1. St George Illawarra Dragons
Last week: 1st
It will be interesting to see how the St. George Illawarra Dragons navigate the slowly looming representative period with as many players missing as pundits predict them to have.
Englishmen Gareth Widdop and James Graham are certain to headed to the US next month to play their historic test match against New Zealand, and any number of Dragons could be missing to State of Origin action. Interesting times lie ahead.
2. Melbourne Storm
Last week: 2nd
As they do also with the usually impenetrable team south of the border, who in the past have made depth their bread and butter; this season though, that department has truly been tested, with varying results.
Brodie Croft will return during the rep season to attempt to win back his spot in the side, while Brandon Smith and Young Tonumaipea will be trusted with 9 and 1 to themselves. It’s a scary thought for even the longest-tenured Melbourne Storm fans.
3. New Zealand Warriors
Last week: 5th
A lot has been asked of the Warriors the last few weeks, and they finally responded like a premiership-contending team should, beating the Wests Tigers into submission 26-4.
Unfortunately, that win came at the price of Shaun Johnson, Issac Luke and Adam Blair, who all limped off the field unsure of their prospects for this week’s game. Oh, and they’ll be losing the rest of that star-studded lineup to the Kiwis in June.
4. Penrith Panthers
Last week: 3rd
Even though the North Queensland Cowboys may be trending upwards, this is not a game the Penrith Panthers should’ve lost; they’d beaten them 33-14 on the road in Week 3, and wouldn’t have expected to be bested at home.
As with any team aspiring for a premiership, it will all be about how they respond this week on the road to the Newcastle Knights.
5. Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Last week: 6th
Valentine Holmes is enjoying life at fullback again, and Matt Moylan and Chad Townsend are clicking in the halves.
Oh, and that guy Andrew Fifita is starting to remind us all why we called him the second coming of Arthur Beetson after State of Origin 1 last year. You’re lucky if you’ve already played your two games against the Sharks this season.
6. South Sydney Rabbitohs
Last week: 9th
This reporter put his neck on the line calling this team finals hopefuls in the offseason, and while I ain’t furiously buying South Sydney Rabbitohs stock, I certainly ain’t selling it.
For this team to fully morph into contenders, the waves of inconsistency need to get smaller; a road win six tries to three against Newcastle is impressive, but a home loss by two to the Brisbane Broncos is not.
7. Wests Tigers
Last week: 4th
This team is falling fast, and if Ivan Cleary is the shoestring genius we all thought he was, he needs to put a halt to it now.
They put their asses on the line this week against a fast-finishing North Queensland team, and if they drop their third in a row, other teams will start to smell blood in the water.
8. Brisbane Broncos
Last week: 8th
Not much is going right for the typically high-flying Brisbane team right now.
They’re facing an uphill battle to retain upstart forward Jaydn Su’A, and to compound their pressure, they get to see where all their money went with a weekly Jack Bird shit show at halfback – a rare misstep from a typically tight Wayne Bennett.
9. Sydney Roosters
Last week: 10th
Let’s not get confused here: the Sydney Roosters rolled a dice they absolutely owed to themselves to roll in signing Cooper Cronk, but since that flick of the pen, Head Coach Trent Robinson and the front office has not got it right.
Robinson has perhaps unwisely hoped Cronk will fit into his offense rather than t’other way around, and Jake Friend is looking like he’s the one who should’ve been cut upon Cronk’s arrival, especially given Victor Radley’s performance last week.
10. Canberra Raiders
Last week: 11th
I punched the Canberra Raiders into Google to at least try and make this stanza interesting, but it’s like this team doesn’t exist outside of gameday.
Can somebody head out to the nation’s capital to check what’s going on? Maybe everyone’s frozen to death?
11. Newcastle Knights
Last week: 7th
Fun fact: Knights fans will certainly know, but the rest of the NRL may not, that their loss to South Sydney at home last week was their first at McDonald Jones Stadium all season.
They protect the Hunter Valley from Penrith this week, where they continue their mission for the rest of the year of looking to scrape into finals before Mitchell Pearce makes his way back into the fold.
12. North Queensland Cowboys
Last week: 13th
Given the magic trick this club performed last season in hanging onto the last finals seed before going on to make the Grand Final, who knows what they’re capable of?
With plenty of rugby league left to be played, there ain’t no way I’m writing the Cowboys out of calculations yet. I am writing them out of post-game kick-ons though.
13. Parramatta Eels
Last week: 12th
It seems a conversion was one too many miracles for this Moses to conjure up, after scoring a try in the dying seconds which put them into the position to force overtime.
Could the Parramatta Eels be back though? Potentially.
14. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Last wee: 14th
$25,000 fines are rarely enough to rev up a team’s motors to win the next week, but Dean Pay will certainly hope his does.
He may need sponsors Kia to come to the rescue with a courtesy car though – that’s a lot of gas money being funneled into the NRL’s pockets.
15. Gold Coast Titans
Last week: 15th
The Gold Coast Titans are the NRL’s chicken and egg argument – are the players they bring to the club broken before or after they get there?
Bryce Cartwright was again asked to play in the halves last week, and his efforts were enough for Michael Ennis to rip into him, quoting “(he) is letting his Coach down. There’s no two ways about it. He’s given him a lifeline and he’s taking the piss.”
16. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Last week: 16th
Also taking the piss are the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. Better in Dylan Edwards’ return, they were still not good enough, losing by a goal to another team who is not very good – a goal that captain Daly Cherry-Evans missed from right in front.
Just don’t search “North Sydney Bears” in your browser this week Sea Eagles fans.
Do you agree with our Power Rankings after Round 9? Let us know in the comments below.