We're just four rounds into the year but already a giant problem in the NRL has been made abundantly clear.

The chasm between the contenders and pretenders in the league is wider than we've seen in years - 17 of them, to be exact - and there's no reason to expect the worrying trend won't continue.

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A series of blowouts over the Easter long weekend saw a total of 209 points decide the eight matches from Thursday-Monday, as the average winning margin (26.13 points) reached its highest level since Round 16, 2004, when the figure stood at 29.57 points.

Penrith hammered Manly (46-6), Souths put Canterbury in the doghouse (38-0), Melbourne embarrassed Brisbane (40-6), Cronulla heaped more misery on North Queensland (48-10) and the Roosters dusted the Warriors by 20 points.

It's only added weight to the belief aired by multiple pundits in the opening month of the competition that, barring some massively unexpected developments, you can already predict who the top six and bottom six will be by season's end.

The Sea Eagles have been abysmal, going winless across four matches while conceding 156 points. The Bulldogs have failed to score a single point in three straight games, becoming just the third team in history to be guilty of such a sin.

You have to go back all the way to 1928 - that's 93 years ago - to find a team (Glebe) that has scored fewer than the 16 points Canterbury has managed across the first four rounds of a season.

Todd Payten's reign in Townsville couldn't have started any worse, the Cowboys giving up 141 points in four successive losses as the bottom three teams all have points differentials worse than minus-100.

 

Just six of this season's 32 matches have been decided by a converted try or less, and it's a problem Warriors coach Nathan Brown is well aware of.

"I don't think any of us like seeing a game of footy when it's 30-0 at halftime," he said.

"When you see games where it's tight, they are the games we want to see from a footy fan's point of view.

"I don't think it's great for the game, but I don't know what the answer is there.

"Because I do think the new rules make for a good spectacle. I like seeing the game where smaller people can get an advantage."

Some have suggested those new rules introduced to speed up the game have made it more difficult for weaker teams to remain competitive, but Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V'landys said it's up to clubs to figure out a way to win.

"The measures have got to promote open and entertaining games, not to give bad teams a chance," V'landys said, per the Sydney Morning Herald.

"The clubs are going to have to get their rosters right to compete. A percentage of it might be due to the new rules, but I don't think that's the whole of it. It's not that there are new rules and all of a sudden you can't tackle.

"You don't introduce measures that are going to promote mediocrity.

"Rather than talking about lopsided games, let's look at the teams that are models to be looked at for success.

"I'll stress that we will never introduce measures to hide mediocrity."

 

A class above

Panthers (4-0)

Eels (4-0)

Roosters (3-1)

Rabbitohs (3-1)

Raiders (3-1)

Storms (2-2)

Middle of the road

Dragons (3-1)

Sharks (2-2)

Titans (2-2)

Knights (2-2)

Warriors (2-2)

Hanging on for dear life

Tigers (1-3)

Broncos (1-3)

Cowboys (0-4)

Bulldogs (0-4)

Sea Eagles (0-4)

 

 

 

Originally published as Alarming proof of blatant NRL problem


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