Anything goes: Stats point to NRL finals shock
The MVP Ratings index has thrown up some shock predictions for 2021, with Manly and the Warriors to make the finals according to the numbers, while premiership powerhouses Canberra are tipped to miss out.
The Sea Eagles' premiership campaign seemed to be in tatters following yet another hamstring injury to star fullback Tom Trbojevic, but the MVP Rating has them sneaking into eighth with an average MVP Rating per game of 64.64.
According to Fox League's Greg Alexander, such a result isn't so far-fetched, but Manly will need a fair few breaks to go their way to make it happen.
"They can make it, if we assume a number of things and that's it with Manly,'' Alexander said.
"Plenty of assumptions need to be put into the computer to spit out a top-eight result for them.
"They'll need Tom Trbojevic to come back and play the rest of the year but Dylan Walker is a talented player, he can fit in just about anywhere so I don't mind that selection to start the season.
It's time to register for Australia's best fantasy footy game - KFC SuperCoach. Register now at supercoach.com.au >
"Plus there's Daly Cherry-Evans and the rest of the Manly crew who have been there for a while. It's quite a good line-up."
The MVP Ratings prediction for the Raiders seems far less likely. With Canberra tipped to contend for their first title since 1994, the MVP Ratings has them way down in 10th.
Such a finish would be a major shock for Ricky Stuart's men after last year's preliminary final berth.
"The Raiders are a top four team for mine. I don't understand that one. I can't see the Raiders missing the eight," Alexander said.
"If their key players stay fit and on the field I can't see that happening."
In another surprise result, the Knights are predicted to finish in the top four while wooden-spoon favourites St George Illawarra have been picked to finish ninth.
Newcastle's average MVP Rating per player of 65.94 has them behind only Penrith, South Sydney and the Roosters.
"Top four might be a stretch,'' Alexander said. "Kalyn Ponga is a great fullback and Brailey will make an enormous difference - sometimes the importance of a quality dummy half can be underrated.
"They look good across their spine, Kurt Mann was outstanding when he played five-eighth last year but there is some pressure on Mitchell Pearce. He didn't have a great season last year and he needs to be a lot better but I'm sure he's ready to start well.
"Their key positions are quite strong, I just don't know if they've got the players around them to challenge the top sides."
The MVP Ratings cannot count for external factors - like the Warriors playing the entire season away from home - but has nevertheless predicted a seventh-placed finish for the Kiwis in their first season under Nathan Brown.
"I'm impressed with their roster. I like their side, I really do, David Fusitu'a and Ken Maumalo coming in on the wings will be good for them," Alexander said.
"When it comes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck there's not much of a difference between his first and last games, he's so solid and consistent and Addin Fonua-Blake is a great signing.
"They could sneak into the eight, they're a real chance if they can get their head around what they're doing."
Originally published as Anything goes: Stats point to NRL finals shock