As NRL season marches on, what have we learned?
WITH more than two-thirds of the NRL season behind us, it's time to take stock heading into the business-end of the premiership to see what we've learned about the clubs, players and the game.
Let's start with North Queensland and the Warriors.
These are two teams blessed with the players and talent to be in the grand final but who, because of their inability to win on the road, will more than likely be spectators come October 4.
Given the Cowboys are based in Townsville (2,074km from Sydney) and the Warriors in Auckland (2,161km from Sydney) away games in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth make life a hell of a lot tougher.
The Kiwis also have to contend with a significant time change.
To their credit, the Warriors have played themselves into the top six with some recent big home wins combined with an outstanding record at Mt Smart Stadium.
But they are 3-5 on the road.
These figures make very interesting consumption.
When the Warriors play at home, they average 38.8 points a game in attack and concede 16.25.
When they pack their boots and head across the Tasman they are far less efficient averaging just 14.25 points in attack, while giving up 20.7 points a game.
The Cowboys would love to have the Warriors road record.
Under new coach Paul Green and with the Australian five-eighth Johnathan Thurston and two Origin and Test front-rowers in Matt Scott and James Tamou in their side, they have been unable to win any of their eighth games away from 1300Smiles Stadium.
As former great and multi-premiership winner Darren Lockyer said at the weekend: "If you can't win on the road, you can't win the premiership".
Despite their poor travel record, the Warriors with Shaun Johnson, Simon Mannering, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, and Sam Tomkins hitting their straps are playing the brand of football which has every one of the top sides looking nervously over their shoulder.
What else have we learned?
Well, we've learned Englishman Gareth Widdop, snared by the Panthers after Melbourne let him leave, has been the buy of the season for the Penrith Panthers who were sharing top spot on the NRL ladder heading into last weekend's round.
Widdop's tactical kicking, passing game and attacking vision have surprised many with the Storm cast-off in the running to be named Dally M player of the year.
And, after turning on a few master classes for Canberra this season, including last weekend's clinic against the Gold Coast, we've learned Brisbane will be a much better side and a definite premiership threat in 2015 when young Canberra dynamo Anthony Milford pulls on a Broncos jumper.
Finally, with the annual State of Origin played we've also learned NSW can win a series, believe it or not.