home. Their 2012 records were 7 wins, 4 losses and a draw at home and 5-7 away from home.
Newcastle 3-2-1 (1st quarter: B, 4-2. 2nd quarter: D, 2-4. 3rd quarter: C, 3-3)
A place in the finals was Newcastle’s to lose in the final 6 rounds and to their credit they were able to claim 7th position on the ladder. The only disappointing performance was the draw at home to the Broncos but aside from that they picked up the two points whenever they needed it. The Round 22 victory at Cronulla was particularly impressive. In the fourth quarter, Newcastle scored 22 points per game. This was pretty much in line with the averages from the first three quarters this season. In defence, the Knights conceded 17.5 points per game in the last 6 rounds which was slightly higher than the third quarter average of 16.7 points conceded per game. The only quarter that was worse than the fourth quarter was the second quarter, where the Knights conceded 22 points per game. For the whole 2013 season, the Knights scored 22 points per game which is more than the 2012 season average of 18.67 points scored per game. Newcastle conceded 17.58 points per game in 2013 over the whole name, which was a better result than last season where they conceded 20.33 points per game. The Knights are ranked 6th in the NRL in attack and are ranked 5th in defence. The big absence for the Knights heading into the finals is that of their captain Kurt Gidley. Then again, they have played the majority of the past two seasons without so it shouldn’t be foreign for this team. Another player the Knights will be without is prop Kade Snowden who is currently serving a suspension. Players such as Zane Tetevano and David Fa’alogo will need to step up in Snowden’s absence if they are to progress further in the finals. For next season, the Knights have signed the experienced Clint Newton and Michael Dobson, who will add depth to their halves. These signings probably won’t offset the departures as Danny Buderus, Neville Costigan and Kevin Naiqama are all leaving the club. The big question for the Knights next season will be the age of their roster.
Over the last 6 rounds, the Knights won one, lost one and drew one game at home, while they won two games from three away from home. For the season, Newcastle’s home record stood at 7 wins, 4 losses and 1 draw. This was better than their 2012 home record of 5-7. Away from home, the Knights’s 2013 season record was 5-7, which matches last year’s total.
Gold Coast 3-3 (1st quarter: B, 4-2. 2nd quarter: C, 3-3. 3rd quarter: F, 1-5)
The Titans gave everything over the last six weeks to try to finish in the top 8 but just fell short. They will rue their form during the third quarter of the season where they only won one game out of six. In attack, the Titans had their best quarter for 2013 as they scored 24.3 points per game over the last six rounds. The Gold Coast improved defensively compared to the third quarter as they conceded 18.8 points per game (compared to the 33 per game conceded last quarter). This was the best result since the first quarter of this season where they conceded 15 points per game. For the season, the Titans scored 20.83 points per game which was an improvement on the 2012 season average of 18.71 points scored per game. Defensively, the Titans didn’t improve from last season as they conceded 21.58 points per game in 2013, which was more than the 19.88 points per game conceded in 2012. The Titans were ranked 8th in attack and 10th in defence in the league over the season. There aren’t any significant gains or losses for the Gold Coast, so some stability should ensure than combinations are developed during the off-season. As a result, I expect them to challenge for the finals next season, provided that they have a better run with injuries. The big loss this season was that of Jamal Idris. He needs to return strongly for the Titans as he is their main strike weapon in the outside backs.
In the last 6 games, the Titans won one of their two home games and two of their four away games. Their season records were 7-5 at home and 4-8 away from home. If they are to make the finals next season, then they will have to improve their form away from home. However, after last season a main aim of the Titans was to improve their home form, which they did as their 2012 record at home was 4-8. Away from home, the Titans were better in 2012 as their record was 6-6.
