With 13 games gone in the regular season, things are very tight at the top of the NRL table with just four points separating top side St George Illawarra Dragons and the Brisbane Broncos in eighth place.
In terms of qualifying for the next phase, only the Parramatta Eels look to be cut adrift: Brad Arthur’s team have just four points from their 13 matches and, with a telling points difference of -124, we shouldn’t expect them to go any further.
Tight at the Top
We can discard the Eels but the remaining fifteen sides may all hope to progress beyond the regular campaign. It’s tight at the top of the table and things are close in the markets too with bet365 showing no fewer than four joint-favourites in their current NRL betting odds.
The Dragons, the Panthers, the Roosters and the Rabbitohs are all locked at the same price and it will be tough to pick a Grand Final winner from those four. There is potential for an upset too with the likes of Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos all firmly inside the top eight.
But what about the Canberra Raiders? Ricky Stuart’s team currently occupy the tenth place and are getting little support for a first Grand Final win but one key player firmly believes they can go all the way.
A Big Finish?
Last month, 25-year-old prop Shannon Boyd announced that he had signed a new four year deal with the Gold Coast Titans for 2019. The timing wasn’t great for Raiders fans but the Australian international believes he can leave the capital with a winner’s medal in his pocket.
Boyd has been with the Green Machine since the 2014 campaign and the club offered a two-year contract to extend his existing deal but the player opted for the greater security of a longer arrangement with the Titans. Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Boyd claimed that he wanted to “get some security up to about 30” as he did not expect to play much longer after that.
The player feels that, with his playing future now settled, he can fully concentrate on the time he has left in the country’s capital. Boyd’s belief is based on the fact that it is so tight in the table, most teams retain a chance of making it through to the next phase and from there, anything can happen as we’ve seen in previous years.
What are the Chances?
Is Shannon Boyd right to believe that this Canberra Raiders side can take the Grand Final this year or is the Prop just paying ‘lip service’ to the fans that he is leaving behind? The structure of the competition means that clubs can have a mediocre season and still get into the top eight but there are no guarantees that the Green Machine can even make it past the regular period.
When Boyd spoke to the press, the Raiders sat in tenth, four points away from the eighth-placed side, having won five of their twelve matches. We’re less than halfway through but an improvement on that return is clearly needed.
It may be making a bold claim but a Grand Final appearance would be a fitting end in Canberra for a man who became a test player and found himself on the verge of a State of Origin call-up during his time with the Green Machine.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com