NRL 2021 | Your Team's Chances Of Winning The Premiership
We're over a month into the NRL season and the good teams have already separated themselves from the bad.
The Penrith Panthers are on fire and might never lose again.
Despite losing Luke Keary for the year, the Sydney Roosters are still hanging around the top tier teams, while the Melbourne Storm have kicked off the post-Smith era in typical Storm-like fashion.
Wayne Bennett's South Sydney Rabbitohs have looked every bit like premiership contenders as well.
At the bottom, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs resurgence doesn't look like it will start in 2021. The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, Brisbane Broncos, Wests Tigers and North Queensland Cowboys haven't separated themselves from the wooden spoon either.
The 2021 NRL season seems more predictable than ever. Still, the Stats Insider Futures Model has crunched the numbers for all 16 teams and produced some interesting results.
Top 4: 0.1%
Top 8: 4.1%
Most Losses: 18.6%
It has been a rough start to the Kevin Walters era at the Brisbane Broncos. They have won just one of their first five games, play with the third-worst attack in the NRL (13.6ppg) while conceding 25.4 points per game.
The halves are a mess. It started in Round 1 when Tom Dearden missed out on selection with Anthony Milford now dropped from the side for Round 6. Somehow, Brodie Croft continues to fall into a first-grade spot. Kotoni Staggs is still to return from injury and he will add an instant spark to the Broncos attack. However, they have the hardest remaining schedule in the competition and Brisbane's season may already be over by the time their strike centre is back on the field.
A finals spot is all but out of the question. While it highlights their fall from grace more than anything, the Broncos are in a good position to avoid consecutive wooden spoons (18.6%).
Top 4: 32.9%
Top 8: 78.8%
Most Losses: 0.1%
Injuries have made things difficult for the Canberra Raiders to start the season. Lucky for them, a bevy of first-grade quality players are being stashed away in reserve grade and are more than capable of filling in the gaps. It's the Raiders depth that has allowed them to pick up three wins through five games despite injuries having a significant impact on the side.
A new role for George Williams has needed some navigating. So too has Josh Hodgson's return with his on-ball style from behind the ruck forcing Jack Wighton, in particular, to adjust slightly.
The Raiders can be happy with 8th on the ladder at this point. They have the squad to keep their head above water as injuries take their toll. If they can continue to pick up wins and nurse injuries to health for finals time, their current 7.1% for the premiership will lift.
Top 4: 0.0%
Top 8: 1.3%
Most Losses: 43.1%
The first month of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 2021 season is one of the worst months of football we've seen from any side in recent memory.
To go three weeks without scoring a try - no matter the opposition - is a sad indictment on a side that just can't lift themselves out of the basement of the NRL ladder. High-profile signing Kyle Flanagan hasn't come close to living up to expectations. Although, that has been made difficult by playing behind a dreadful pack. The Bulldogs' 1,394 running metres per game is the worst in the NRL and doesn't look like improving any time soon.
Trent Barrett has made some handy signings out the back. However, they're for nothing if the pack can't lay a platform and Flanagan can't feed them with quality ball. It's unlikely that we see the Bulldogs put it all together well enough often enough to avoid the wooden spoon this year.
They're a 43.1% favourite for the most losses according to the Stats Insider Futures Model.
Top 4: 5.0%
Top 8: 37.2%
Most Losses: 2.1%
Despite winning just two of their first five games, it was all looking encouraging for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks to start the season.
Matt Moylan has been able to stay on the field and has forged a promising partnership with Chad Townsend at halfback and William Kennedy at fullback. Shaun Johnson is still to return to the fold too.
Toughness and resilience is a feature of the squad. They've dealt with their fair share of injuries while keeping close to top sides in the competition. The signs are good. If you'll remember last year, we saw these positive signs at 1-4 to start the season before rebounding to play finals football.
But those reasons for optimism may have walked out the door this week...
Gold Coast Titans
Top 4: 15.1%
Top 8: 59.7%
Most Losses: 0.7%
The team riding the biggest preseason hype-train fails to live up to the expectations so often, just look at the hype around the Dragons and the wooden spoon six weeks ago. But with a quality coach commanding a promising playing group and the addition of elite young players to the fold, the Gold Coast Titans look good to reach the predicted heights and play finals football in 2021.