Brisbane 3-2-1 (1st quarter: C, 3-3. 2nd quarter: D, 2-4. 3rd quarter: D, 2-4)
While the Broncos earned 7 points from a possible 12 in the last six rounds, it wasn’t enough to get them into the finals picture. Yet, during this period they showed their best form of the season, partly as a result of some key position changes. Statistically, the Broncos were slightly better in attack in defence over the past 6 weeks, when compared to the 6 games prior to that. They scored 18.7 points per game in the fourth quarter (third quarter average: 17 per game) and conceded 19.8 per game in the same period (third quarter average: 21.2 per game). Both results for the fourth quarter are the second best for any quarter in 2013. Brisbane’s best attacking statistics came in the second quarter (19 points scored per game) and their best defensive statistics came in the first quarter (15 points conceded per game). When comparing this season to the previous season, the Broncos were worse in both attack and defence. They scored 18.08 points per game in 2013, lower than the 20.04 points scored per game in 2012. Brisbane conceded 19.88 points per game this season, which is more than the 18.63 they conceded per game in 2012. The Broncos were tied for 12th in attack in the NRL in 2013 and were also ranked 9th in defence. The improvement in form late in the season was partly due to the movement of Ben Hunt to halfback and Sam Thaiday to the back row. Thaiday is simply wasted at prop and should not play up front anytime soon. Hunt deserves first crack at halfback next season and Josh Hoffman has impressed at fullback. Where recruit Ben Barba will play next year is a mystery and it appears that he may be asked to fill the five eight position that has been vacated by the retiring Scott Prince. Two concerns for Brisbane for next year are the injuries to Justin Hodges and Jharol Yow Yeh. Hodges will be out for up to the first half of next season with an Achilles injury, while Yow Yeh still hasn’t recovered from an ankle injury suffered early last season. Both are in the squad for the Broncos and aren’t helping their depth issues in the backline.
From rounds 21 to 26, the Broncos won 3 of their four home games, while they drew one and lost one away game. For the whole 2013 season, their home record was 6-6, while they won 4 games, lost 7 games and drew one game away from home. Both are worse than their 2012 records of 7-5 at home and 5-7 away from home.
South Sydney 3-3 (1st quarter: A, 5-1. 2nd quarter: A, 5-1. 3rd quarter: A, 5-1)
After 20 rounds, it appeared that the Rabbitohs had the minor premiership all but sewn up. However, a drop in form, some key injuries and a tough finish to the season saw Souths just fall short. They are not heading into the finals series at their best form but they will need to find their best if they are to win their first premiership in over 40 years. Statistically, this was by far Souths’ worst quarter this season, as they scored 19 points per game and conceded 21.3 points per game. For the whole season, the Rabbits scored 24.5 points per game, which is an improvement on the 2012 average of 23.29. In defence, Souths conceded 16 points per game this season, which is lower than the 18.25 points conceded per game in 2012. Souths were tied for 3rd in attacking ranking in the league for the season, while they also had the 4th best defence in the NRL this season. While Souths are at full strength, there are still injury concerns over key players Greg Inglis and John Sutton. Both players have not been at their best since returning from injury but will need to be if the Rabbits are to challenge for the premiership. In relation to next year, the Rabbits are losing some depth, especially in the backline, but should be premiership contenders again. However, they will not want to let go of this chance.
In the last 6 rounds, the Rabbits won two of their three home games and one of their three away games. For the whole season, both their home and away records was 9-3. This matches their 2012 home record but it is an improvement on their 2012 away record of 7-5.
Penrith 3-3 (1st quarter: F, 1-5. 2nd quarter: B, 4-2. 3rd quarter: C, 3-3)
In 2013, the Panthers exceeded expectations by winning 11 games and finishing 10th. They were able to finish ahead of more fancied sides such as Brisbane, Canberra and the Warriors. They will look to build on the success of this season with a finals appearance in 2014. Penrith scored 19.7 points per game in their last 6 games, which matched their effort in the third quarter. Only the second quarter was more fruitful as the Panthers scored 26.8 points per game in that period. In defence, the Panthers conceded 29 points per game which was the worst result for any quarter this season. It was an increase from the 22 points per game conceded last quarter. Over the whole season, Penrith scored 20.63 points per game, which was an improvement of the 2012 season average of 17.04 points scored per game. Their defence improved as well as the 22.17 points conceded per game in 2013 was less than the 2012 season average of 23.96 points conceded per game. The attack was ranked tied for 9th in the league, while their defence was ranked 12th. The Panthers don’t have too many players returning from serious injuries next season, with only Matt Robinson and Tim Grant the only players unavailable from injury at the end of the season. For the second consecutive year, Penrith will bring in a lot of new players which will add to the side’s quality and depth. In the forwards, Penrith have added Brent Kite, Tyrone Peachey, Elijah Taylor and Shaun Spence. The Panthers have also bought some backs, with Kevin Naiqama, Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace all coming to the foot of the mountains. Penrith has lost a fair few players with forwards Mose Masoe, Clint Newton and Blake Austin departing. They have also lost backs Luke Walsh, Lachlan Coote and Travis Robinson. The one big challenge for Penrith next season will be the cohesion of the team given the high amount of new players in the team.
