Your team’s report card after Round 5
Five games down, 15 to go. There’s still plenty of footy to be played in what’s been an abnormal year, to say the least.
Now a quarter of the way through the regular season, it’s been interesting watching sides adapt to the game and the new changes that have been implemented such as the six-again rule.
On top of this, some sides have bolted out of the blocks post the suspension of the comp. Here is each NRL team’s report card, looking at where they have excelled and struggled in the early stages of the competition.
Parramatta Eels – five wins, zero losses: A+
There is no doubting how great Parramatta have been this season. The Eels sit comfortably at the top of the ladder. Most recently grinding out a win over fierce rivals Penrith, the Eels are showing a lot of hunger and grit, which has been missing from some of their previous squads over the years. This along with the fact their new signings Ryan Matterson and Reagan Campbell-Gillard are continuing to impress each week is an exciting prospect for Parramatta fans. There’s not a lot to fault from their first five games, however, it will be interesting to see how the Eels shape up against sides like the Roosters and Storm.
Newcastle Knights – three wins, one draw, one loss: A
Adam O’Brien’s Knights have had an impressive start to 2020, looking dangerous in attack. The blooding of young local products including Bradman Best and Chris Randall will continue to reap rewards throughout the season. The Knights look to be stronger as a group, highlighted in their tough-fought draw in Round 3 against the Panthers. One area of concern is Newcastle’s edge defence, which was targeted by the Storm. On the whole, the Knights’ total missed tackles are down, now averaging 28.4 per game compared to 32.9 in 2019. This may be the year Newcastle crack not only the top eight but potentially a top-four spot too.
Sydney Roosters – three wins, two losses: A
Starting the year with two narrow losses wasn’t ideal for the back-to-back premiers, but the break has been a breath of fresh air. Similar to their 2018 season, the Roosters took a couple of months to build their spine connections between James Tedesco, Luke Keary, Cooper Cronk and Jake Friend. It’s safe to say after a 59-0 drubbing of the Broncos and convincing 42-6 win over the Bulldogs, Keary, Kyle Flanagan and Tedesco are solidifying their partnership. If any side is going to go close to a three-peat, it’s maybe this fantastic Roosters outfit.
Melbourne Storm – four wins, two losses: A-
Four from five to start 2020, the Storm are yet again showing why they are the best in the business. After a shock Round 3 loss to the Raiders, Melbourne have been able to adapt to the new rules, knocking off South Sydney and the Knights in convincing fashion. Brandon Smith’s injection into the forward pack and their solid back line continually turning up in defence will serve them well, as they face the Panthers, Roosters and Raiders over the next five weeks.
Penrith Panthers – three wins, one draw, one loss: B+
Despite just petering out in Round 5, the men from the mountains have had a strong start to their 2020 season. In Rounds 1 and 2 Nathan Cleary was a master, pulling the strings every which way. What’s possibly more exciting is the halves headache, which has been created for coach Ivan Cleary as Matt Burton and Jarome Luai have impressed in Nathan’s absence. The unearthing of local junior Stephen Crichton, as well as the influence of their off-season pick-ups including Apisai Koroisau, have made them a more consistent side overall.
Canberra Raiders – four wins, one loss: B+
The Raiders did have a few question marks on them coming into the 2020 season as to whether they would be able to replicate their 2019 form, which booked them a spot in the grand final. But with strong wins, most notably their gritty performance over the Storm in Melbourne, have answered the doubters. The Green Machine’s early form has been impressive. New English import George Williams has also been impressive. He has been able to slot into the spine and create a nice partnership with Jack Wighton. If they can continue that gritty style of footy displayed against the Storm in Round 3 they will look to pull off some big wins over the next few weeks. The Green Machine face a few tough tests in their next five clashes, including Manly, Parramatta, Melbourne and the Roosters.
Manly Sea Eagles – three wins, two losses: B-
After a disappointing opening round against the Storm, Manly scored to a fantastic win over the Roosters the following week. They have had mixed luck since then, winning two of three and playing in patches at times. One key performer has been Tom Trbojevic, who currently leads the Dally M table. A potential draw-back for Manly could be their depth throughout the season, as already they have had injuries to Curtis Sironen, Martin Taupau and others across the team. They face the Raiders in Round 6, which will be an interesting contest.
