It is not the Hot Form Chart’s job to ponder the parlous state of rugby league in the most competitive sports market in the world. Nor is it to air the implications of a pulled multi-million dollar advertising campaign thanks to a charge of sexual assault against the game’s pin-up boy, whose club — the defending premiers remember — is already riven by powerplays and almost unimaginable buffoonery.

And it is certainly not the Hot Form Chart’s job to make declarations about the former members of the NRL tribunal who were stood down after making a grab for cash a higher priority than the interests of the game, a development all but swallowed up by the Brett Stewart affair.

Happily, Crikey’s NRL Hot Form Chart is concerned with just one matter — lighting the murky skies of furrow-browed tipsters in 2009. The formula is simple: take the last five premiership games and build a chart — a Hot Form Chart, if you will — to see which teams are tearing it up and which are mouldering like stale bread.

And so, on the face of it, Manly’s clash with last season’s basket case the Bulldogs would appear a fait accompli. But a piss-soaked afternoon is a long time in football and it remains to be seen if the NRL’s new club in crisis can at least get its act together on the field.

The season kicks off tonight with Melbourne hosting St George. The Dragons have a new coach this year, a bloke named Wayne Bennet. He did an apprenticeship in Queensland before heading to the big smoke and will be desperate to impress. The Storm have lost some lustre in recent seasons but still boast big names, and in Greg Inglis — a sort of divine mix between Artie Beetson and Usain Bolt — have the league’s most devastating player.

Bennett’s old mob, Brisbane, take to the field for the first time ever without his guidance. The Broncos face a sure- to-be-improved North Queensland in what could be the match of the round.

The Warriors might win a premiership this season. Parramatta won’t. Their battle will be one-sided as will Cronulla’s stoush with Penrith … probably. Coach Ricky Stuart, lightened of the burden of national duties, will be keen to atone in some small way for his behaviour after Australia’s loss to New Zealand in last year’s world cup (I think I’ve already used the phrase “unimaginable buffoonery”).

The Form Chart sees the other first-round winners as Souths, Canberra and the Gold Coast although only on evidence that can be considered lukewarm and spongy as opposed to cold and hard.

Form*Team2008 form ratingFinal 2008 positionSequence
1Manly 11W-W-W-W-W
2 Cronulla 2 3 W-W-W-W-L
3 Warriors 3 4 W-W-W-W-L
4 Brisbane 4 6W-W-W-W-L
5 Melbourne52W-L-W-W-L
6 Newcastle69W-L-W-W-L
7 Canberra7 7W-W-L-W-L
8 Dragons 8 8W-W-W-L-L
9 Parramatta911W-W-W-L-L
10Tigers 10 10 W-L-L-L-W
11 Cowboys11 15 W-L-L-W-L
12 Roosters125 L-W-W-L-L
13 Penrith13 12L-W-L-L-L
14 Titans 14 13 L-W-L-L-L
15 Rabbitohs1514 L-W-L-L-L
16 Bulldogs 16 16L-L-L-L-L

*Form over the past five games

Crikey’s Hot Form Tips for round one are:

  • Melbourne
  • Brisbane
  • Warriors
  • Cronulla
  • Manly
  • Titans
  • Rabbitohs
  • Canberra

Peter Fray

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