In the last 6 rounds, Penrith won one home game from three and won two of three away games. This took their season records to 6-6 at home and 5-7 away from home. Both records are better than the 4-8 record posted both at home and away from home in 2012.
Canterbury 3-3 (1st quarter: F, 1-5. 2nd quarter: A, 5-1. 3rd quarter: B, 4-2)
The last six rounds was a mixed bag for the Bulldogs. They looked impressive in some games but were quite poor in other games, especially their last round game against Brisbane. I struggle to see the Dogs putting together 4 straight wins against quality opposition to win the premiership. Canterbury scored 24.7 points per game over the last 6 rounds, which was the second best for any quarter this season, with only the third quarter being better at 29.5 points per game. They conceded 20 points per game in the fourth quarter, which is worse than last quarter’s average of 17.7 per game. Only the first quarter was worse for Canterbury in defence, where they conceded 22.8 points per game. Over the course of the season, the Dogs scored 22.04 points per game, which is lower than the 23.67 points per game scored in 2012. In defence, they conceded 19.29 points per game which is much higher than the 15.38 points conceded per game last season. Canterbury had the 5th best attack and the 8th best defence in the league in 2013. I know that Ben Barba can be a game breaker but I’m not sure if I would play him in the finals if I was the Canterbury coach. His combinations with other players just don’t appear to be there and it looks like he is distracted by other issues (of which he has plenty) at the moment. Some positive news for the Dogs is the return of Frank Pritchard from suspension and the possible return of Greg Eastwood from injury. Both returns will be significant boosts for the team. In relation to 2014, the only significant change will be the loss of Barba. It is unknown at this point as to who will replace him at fullback but it would appear that Josh Morris will have the inside running for that position, if he wants to move from the centres.
In the last six rounds, the Dogs won one of two home games and two of four away games. This took their season records to 6-6 and 7-5 at home and away respectively. This is worse than their 9-3 records at home and away from home from 2012 when they won the minor premiership.
Parramatta 2-4 (1st quarter: D, 2-4. 2nd quarter: F, 1-5. 3rd quarter: F, 0-6)
Sure, Parramatta has been a very poor side all season. They have won their second consecutive wooden spoon but I was tempted to give them a C grade for this quarter as they won the two winnable games in their last 6 against fellow cellar dwellers Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra. However, collapses against Manly, Melbourne and Newcastle prevented me from doing this. Statistically, the Eels were quite bad over the last 6 rounds, having only scored 13.3 points per game. This was an increase on the 9.3 points scored per game in the third quarter but was worse than quarters one and two (averages of 18.2 and 13.5 points scored per game respectively). It just gets worse when analysing their defence as the Eels conceded 37.3 points per game in the last 6 games. This was by far the worst of any quarter in 2013 and even worse than the 30.5 points conceded per game during the winless third quarter. For the season, Parramatta scored 13.58 points per game which was worse than the 17.96 scored per game in 2012. In defence, the Eels conceded 30.83 points per game over the season, which was also worse than the 2012 average of 28.08 points conceded per game. They will get some good players back from injury next season, namely Jacob Loko and Kalepi Tanginoa. The Eels will also welcome Will Hopoate who returns from a two year mission, as well as Corey Norman who will play fullback or five eight depending on where Jarryd Hayne will play. The Eels have also added some depth to their forward pack through the signing of Briton Lee Mossop, Nathan Peats and NSW under 20s back rower Brendan Santi (who I am disappointed to see leave the Tigers). Parra has also signed Justin Hunt to add depth to the backline, which has been affected by the departures of Cheyse Blair and Jake Mullaney. If their key players (especially Jarryd Hayne) can stay fit and if they can find Chris Sandow and get his issues sorted so that he can return to his top form, then the Eels may win a few more games next season. A finals birth is probably too much to ask though as a third straight wooden spoon would be more likely.
