1. St George Illawarra Dragons
Last week: 1st
Last week, we made the decision to give St George Illawarra the benefit of the doubt and not move them off the top spot of the rankings. I believe we’re justified in our decision this week, as they returned to winning form against the Canberra Raiders.
2. Penrith Panthers
Last week: 3rd
An impressive, if not bizarre win from the Penrith Panthers against the Wests Tigers on Thursday put the pressure on the Melbourne Storm to hold serve at home without Cameron Smith, which they failed to do. Advantage Penrith.
3. South Sydney Rabbitohs
Last week: 4th
They may have been gifted this win by Jake Granville’s eagerness to rush Adam Reynolds’ field goal attempt, but a win’s a win, and the South Sydney Rabbitohs have seven of them. How many people saw that as the case pre-season?
4. Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Last week: 5th
As we said last week, the steadily improving Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks’ halves pairing is starting to win the club games, but still feels like it has a ways to go. Nothing about this week’s game distilled our thoughts on the matter.
5. New Zealand Warriors
Last week: 8th
The Warriors are really starting to prove they’re the real deal this season; their ability to not completely collapse under the weight of a rough few weeks is a welcome change from seasons passed.
6. Melbourne Storm
Last week: 2nd
Melbourne got a glimpse of their bleak future Saturday, going down 24-4 at home to the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles without Cameron Smith; we even saw the gloves dropped in this bizarro-world experience for Victorian NRL fans.
7. Brisbane Broncos
Last week: 9th
This one might have come with a few more questions marks than Wayne Bennett likes, but a win’s a win, and the Brisbane Broncos just keep on trucking.
8. Wests Tigers
Last week: 6th
It seems as if the Wests Tigers are settling into where they are likely to finish at the end of the season; that said, Ivan Cleary’s defensive stalwarts are the last team from the bottom half of the eight I’d like to see in a finals matchup.
9. Sydney Roosters
Last week: 7th
One step forward, two steps back again this week for the Sydney Roosters, who were Dylan Napa’s head away from a win against Brisbane that would’ve seen them move in the other direction up these standings.
10. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Last week: 12th
It’s a blight on the bottom of the standings that the Sea Eagles can jump this high with just two wins in a row. In fact, they’re only two wins back of the sixth-seeded Storm.
11. Canberra Raiders
Last week: 10th
Canberra came close to pulling off an impressive upset at the Dragons which would’ve seen the vault right back into finals contention, but two admirable losses in a row leaves them only as high as 11th.
12. Gold Coast Titans
Last week: 16th
A win over Newcastle would’ve had Gold Coast Titans fans brimming, as would the debut of A.J. Brimson. It’s a shame they won’t be able to re-sign the promising half thanks to the abundance of salary they’ll be paying out to Shannon Boyd.
13. Newcastle Knights
Last week: 11th
The Newcastle Knights are just keeping their head near or above water with Captain Mitchell Pearce still out. The challenging stretch of games approaching may very well define their season.
14. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Last week: 13th
The Bulldogs sit in third-last, with a 3-8 record, and a roster built for the Coach they fired a few months ago. To compound their pleasure, CEO Andrew Hill recently admitted cap troubles could leave them without a quality signing for three seasons.
15. North Queensland Cowboys
Last week: 14th
Paul Green still believes North Queensland can make the finals despite a loss last weekend bringing them to 3-8, but I think we’ve officially entered the territory of last season’s march to the Grand Final being more likely than this team grabbing eighth.
16. Parramatta Eels
Last week: 15th
Let’s be honest: this return to the bottom of the rankings is very likely punishment for Brad Fittler suggesting Mitchell Moses was in the running for a NSW jersey. Take the hint, Freddy.
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