Storm bumped out of NRL’s top-eight bubble
Posted on 04/25/20 7:45 PM
Melbourne have fallen out of the NRL’s top eight for the first time since June 2014.Melbourne’s 92-round love-in with the NRL’s top eight is over, after they were bumped out of the top half of the ladder for the first time since June 2014.
The Gold Coast’s 32-20 defeat of Manly on Sunday made for the most unlikely of ladders, with five of last year’s bottom eight now sitting in finals-playing positions.
The rarest of those outside the eight are easily the Storm, down in ninth after they lost to the Wests Tigers for the second time this year on Saturday night, meaning they’ve lost three of their opening five games.
For context, the last time Melbourne were placed this low Todd Carney was being served his termination papers from Cronulla for his infamous bubbler incident.
The defending premiers aren’t alone in their struggles though.
Highlighting the potential changing of the guard, last year’s runners-up North Queensland are 14th with just one win, while the other two teams aside from Melbourne to play grand finals in the past three years – Cronulla and Brisbane – are 11th and 12th after losses to the Sydney Roosters and Newcastle.
Pre-season favourites Parramatta are also dead last after Canberra broke their duck against Canterbury, making for the Eels’ worst start to a season since 1991.
They have now fallen from from last year’s top four to starting the 2018 season without a win from their opening five games, after they were beaten 12-6 by Penrith on Sunday.
The Panthers, Sea Eagles and Sydney Roosters are the only teams out of last year’s finalists to remain in the top eight, with Penrith looking the most dangerous with four wins in their opening five games.
“It’s been a really good five weeks for us,” Panthers coach Anthony Griffin said.
“Everyone wants to start well, and apart from against the Bulldogs I think our performances have been really strong.”
At the top of the ladder, St George Illawarra and the Warriors are already almost halfway towards securing their finals spots after going undefeated through the first five rounds.
Since the beginning of the NRL era, only North Queensland in 2006 have started the season with such a record and failed to make the finals.
It marks a significant turnaround, given the Warriors haven’t played finals football since 2011, while the Dragons’ last playoffs victory came in the 2010 grand final.
But suddenly, both are looking credentialed as serious finals threats.
The Dragons’ four-point win over South Sydney on Friday night was their equal-closest of the season so far, while the Warriors’ defeat of North Queensland was easily their best effort of the year.