Over the last 6 rounds, Parramatta won two of their three home games but lost all three away games. This took their season records to 5-7 at home and a diabolical 0-12 away from home. The home record was an improvement on the 2012 home records of 4-8 but the away record was worse than last year’s 2-10. The last time Parramatta won a game away from home was Round 21, 2012 against Brisbane.
Warriors 2-4 (1st quarter: F, 1-5. 2nd quarter: C, 3-3. 3rd quarter: A, 5-1)
The Warriors probably deserve an ‘F’ here as they blew a huge opportunity to make the finals. They will probably be looking at the games this weekend and thinking about what could have been. Actually, given some of the decisions made at times by this team, I’m not sure what they will be thinking about. In attack, the Warriors were statistically better than the previous quarter (average of 21 points scored per game) as they scored 22.3 points per game. This was the second best result for the Warriors this season, as their best quarter was the second where they scored 24.8 points per game. The Warriors’ defence declined this quarter, as they conceded 21.7 points per game which was more than the 18.3 they conceded in the third quarter. This quarter’s result was only better than the second quarter result of 28 points conceded per game. For the season, the Warriors scored 20.63 points per game, which was slightly lower than last year’s average of 20.71 points scored per game. In defence, the season average was 23.08 points conceded per game, which was better than the 25.38 points per game last season. These resulted in the Warriors being ranked tied for 9th in attack and 13th in the league in attack and defence respectively. Next season, the Warriors will welcome back some quality players from injury, most notably Glen Fisiiahi, Ben Henry, Russell Packer and Sione Lousi. In terms of player losses for next season, there has been very little change for the Warriors with the only significant loss being that of Elijah Taylor to Penrith. They did pick up Jayson Bukuya which is a handy replacement and they added some depth in the halves with the signing of Chad Townsend. There is speculation that they will sign Sam Tomkins but this is yet to be confirmed. They should have a similar roster, which will have enough talent to make the finals. It is yet to be seen if they will be able to reach their potential, which is a perennial issue for this club.
Over the last 6 rounds, the Warriors won one game from three both at home and away from home. This took their season home record to 7-5 and their season away record to 4-8. Both are better than their records of 5-7 and 3-9 at home and away respectively in 2012. While it was an improvement, the Warriors are capable of much better.
Wests Tigers 1-5 (1st quarter: D, 2-4. 2nd quarter: D, 2-4. 3rd quarter: D, 2-4)
The absolute shocker of a season for the Tigers is finally over. From the perspective of a Tigers supporter, this season could not have come to an end soon enough. Yet from the abyss, some spots of brightness appeared in the form of young guns David Nofoaluma, Tim Simona and Luke Brooks. Statistically, the Tigers had their best quarter of 2013 in the last 6 rounds, having scored 19.3 points per game (an improvement on the 17.5 scored per game last quarter). However, they had their worst statistic quarter in defence in the last quarter, having conceded 36.3 points per game which is well up from the previous quarter’s average of 24 points conceded per game. Over the 2013 season, the Tigers averaged just 16.08 points per game, which was well down on the 21.08 points scored per game last season. In defence, Wests conceded 28.63 points per game, which was much more than the 22.96 points conceded per game in 2012. In terms of rankings, the Tigers ranked 14th in the NRL in attack and 15th in defence. Next season, the Tigers will welcome back some important players from injury, most notably Aaron Woods and Chris Lawrence. In regards to player movement, the will be significant change at the club, most notably with the loss of Benji Marshall. It appears that Luke Brooks will get to start in the halves alongside Braith Anasta. Other departures include Blake Ayshford, Eddy Pettybourne and Joel Reddy. The club has brought back premiership players Pat Richards and Dene Halatau to provide some much needed experience as well as depth in the backline and back row. They have also signed Blake Austin, Martin Taupau, Keith Lulia and Cory Paterson to provide more depth. All of these signings are not walk-up starters though and I am expecting another lean year for my beloved Tigers as they are in the midst of a rebuilding phase.
Over the last six weeks, the Tigers lost both home games and won one away game from four. This took their season home and away records to 5-7 and 2-10 respectively. Both are worse than their records posted last season, where they were 6-6 at home and 5-7 away from home.
