Adam Kidd for NSWRL Media
30/05/2012 10:44:58 AM
We have reached the halfway mark of the 2012 VB NSW Cup competition so we thought we should run the rule over the sides progress thus far and see who has impressed and who still has plenty of work left to do.

CRONULLA SHARKS – Four wins from their previous six games and a compressed top-eight see’s the boys from the shire with a great opportunity to press hard for finals contention. Their affiliation with the Melbourne Storm means the Sharks starting line-ups are often not finalised until the last minute, maintaining cohesion amongst the chaos will be the key for the Sharks for the remainder of the season. Up-coming games against Canterbury and Newtown will provide a good measure for the Sharks aim’s to finish in the top-four.

Grade - C+

Next three rounds – Illawarra, Canterbury, Newtown

NORTH SYDNEY BEARS – Coach Wayne Lambkin would be pleased to see his North Sydney team leading the competition at the halfway point. A 42-16 round three loss to premiers Canterbury proved to be a wake-up call as the Bears responded with solid victories over Windsor, Illawarra and Manly. Their position on the table could be viewed as slightly deceiving due to fluctuating performances against Newcastle and Mounties in recent weeks, where they trailed 24-4 and lead 20-6 respectively, before sealing tight victories. A plus for Bears fans is the fact they are winning the tight matches, although maintaining their lofty position will be a challenge without the benefit of a bye in the second-half of the year.

Grade – A

Next three rounds – Balmain Ryde-Eastwood, Auckland, Canterbury

CANTERBURY BULLDOGS – The Premiers depth will continue to be tested due to the success and injury-toll of their first grade team. Whilst their forward pack remains intact the Bulldogs will remain a force to be reckoned with, although with their backline stocks being tested, they may need to rely on a more workman like approach to their football as opposed to blowing side’s off the park with speed and skill out wide. Boasting the best defence and point’s differential will be pleasing to the coach and you can be assured the Dogs won’t relinquish their title without a fight.

Grade – B+

Next three rounds – Mounties, Cronulla, North Sydney

WINDSOR WOLVES – A Vastly improved performance from last year has other teams looking over their shoulder for the Wolves. Having won seven from their last eight games, with their only loss coming from a tough road trip across the Tasman, Windsor boast one of the most impressive form lines leading into the business end of the season. Arana Taumata has been one of the leading players in the competition and whilst he continues to perform in the same fashion the Wolves will continue to be a dark-horse for the title.

Grade – A

Next three rounds – Bye, Newtown, Manly

MANLY SEA EAGLES – Congestion in the middle of the table see’s the Sea Eagles within striking distance of the top-eight. Coach Cliff Lyons has taken the reins this year and despite the disappointing results, the Sea Eagles are on track to improve on last year’s position. Stability has been difficult for Manly with Liam Foran, Dean Whare, Michael Oldfield, Jorge Taufua and Tim Robinson all spending time in the top grade. If these players return a top-eight finish may be within reach.

Grade – C

Next three rounds – Western Suburbs, Illawarra, Windsor

ILLAWARRA CUTTERS – Touted as potential finalists at the beginning of the year, three wins from twelve appearances is a disappointing result for the new side. Injuries to their NRL affiliate in the Dragons hasn’t helped their cause but a good victory over Balmain-Ryde-Eastwood and a courageous draw against the Bulldogs showed their potential to be competitive in the future. The recent news that Michael Lett is returning is a big plus for the Cutters and will guarantee at least another dozen tries on the scoreboard between now and the end of the season.

Grade – C

Next three rounds – Cronulla, Manly, Balmain Ryde-Eastwood

BALMAIN RYDE-EASTWOOD – After a disastrous start to the year culminating in four losses from five outings. The Tigers have regrouped to win seven from their last eight to place themselves firmly in the sights of the top four. Impressive victories against the Bulldogs, Newtown and Auckland proved the Tigers have what it takes to mix it with their fancied rivals. Being one of the more stable teams in the competition and not having had the benefit of a Bye, Balmain Ryde-Eastwood should be aiming for the top four during the run home.

Grade – B

Next three rounds – North Sydney, Bye, Illawarra

NEWTOWN JETS – Achieving back-to-back victories on a more regular basis should be a major aim for the Jets in achieving a top-four finish. Competitive in almost every match they play, they will need to lift against the higher ranked sides after defeats to Canterbury, North Sydney and Balmain Ryde-Eastwood, whilst assuring they don’t allow themselves to become complacent in matches they are expected to win. Will feature at finals time, but the question is for how long.

Grade – C+

Next three rounds - Wentworthville, Windsor, Cronulla

WESTERN SUBURBS MAGPIES – Everyone would be well aware that it looks like a long season ahead for the boys from the Western Suburbs. A less than favourable point’s differential makes it difficult to paint a positive picture. Although, former Coach Leo Epifani is back on board and for Magpies fans better days are hopefully around the corner. Avoiding the Wooden Spoon and pride in the jumper will be the goals for the remainder of the year.

Grade – D

Next three rounds – Manly, Newcastle, Auckland

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS – With a little bit of luck the Knights could be leading the competition at the halfway point. Three one-point losses have Newcastle in sixth position and if a tendency to lose the close games continues, the evenness of the competition could see any team squeezed out of the finals. After winning their first three games of the season, the Knights have failed to post back-to-back victories. Consistency and conversion will be the key to a successful second half of the season.

Grade – C

Next three rounds – Auckland, Western Suburbs, Wentworthville

AUCKLAND VULCANS – Last year’s Grand Finalists would not be pleased with a 6-6 record at this stage of the competition. Victories over heavyweights Canterbury and Windsor prove the men from across the Tasman still pose a threat in this competition despite their results. Glen Fisiiahi is the leading try scorer in the VB NSW Cup and the Vulcans may need a strike weapon such as this to return to the squad if they are to achieve consistency and challenge for the title once again.

Grade – C

Next three rounds – Newcastle, North Sydney, Western Suburbs

MOUNTIES – Mounties chances of success have taken a dramatic hit over the last month of football with the sudden departure of Masada Iosefa to the Tigers’s and the recent loss of Sam Williams. Williams has not been sighted since Terry Campese’s season ending injury, although he has been named in their round fourteen side, but it is unclear how long he will remain with the team. Five victories to date has them sitting on the cusp of the eight. A big effort will be required in the second-half of the year.

Grade – C

Next three rounds – Canterbury, Wentworthville, Bye

WENTWORTVILLE MAGPIES – The Magpies are in a stable position and look set to compete come finals time. Victories over North Sydney and Canterbury and close defeats to Windsor and Balmain Ryde-Eastwood are positive signs for the big games ahead. With Shane Shackleton and Nathan Smith leading the way, expect the Magpies to feature in the finals.

Grade – C+

Next three rounds – Newtown, Mounties, Newcastle