It's a case of "better luck next year" for the eight sides who didn't cut the mustard in the NRL this year.
While the best eight sides live to fight another day, that's it for the bottom eight in 2008. For these teams, there's nothing left to do but enjoy summer and start planning for next year.
We thought we'd take a look at the sides that were on the wrong side of the eight, and have a look at what went wrong:
Newcastle Knights (9th)
The Knights were "oh so close" to playing September footy, but were pipped at the post by the Warriors. After last year, though, you'd have to say 2008 has been a great improvement, and Brian Smith looks to be developing some strong talent.
The biggest improvement for the Knights is that they've learned to win without the great Andrew Johns, which is something they've struggled to do in years past. Unfortunately, next year they'll have to learn to win without Danny Buderus.
2009 Gains: Issac De Gois (Sharks), Ben Rogers (Dragons)
2009 Losses: Danny Buderus (Leeds), Chris Bailey (Sea Eagles), Mitchell Sargent (midseason, Castleford), Matt White (Titans)
Wests Tigers (10th)
Consistency has once again plagued the Tiger's season. They are capable of beating most sides in the competition, but have let themselves down with some terrible defensive efforts. If they can sort out their defence, 2009 will be a lot better for West's fans.
2009 Gains: Gareth Ellis (Leeds), Josh Lewis (Titans)
2009 Losses: Brett Hodgson (Huddersfield), Nick Youngquest (midseason, Bulldogs), Luke Harlen (midseason, Cowboys), Ben Te'o (Broncos), Matt Head (Dragons), Ryan O'Hara (Celtic Crusaders)
Parramatta Eels (11th)
After coming so close last year, the Eels have been disappointing in 2008. They've been their own worst enemies for most of the season, and just when it looked as though they were getting back to winning ways, they slumped again. And, once again, they have recruited poorly.
2009 Gains: No one!
2009 Losses: Tim Smith (midseason, Wigan), Mark Riddell (Wigan), Tony Williams (Sea Eagles), Chad Robinson (London Harlequins), Daniel Wagon (French Rugby League)
Penrith Panthers (12th)
Last year's wooden spooners made a good surge for the Top Eight during the middle of the year, but began to slip down the ladder towards the end of the regular season. For a team that boasts such a strong side, 12th place is not a good finish. 2009 isn't shaping up any better, either.
2009 Gains: Gavin Cooper (Titans)
2009 Losses: Tony Puletua (St. Helens), Richie Williams (sacked midseason), Joe Williams (midseason, Bulldogs), Luke Rooney (French Rugby), Luke Priddis (Dragons), Rhys Wesser (Rabbitohs), Shane Rodney (Sea Eagles)
Gold Coast Titans (13th)
The Titans were on top early on in the season, but as the weeks went by they began to slip further and further down the table. This was mainly due to injuries, although the fact that they struggle to win away from home isn't helping their cause.
They've definitely shown they deserve to be in the NRL, and will be a real threat if they can avoid injuries.
2009 Gains: William Zillman (Raiders), Sam Tagataese (Storm)
2009 Losses: Matt Peterson (midseason, Wakefield), Michael Hodgson (Bulldogs), Luke Lewis (Tigers), Clint Amos (Cowboys), Gavin Cooper (Panthers), Luke Swain (Salford), Kris Khaler (Pia Donkeys), Matt Cross (Storm)
South Sydney Rabbitohs (14th)
A woeful start to 2008 for a side that's promised to back up on 2007. They made it a good fight, but it was too little too late. They have a lot to work on for 2009.
2009 Gains: Colin Best (Raiders), Rhys Wesser (Panthers)
2009 Losses: Ben Rodgers (midseason, Dragons), Manase Manuokafoa (Cowboys), Dean Widders (Castleford), Jeremy Smith (Salford)
North Queensland Cowboys (15th)
It was a horror of a year for the Cowboys. Graham Murray was sacked as coach. He walked away midseason, and still they couldn't win a game. This is one season they'll want to forget in a hurry.
But, it wasn't all about the coach—the players were the real culprits. They played poorly all year, and never looked like the Cowboys of recent times.
2009 Gains: Willie Tonga (Bulldogs), Manase Manuokafoa (Rabbitohs), Luke Harlen (midseason, Tigers), Clint Amos (Titans), Antonio Kaufusi (Storm)
2009 Losses: David Faiumu (midseason, Huddersfield), Jacob Lillyman (Warriors), Ray Cashmere (Salford Reds), Sione Faumuina (Castleford), Mark Henry (Salford Reds), Justin Smith (Retired)
Canterbury Bulldogs (16th)
Here's another side that will want to forget all about 2008. Their poor performances have been overshadowed by the Sonny Bill Williams saga, but it's no excuse for the way they've been playing. They thoroughly deserve the wooden spoon for 2008.
2009 looks a lot brighter, as they've recruited a lot of talent. And, of course, it can only get better from here.
2009 Gains: Michael Ennis (Broncos), Ben Hanannt (Broncos), Brett Kimorley (Sharks), Josh Morris (Dragons), Michael Hodgson (Titans), Joe Williams (midseason, Panthers)
2009 Losses: Willie Tonga (Cowboys), Sonny Bill Williams (Toulon), Corey Hughs (Sharks), Cameron Phelps (midseason, Wigan), Nick Youngquest (midseason, French Rugby), Justin Tsoulos (midseason, retired), Arana Taumata (Storm)
Stay tuned—we'll review the other sides as they drop out of the Top Eight.
Article from the Sports Fan Attic.
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