St George Illawarra Dragons 1-5 (1st quarter: C, 3-3. 2nd quarter: F, 1-5. 3rd quarter: D, 2-4)
The Dragons showed a few signs of good form towards the back end of the season, but disappointing losses to the Eels and Tigers forced me to give them a grade of ‘F’. They were able to challenge top 8 sides Canterbury and Cronulla but just couldn’t finish the job against either side. The Dragons scored more points per game (20.2) in the fourth quarter than they did over any other quarter this season and it was a significant increase on the 13.3 points scored per game last quarter. In defence, the Dragons conceded 26.2 points per game in the fourth quarter, which was the worst quarter for the club in 2013 and more than the 21.8 points conceded per game in the third quarter. Over the season, the Dragons scored 15.79 points per game which is lower than their 2012 average of 16.88 points scored per game. They conceded 22.08 points per game this season, which was also worse than their 2012 average of 18.25 points conceded per game. The Dragons were ranked 15th in attack and 11th in defence in the league in 2013. One reason the Dragons were quite poor late in the season was the losses of their origin players Josh Dugan and Trent Merrin. Both should be back for the start of next season and will provide a boost for the side. Aside from the return of those two players, the Dragons will welcome some new players who they hope will fill the gap left by departing premiership players Matt Cooper, Michael Weyman and Nathan Fien. Gareth Widdop is the big signing and will add some much needed class in the halves. Sam Williams should be in contention to partner Widdop, while Dylan Farrell will add more depth and spark to the backline. English recruit Mike Cooper and former Raider Joel Thompson will add some depth and youth to the forward pack. As a result, I expect the Dragons to improve next season and could even challenge for a top 8 position.
Over the last six games, the only victory was at home. The Dragons lost all other three home games and both away games during this period. This means that their season records are 3-9 at home and 4-8 away from home. The home record is much worse than the 9-3 home record in 2012, while the away record is better than the 2-10 record away from home last season.
Canberra 0-6 (1st quarter: C, 3-3. 2nd quarter: B, 3-3. 3rd quarter: B, 4-2)
Wow, the wheels surely fell off the Raiders wagon. Following the support of wayward star centre Blake Ferguson, player revolt led to the dismissal of their coach David Furner. Ferguson has since been subsequently sacked by the club. Aside from that, their form over the past six weeks has been diabolical, especially in defence. This club needs a hard taskmaster to get the players in order. Statistically in defence, the Raiders were horrendous over the last 6 rounds as they conceded an astonishing 41.3 points per game. This is by far the worst for any quarter this season and almost triple the 16.2 points conceded per game in the third quarter. In attack, the Raiders scored 16.3 points per game, which is only better than the 16 points per game scored in the first 6 rounds and worse than the 16.7 points per game scored in the third quarter. Over the course of the season, Canberra scored 18.08 points per game, which was lower than the 22.71 points per game scored in 2012. In defence, the Raiders conceded 26 points per game, more than the 22.33 points per game conceded last season. They were ranked 13th in the league in attack and 14th in defence, which suggests that their bottom 4 finish was justified. Some good news for you Raiders fans is that you will get some quality players back from injury at the start of next season, such as Shaun Fensom, Jack Wighton, Edrick Lee, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Mark Nicholls. Unfortunately, they do have a few losses as Ferguson has been sacked, Sandor Earl has stood down after pleading guilty to taking and trafficking peptides and Shaun Berrigan has retired. The Dragons have snared duo Joel Thompson and Sam Williams which will reduce the depth of the back row and halves. There is also speculation that Anthony Milford wants to leave the club. Canberra needs to do all it can to keep him. The Raiders have one significant signing, that of Lagi Setu from Melbourne. With all due respect to Setu, his signing does not make up for the losses of all of the previously mentioned players. It’s hard to know what to expect for the Raiders next season as they still have enough talent to push for a finals position. However, the new coach has a tough ask to get this side to rebuild from a season from hell.
In the last 6 rounds, Canberra lost all four home matches and both away matches. This took their season records to 8-4 at home and 2-10 away from home respectively. The home record is better than the 6-6 record from 2012 but the away record is far worse than the 7-5 record from last season.