With 11 rounds gone and the Origin one split round approaching, it’s time to examine the first half of NRL 2019.
South Sydney, the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne are comfortably in the top four, with teams four to seven at 6-5, and teams eight to eleven at 5-6.
South Sydney (10-1): Last year’s preliminary finalists are sitting nicely at the top at the near-halfway mark. Their only loss was in Golden Point at Brookvale Oval and they’ve been devastating at times. They are the real Slim Shady.
Melbourne (9-2): While they haven’t been as invincible as previous season, they’ve won 9 from 11 and – assuming they get through Origin unscathed – should lock up a top four spot and push for another premiership.
Sydney Roosters (8-3): After eight straight wins from rounds two nine, the Roosters looked heads and shoulders above the rest of the competition. Their Good Friday Golden Point win over Melbourne is arguably the game of the year so far. Consecutive losses to Brisbane and Newcastle have dulled their lustre, but it should be a momentary blip.
Newcastle (6-5): With one win after six rounds, Newcastle looked underwhelming. Then they won five straight, including a huge 38-12 home win against the defending premiers the Sydney Roosters, to slip into the top four. Keep Pearce and Ponga firing and Newcastle will make their first finals series since 2013.
Canberra (6-5): After six wins from their opening eight games, a vastly-improved Canberra looked a genuine threat to the Sydney Roosters, Souths and Melbourne. Three straight losses to the Roosters, Souths and North Queensland saw them drop to fifth. With injuries piling up (losing Josh Hodgson will hurt them), Canberra need to quickly reset to stay in the top four race.
Manly-Warringah (6-5): After losing their first two games, Manly have improved, beating the NZ Warriors, Souths, Newcastle, Canberra, Canterbury and Cronulla. They should stay in the finals mix from here.
Cronulla-Sutherland (6-5): Last year’s preliminary finalists are in the eight and should push for a top four spot with Canberra faltering.
Parramatta (5-6): Last year’s wooden spooners have shown signs of improvement, but inconsistency has hurt them. Highlights like the massive Easter Monday win against Wests (51-6) to open Bankwest Stadium are offset by disappointing losses to Canberra, Newcastle, Melbourne (a 64-10 Magic Round thumping), North Queensland and Penrith. They have the talent, but it could go either way.
Brisbane (5-6): The Anthony Siebold era hasn’t started well, with Brisbane winning just two from their first eight games. Three wins in a row (against Manly, the Sydney Roosters and the Warriors) shows they might play finals, leapfrogging more vulnerable teams.
Wests Tigers (5-6): The Tigers looked good after the first two rounds (led by Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah), but have struggled for consistency (trailing the Titans 14-0 before winning 30-14 summed up that inconsistency). At best they’ll be a lower-ranked finals side, at worst they could miss out completely.
North Queensland (5-6): It’s been a tough year for North Queensland, but they’ve shown recent improvement, winning four from their last six. Keep it up and they’ll be a finals threat.
NZ Warriors (4-7): For the Warriors it’s been the best of times and the blurst of times. After winning their opening two games, they’ve won just two since. Last year’s finals berth was based on a strong away record: so far they’ve managed one from five. A worrying sign.
St. George-Illawarra (4-7): The annual May premiers are struggling so far: are they luring critics into a false sense of security for a late run in the second half of the year? Or will they stay closer to the bottom four? We’ll see.
Gold Coast (3-8): It’s been a tough start for the Titans, though a surprise win against Manly at Brookvale suggested they could climb from the hole. Maybe not make the finals, but at least gain some respectability.
Penrith (3-8): A nightmare season, not helped by the pre-season dramas, has seen Penrith plummet from semi finalists to last place. They had a devastating loss to Wests in Magic Round, after a lucky Golden Point escape against them in round four, and an embarrassing home loss to the Warriors. Unlike 2017 (when they won 11 of their last 15), it’s hard to see them scraping to the finals this time.
Canterbury-Bankstown (3-8): A rough old year for Canterbury. Any glimmers of promise have been cancelled out by a poor performance soon after. For example, a win over Wests (round three) and a close loss to Melbourne (round five) was followed up with a 40-4 loss to St. George-Illawarra (round six). Will be lucky to avoid the wooden spoon.