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Trials prove misleading guide to season's form

No indication … Greg Inglis hits the line for Souths in a weekend trial against Newcastle.

No indication … Greg Inglis hits the line for Souths in a weekend trial against Newcastle. Photo: Ryan Osland

JUST how much can you look into trial form as a gauge of how your team will perform this season?

According to statistics compiled by Fairfax Media, they are as irrelevant as the coaches of the losing teams tell you they are.

In an era where very little separates the top teams from the bottom teams in skill and ability, there are several games that are won and lost on attitude, confidence and momentum.

Last year, that momentum couldn't be traced back to the pre-season trials.

In 2012, the majority of teams that enjoyed victories in the trials struggled throughout the season.

The Warriors and Roosters were undefeated in their two trial matches, but they finished 14th and 13th respectively.

The Rabbitohs lost all three of their trial matches yet they went within one match of the premiership decider, so too did Manly, who lost both of their warm-up matches in February last year.

But losing your pre-season games isn't the answer to long-term success.

In 2011, the teams that finished second (Manly), third (Broncos), fourth (Tigers) and fifth (Dragons) on the NRL ladder didn't lose a game in the pre-season of that year, while the teams that finished 10th (Rabbitohs), 11th (Roosters), 13th (Sharks) and 15th (Raiders) did not win a match.

In 2010 there was a similar pattern that flowed between the trial results and ladder positions.

The teams that finished first (Dragons), second (Panthers), third (Tigers), fifth (Warriors) and sixth (Roosters), were the most successful.

The Sharks (14th) and Eels (12th) both didn't win a game.

In fact, the Eels have won just one trial game in nine appearances over the past four years.

It is coincidental that in 2009, when Parramatta made that infamous charge to the grand final, they won all three of their pre-season hit-outs.

Their 41-4 loss to the Wests Tigers in Campbelltown last Saturday has raised some concern from their fans, but candidate for the captaincy Reni Maitua assured them it was pointless to look into the result.

''I don't look into trials too much,'' the former Bulldogs and Sharks back-rower said. ''I don't think we [Bulldogs] won a trial in '04 and we won the grand final. I don't look into that too much. I think we just got a fair indication of what areas we were poor.''

The Eels' confidence has taken a battering over the past three years, which is why their superstar fullback, Jarryd Hayne, has labelled this Saturday night's trial against the Panthers as a crucial moment in their season.

He believes they need to head into the opening round of the season buoyed by the energy that comes with a victory, even if it is in a pointless encounter where form and combinations take precedence over the result.

''It's going to be huge,'' Hayne said. ''Our confidence hasn't been the best for the last couple of years. It's definitely something that we've lacked. This game is going to be huge for us. It's always a big game against Penrith and I think their last two games they've been in superb form. This is the game where we'll see where we're at and just how far we've come.''

2012

Team

Trial Success

 Ladder position

Warriors

2/2

14th

Roosters

2/2

13th

Raiders

2/2

6th

Titans

2/3

11th

Knights

1/2

12th

Panthers

1/2

15th

Tigers

1/2

10th

Sharks

1/2

7th

Storm

1/2

2nd

Broncos

1/3

8th

Cowboys

1/3

5th

Dragons

1/3

9th

Bulldogs

1/3

1st

Eels

0/2

16th

Sea Eagles

0/2

4th

Rabbitohs

0/3

3rd

2011

Team

Trial success

Ladder position

Dragons

3/3

5th

Broncos

3/3

3rd

Tigers

3/3

4th

Sea Eagles

2/2

2nd

Titans

2/3

16th

Bulldogs

2/3

9th

Storm

1/2

1st

Panthers

1/2

12th

Eels

1/2

14th

Knights

1/3

8th

Warriors

1/3

6th

Sharks

0/2

13th

Roosters

0/2

11th

Rabbitohs

0/2

10th

Raiders

0/2

15th

Cowboys

0/3

7th

2010

Team

Trial success

Ladder position

Panthers

2/2

2nd

Dragons

2/3

1st

Tigers

2/3

3rd

Warriors

2/3

5th

Roosters

2/3

6th

Storm

2/4

16th*

Titans

1/2

 4th

Raiders

1/2

7th

Broncos

1/2

10th

Knights

1/2

11th

Bulldogs

1/2

13th

Rabbitohs

1/3

9th

Cowboys

1/3

15th

Sea Eagles

1/3

8th

Sharks

0/2

14th

Eels

0/3

12th

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