Jamal Fogarty and Ash Taylor look as though they can link up well enough by the end of the season to produce one of the most dangerous attacks in the NRL. It shouldn't be too difficult while David Fifita runs riot on the left edge.
It's being made possible by a strong forward pack that has an excellent blend of power (Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and Moeaki Fotuaika) and ball-playing (Tyrone Peachey and Jarrod Wallace). That variation is difficult to defend allowing the Titans to find success across the park this season.
There is likely to be a lull at some point. This is still a young and relatively inexperienced side when it comes to winning football games. However, they should add to their finals experience this September.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Top 4: 2.1%
Top 8: 20.1%
Most Losses: 6.3%
There isn't much point in using the first five weeks of the season to predict the following 20 for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. For better or worse, it's all different when Tom Trbojevic is healthy.
It's not usually this bad. Manly's attack and defence ended up as the clubs worst ever through four rounds before beating the Warriors 13-12 in Round 5.
But with Trbojevic to return in Round 6, things are looking up for the Sea Eagles. He adds a different element to their attack and the sheer gravity he has to a defensive line will open things up for others.
Manly are in no man's land at the moment. They're neither a projected Top 8 team (20.1%) nor are they likely to finish 16th (6.3%). These numbers could look a lot different next month with Trbojevic's return, though. Also encouraging: Manly does have the easiest remaining schedule in the competition.
Top 4: 58.7%
Top 8: 92.0%
Most Losses: 0.0%
Different year, same Melbourne Storm.
It's ridiculous that this team has replaced arguably the best-ever trio with Cameron Munster, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Harry Grant. They have Jahrome Hughes floating around them in the spine too.
While it hasn't been smooth sailing (the Round 2 loss to the Eels wasn't expected), you can see this group working towards September already. Craig Bellamy will rotate his players through the side to develop cohesion while this new-look spine irons out the kinks over the next few months. They will unearth some more forgotten talent along the way too...
Scoring 28 points per game while conceding just 14 points per game through five rounds, Melbourne are doing it on both sides of the ball. They will only get better from here.
Top 4: 4.0%
Top 8: 33.1%
Most Losses: 2.6%
The Newcastle Knights medical staff have been kept busy again to start the season.
Mitchell Pearce is out for an extended period while every player in the spine outside of Jayden Brailey has spent time on the sideline. Every week a player is limping off the field and not returning which has undoubtedly played a part in their 2-3 start to the season.
However, their three losses on the bounce are a massive cause for concern given the opposition. Regardless of injuries, Newcastle should have been able to take two points off one of the Tigers, Dragons or Titans.
Finishing up 7th on the ladder in 2020 set the expectations for 2021. The Futures Model now gives the Knights just a 33.1% chance of cracking the Top 8 this season.
North Queensland Cowboys
Top 4: 0.6%
Top 8: 11.3%
Most Losses: 10.4%
A win in Round 5 doesn't excuse the fact that the North Queensland Cowboys looked like genuine wooden spoon contenders throughout the first month. However, with some promising signs last week and Jason Taumalolo returning for Round 6, things are looking up for Todd Payten and his men.
Like Manly, they're in no man's land; neither a Top 8 threat nor likely to claim the wooden spoon. Again like Manly, their numbers could look a lot different in a month from now with Taumalolo in the side.
We've still not seen him float out to the edge with the ball like Payten talked about before Round 1. His 200+ metres per game will be a game-changer for the Cowboys halves too. There is no way the Cowboys will still average their current 14 points per game by the end of Round 25.
This poor start may have wiped away their chances of reaching the Top 8 (11.3%), but they might be able to flirt around the edges if Payten can galvanise his side the same way he did with the Warriors last season.
Top 4: 33.5%
Top 8: 80.0%
Most Losses: 0.1%
The Parramatta Eels' Round 6 clash against the Canberra Raiders all of a sudden carries significant importance.
A 4-0 start to the season got the Eels off to a flier. Plenty predicted a drop off in 2021, but the first month of football showed only improvement. But the 26-12 loss to the Dragons in Round 5 looked a little bit Eels-like. Back-to-back losses start to bring back some of the questions about their ability to take the next step from a Top 8 regular (80.0%) to a premiership contender (6.9%).
The Parramatta pack is getting the team up the field through their second-ranked 1,838 running metres per game. Behind it, Reed Mahoney is in career-best form and adding some variation to an attack that became stale by the end of 2020.