New Zealand Warriors – two wins, three losses: C
After looking below par in the opening two rounds, the Warriors have since played with a vigorous spirit, which will serve them well. A near-perfect win with a strong completion rate of 36 out of 38 against the Dragons in Round 3 was exciting to watch for Warriors fans as they simply stuck to the basics. The points come in droves when the Warriors are on, and hopefully, they can continue to build off of their Round 5 win over the Cowboys.
North Queensland Cowboys – two wins, three losses: C-
Only the two wins for the Cowboys, but there’s still plenty to like about what may develop through the year. With Jason Taumalolo’s consistency, the Cowboys’ forward pack looked to follow in his footsteps as they currently have the second lowest amount of missed tackles in 2020. They have also scored 123 points, which stacks up as the second highest in the comp, trailing only the Roosters. A big worry for the North Queensland side is their vulnerability without their more experienced players, as seen in their defeat to the Sharks in Round 4.
South Sydney Rabbitohs – two wins, three losses: D+
It’s been a disappointing start to the year from the Bunnies considering what is expected of them. Souths have done the job against the lower sides but it’s been unfortunate to see them peter out of the contest against competition heavyweights the Storm and Roosters. Still gelling on the field, Wayne Bennett has made some minor positional changes such as altering Cameron Murray and moving Latrell Mitchell around to ease him into the fullback role. South Sydney’s attack has looked rather bleak, having only scored 14 tries in their first five matches. After a solid win over the Titans, they should improve and will look to pick up points as they face the Warriors, Bulldogs and Tigers in their next five games.
Wests Tigers – two wins, three losses: D+
It’s a mixed bag for the Tigers. They haven’t had a full 80-minute performance this season yet, which is evident in coach Michael Maguire’s willingness to chop and change his side, most notably dropping veteran Benji Marshall. Some of the Tigers’ off-season pick-ups have been promising such as Harry Grant’s impact through the middle and Adam Doueihi’s solid fullback work, where he looks to be developing every game. It can’t get any simpler for the Tigers. They are showing good patches but need to put together full performances. Crucially, they need to perform in defence to avoid defeats such as their unexpected loss against the Titans after being in control of the game.
Brisbane Broncos – two wins, three losses: D+
What a turnaround it’s been for the Broncos. They went from winners in their first two matches and looking like they had put away the big defeat suffered in the 2019 finals series, to a side lacking effort and spark in areas of their game. The Eels and Roosters ran all over the Broncos side featuring a host of young players due to injury. Despite these injures, most concerning was the Broncos’ lack of effort in defence and attack, looking like an attitude problem. They showed guts against the Sea Eagles and on their day are a major threat, but having a hunger to win is Brisbane’s biggest battle.
Canterbury Bulldogs – one win, three losses: D
Plenty of effort has been displayed in the Bulldogs side, narrowly losing to the Eels and Cowboys. Hampered by cap troubles, the side looks to be just a few players off in some of the games as was the case against the Roosters. A strong performance and the return of Kieran Foran made the difference in a comfortable win in Round 4. If the Dogs can hold onto the footy and create pressure at the end of their sets, they settle into a nice rhythm, which will do them well in the upcoming rounds.
Gold Coast Titans – one win, four losses: D
After an abysmal start to the 2020 season, the Titans looked as if they hadn’t improved one bit. Justin Holbrook has his work cut out for him, but the Titans just wanted to win against the Tigers as they pulled off a comeback in Round 4. The big-money earners have been dropped including Nathan Peats and new signing Corey Thompson will fill the fullback role as AJ Brimson continues his recovery. They face the Dragons and Sharks over the next three weeks where they should be able to compete and pull off wins as they grow in confidence.
Cronulla Sharks – one win, four losses: F
Touted as having one of the easiest draws, the Sharkies haven’t done themselves any favours in the first five rounds. A win against a Jason Taumalolo-less Cowboys side is all Cronulla have recorded this season. Marred by Bronson Xerri’s off-field drama, the Sharks are under loads of pressure as they currently are the second worst in the comp for errors, and have missed 170 tackles. Some big decisions will need to be made by coach John Morris to resurface the sinking Sharks.
St George Illawarra Dragons – one win, four losses: F
Having 190 minutes between tries just sums up the Dragons’ start to 2020. A side on paper who should be comfortably making the top eight, with experienced halves, a strong forward pack and some of the most exciting juniors, just aren’t doing the job. Many excuses have been tossed up surrounding coach Paul McGregor and off-field issues with Jack de Belin. But it’s plain and simple. The effort and hunger to win are simply not visible. They took some positive steps against the Sharks but there is no doubting the work that is needed on the field with the Saints.
Author – Mitchell Farrugia