How deep is your club?
We�ve hit the semi-finals with most of the top 8 teams winning last week, and the form of these clubs promises us a thrilling finals series over the next four weeks. Sure Parramatta and Canberra seem behind the barrel, but stranger things have happened.
Now finals football is amongst us, the difference between a winning and losing team seems to be magnified. Most fans accept that their teams have an off day here and there - players minds aren�t switched on or they�re feeling a little lethargic. But not this time of year, all players will be competing like there�s no tomorrow (and for some it may be the case). So come September it�s the little things that need to be right to give a team the winning edge. Whether it�s home ground advantage, the teams stamina, goal kicking percentages or sunny skies, a bit of luck can go a long way.
One area where a team can enjoy the most luck is in maintaining depth in their squad. Depth - or the amount of spare players a team has - is often wrongly regarded as a fixed quantity. The reality is depth varies greatly week to week depending on the effect injuries and suspensions have had on the team. A club who have enjoyed ample depth early in the year may not have the same reserves of players come September.
Having enough depth this time of year not only ensures there are suitable replacements for injured players, but it also places pressure on the starting seventeen to perform. One other important factor during the semi-finals is what a team is to do with their reserves. Five out of the top 8 teams this year have their reserve teams still competing in the Premier League or Queensland Cup competitions in the next few weeks. This means three teams - Melbourne, the Bulldogs and Newcastle - have around twenty players each who will be missing out on much needed match practise.
So depth is important. But who�s looking good with (perhaps) a long September ahead, and who�s hoping their team can stay away from injury for one more month?
Melbourne - Have a bunch of high quality players waiting in the wings, none as surprising as Jake Webster. With their feeder clubs out of their respective finals, they�ll need to ensure players such as Adam Blair, Jeremy Smith and Jackson Nicolau stay match hardened.
Bulldogs - The cupboard is bare after the Dogs had to use up their supplies recently. Will hope that players such as Daniel Irvine and Nick Kouparitsas will step up if needed.
Brisbane - The Broncos have a bunch of backs such as Scott Minto, Greg Eastwood and Steve Michaels waiting in the wings, but they may be a bit thin up front. Their feeder club, the Toowoomba Clydesdales, play in the Queensland Cup next week ensuring their reserves will be focused.
Newcastle - Plenty of quality reserves such as Daniel Abraham, Chris Bailey, Todd Lowrie and Dustin Cooper. Luckily they have depth in a variety of positions, but their Premier League played their last game of the season last week.
St George Illawarra - Have decent depth with the likes of Daryl Millard and Michael Henderson ready to go. Not a lot of quality beyond these players, however keeping a star like Mathew Head in Premier League has been a masterstroke, ensuring the Dragons halves combination are kept on their toes.
Canberra - A few fringe players that may be able rise to the occasion, but beyond that it�s slim pickings. Young talent such as Terry Campese and William Zillman, and hardmen like Jason Williams may have to be used.
Parramatta - A team that is renowned for their depth, however they�ve had to use up a fair bit of it this season. Forwards are the obvious concern with players like Henry Perenara and Feliti Mateo on standby.