With just five rounds to go in the 2006 NRL
premiership it’s time to have a look at the teams which have performed worse
than expected, and better than expected.

The race for the worst performing team is a
no-contest. The Sydney Roosters have disappointed comprehensively, and last
weekend’s thrashing of the Cowboys does little to change the position.

The Roosters are one of the best funded
teams in the NRL, coached by national coach Ricky Stuart, and the player roster
has plenty of representative players. But the Roosters are now wallowing in
third last place. They have the second worst for and against record in the NRL,
topped only by the Rabbitohs, who have the wooden spoon sewn up.

On their recent form the Brisbane Broncos are
also performing below expectations. The reigning premiers, the Wests Tigers,
are outside the top eight, but they have had a terrible injury toll, so there
are excuses.

On the brighter side of the ledger several
teams vie for a “performing better than expected” award.

The standout team is the Melbourne Storm.
Last year the Storm ended the season in sixth place with 13 wins and 11 losses.
With five rounds to go this year, they’re on 16 wins, three losses, and have a six
point lead in the premiership race. It looks even more impressive when you look
at the points for and against. The Storm are plus 143, with the Bulldogs second
best on plus 107.

The other side doing well this season is
the Bulldogs. Last year the Bulldogs had a dreadful season, finishing in 12th
place – equal with the Rabbitohs – with just nine wins and 14 losses. Today
the Bulldogs are in clear second place on 30 points, with an impressive 13 wins
and 6 losses so far. The Bulldogs look to be the main rivals to the Storm for
the premiership.

The other team that deserves an honourable
mention is the Parramatta Eels. Since coach Brian Smith was punted early in the
season, the Eels have turned their season around. In the first five rounds the
Eels won just one game. They have won the last six matches straight and are now
a chance of making the finals.

Peter Fray

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