With an Origin affected round putting the NRL rankings aside for a week, this edition is going to be tough. Round 13 results will be factored in and will be taken into account with future bye rounds.
1. Rabbitohs (Last week: 1)
The undisputed form team of the competition. The Bunnies have beaten the red hot Sharks and the Titans across two weeks sans their Origin stars. Souths were very lucky to get through their Friday night contest with the Titans but were in a different class against the Sharks. John Sutton had a night out against a big name Shire pack. Cody Walker is lighting up the competition. The Burgess brothers simply cannot be talked about enough. Anthony Seibold has this Bunnies side humming.
2. Panthers (3)
The Panthers rested up over the bye and were able to steal a late win on Friday evening over the Raiders. What is encouraging is they were able to win with both their halves backing up on just two days rest. Tyrone Peachey has been a massive star all season and was again one of their best. James Maloney and Nathan Cleary are all class playing behind a massive and powerful forward pack. Penrith are shaping up as genuine title contender.
3. Sharks (2)
The Sharks were pretty awful in a losing effort against the Bunnies but bounced back with a come from behind win over the Tigers. The Sharks really missed Josh Dugan and Valentine Holmes against Souths but were dominated in the middle. After a horror first half the Shire side seemed to spring into action in the second 40. Matt Moylan’s form has been very encouraging. Holmes and Paul Gallen made up for errors with match-winning plays on Sunday. The Sharks are flying without playing overly well.
4. Dragons (4)
The Dragons have returned to the top of the competition with a scratchy win over the Dogs after a bye last week. Ultimately they’ll be happy with the two points but the performance hasn’t answered any of the questions that always plague the Red V around this time of the year. Euan Aitken reminded Brad Fittler of his skills while Tariq Sims seems to have grown from his stint in Origin camp. Cam McInnes, Paul Vaughan and James Graham are arguably the best front three in the comp right now.
5. Storm (6)
The Storm were able to put away the Broncos after a week off. Josh Addo-Carr showed no signs of fatigue following a huge Origin performance and played very well. Suliasi Vunivalu’s form is well down on former seasons. They managed to win sans Billy Slater which is also a positive. Cam Smith continues to defy age and could play until he’s 40. The 32-16 scoreline probably flattered Melbourne a little but their big men were well in front of the scorecards. Another team who are winning without playing overly well.
6. Roosters (7)
The Roosters recorded back to back wins over the Knights and Tigers and look set to play a big role in the finals make up. Although neither performance was anywhere near perfect, they both came in an Origin-affected fortnight. The Roosters big men are doing their very best to put to bed any doubt of their credentials. Blake Ferguson is rocks or diamonds, sometimes within the same set of six. Luke Keary is pulling all the strings right now. Latrell Mitchell is going to be a megastar. What a week for the young centre.
7. Warriors (8)
The Warriors are back in the winner’s circle after a week off. Shaun Johnson was absolutely incredible in the 34-14 win over Manly. He is the competition’s most important player to his side’s fortunes and had spiders on him this weekend. The Fus is now leading the try scoring competition and will be hard to run down. Tohu Harris and co. are bashing opponents and doing it with style. Consistency has never been a trait of this club, but it may be coming.
8. Broncos (5)
The Broncos had their feet up for a week and looked rusty in a big loss to the Storm. To be fair they probably played better than the scoreline suggested but the spark just isn’t there right now for Brisbane. Anthony Miford and Kodi Nikorima have moments of magic followed by moments that make Bronc’s fans tear their hair out. The Broncos engine room are losing too many battles. Jamayne Issaco is capable of some ridiculous things. The club really need Jack Bird to return and find form.
9. Tigers (9)
The Tigers dropped two games to the Roosters and Sharks but benefited hugely from results elsewhere. They were brave in both games but lack that class when it counts. Josh Reynolds looks good on his return to the halves against the Sharks. The Tigers had a huge first half in the Shire against the wind and with a man down for ten minutes. That said they gave up three tries within ten minutes in the second stanza and never took back the lead. They almost stole it late against the Roosters but fell short.
10. Raiders (10)
The Raiders let a late lead slip, again, against the Panthers. Ricky Stuart hasn’t found out a way to stop the late fade outs and until they do, lime green won’t feature in the finals. Aiden Sezer and Blake Austin can’t ice games when it matters. Canberra should be celebrating a win but that has been the story of their season. The Raiders big men dominate early yet open up in the second half. Frustrating.
11. Knights (10)
Newcastle absolutely played the Eels off the park last week yet couldn’t back it up against the Roosters. Connor Watson was in sensational form against the Eels and had a field day behind a far superior pack. Unfortunately he couldn’t find that special play to take it late against the Roosters. Kalyn Ponga is a firm Dally M favourite for good reason. He’s in literally everything positive on the Hunter. Incredible.
12. Sea Eagles (11)
Alarm bells. The Sea Eagles dropped games to the Cowboys and Warriors in the past fortnight and look at long odds to play finals footy. They should really be in the bottom three in the rankings here but for poor form over the past month by others. DCE simply isn’t justifying his price tag and looks to be struggling under the pressure. The Manly forwards have been reduced to spectators at times. They need a win or to look for Bali specials.
13. Cowboys (15)
The Cowboys returned to winning ways minus their stars against the Sea Eagles but then fell to the Eels in a horror performance just a week later. Thurston and co had a brilliant chance to launch a mid season assault but fell to the Eels with a whimper. They were good against Manly and need to find more performances like that or face unwanted history of going from Grand Final to missing the finals in 12 months. I’m not sure Matt Scott did enough to demand selection for Origin.
14. Eels (16)
The Eels were whacked by the Knights but backed it up with a win over the Cowboys. They were park footballers at best against Newcastle and must focus on their Cowboys performance moving forward. Jarryd Hayne was absolutely enormous on his return to rugby league scoring two tries and terrorising the Cowboys outside backs. Corey Norman looked good on his return from a week off. Clint Gutherson’s passion is infectious.
15. Titans (13)
The Titans were brave on Friday night against the red hot Rabbits but fell short yet again. Ryan James was so very close to an Origin debut and his two-try performance will do no harm to his stocks. That said, the Titans could not beat an Origin effected side that competed under 65%. These are the kinds of games they need to win if they’re any chance of finals footy. Keegan Hipgrave spent nearly as much time in the bin as he did the contest after being sat down twice.
16. Bulldogs (14)
The Dogs can’t be accused of laying down but a fourth straight loss by eight points or less sums up their season. With the game on the line against the Dragons they just couldn’t find that magic play. They’re struggling to score points and surely a shift of Moses Mbye into the halves with Brett Morris at fullback is just a matter of time. They are getting very little from their 6, 7 and 9 and that, at this level, just isn’t good enough.