At 3rd on the NRL ladder and one of the better teams to start the year, Parramatta's 33.5% to make the Top 4 comes from their remaining draw. Only one team faces a more difficult run to the end of Round 25 than the Eels.
Top 4: 89.5%
Top 8: 99.3%
Most Losses: 0.0%
You're allowed to be cocky and arrogant when you're scoring 28 points per game (3rd) and conceding only 5.2 points per game (1st).
The Penrith Panthers are the Stats Insider Futures model's premiership favourites at 24.5% with five wins to start the year putting them at 46.0% to win the minor premiership.
Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai are taking care of the attack. Floating over to both sides of the field and finding opportunities to execute trick plays, the Panthers can score points in a hurry. They're relentless in building pressure. Their patience is of veteran quality despite their relative inexperience.
Defensively, Penrith are yet to concede a try down their left edge and have allowed only five through them across the field all season.
At 88% to take the chocolates on Thursday night, the Panthers are set to win their 20th consecutive regular season game on the trot this week.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Top 4: 76.2%
Top 8: 97.0%
Most Losses: 0.0%
As expected, the South Sydney Rabbitohs left edge is tearing opposition defences to shreds. Their 15 tries down the left side through five rounds is the most in the competition. Even without Cody Walker in Round 5, having Benji Marshall replace him for a week ensured the Rabbitohs juggernaut continued to roll its way towards a Top 4 spot (76.2%).
Latrell Mitchell is in excellent form and a genuine contender for the Dally M Medal. He was hammered 12 months ago with experts around the game demanding his prompt return to the centres. Mitchell has scored five tries, handed out sixtry assists and broke 28 tackles so far this season while averaging 151 running metres per game.
Latrell is a fullback, and while he plays like this, the Rabbitohs are premiership contenders.
St. George-Illawarra Dragons
Top 4: 13.9%
Top 8: 49.9%
Most Losses: 0.5%
Almost everybody was wrong about the St. George-Illawarra Dragons throughout the preseason. Now, they're at 49.9% to make an unexpected appearance in finals footy to accelerate their rebuild in the wake of Paul McGregor's departure last season.
Top 4: 63.8%
Top 8: 94.7%
Most Losses: 0.0%
Similar to their South Sydney rivals, the Sydney Roosters are carving up one side of the field. Their 18 tries down the right edge is the most of any area of the field in the NRL.
Luke Keary is a massive loss. For most, his injury marked the end of the Roosters premiership hopes. Sam Walker's start to his NRL career has offered some hope, though. How much he can improve between now and the end of Round 25 will determine their finals chances.
The Roosters attack is still elite and will ensure they continue to beat the bad teams and make the Top 8 at the very least (94.7%). Their 13.2 points conceded per game confirms their place in the premiership conversation too (16.3%). While nobody expects the Roosters to lift the Provan-Summons Trophy with Keary sitting on the sideline, everybody knows better than to rule them out entirely.
New Zealand Warriors
Top 4: 4.1%
Top 8: 32.2%
Most Losses: 2.7%
Todd Payten's good work at the New Zealand Warriors in 2020 is slowly being undone to start 2021.
There has been no improvement despite improving the squad over the summer. Injuries have played a part, but almost no club has been immune. Hanging 34 points on a beat-up Raiders side papers over what has been a poor Warriors attack so far this season ( 18.6ppg) with a lack of potency painfully evident in their Round 6 loss to an awful Sea Eagles outfit.
In positive news, the Kiwi club has the second-easiest remaining schedule and may yet return to New Zealand to play genuine home games.
Top 4: 0.7%
Top 8: 9.3%
Most Losses: 12.8%
It's all looking a bit Wests Tigers at the moment. The attack still struggles for creativity despite averaging 18.8 points per game. Their failure to identify clear weakness in the Cowboys defensive line in Round 5 highlighted their lack of a game manager and leader with the ball.
Players moving in and out of the squad haven't helped, but a lot of the changes have come due to poor form.
Meanwhile, their left edge is the leakiest defensive area in the competition having conceded 15 tries already this season.
Some fresh faces offered typical pre-season optimism among the Tigers faithful but little has changed. Right now, only the Bulldogs and Broncos are rated a better chance of finishing 16th.
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