16 Rounds and what do you get? Another week older and deeper in debt (to the great humans of rugby league who bash themselves up for your entertainment every weekend). We felt more in debt than most to our players after these last few days in Sydney than perhaps at any previous point.
Let me paint you a picture: I’m sat on my own in the Accor Stadium media box at about 3:30pm on Saturday as the rain streams down, laptop up in front of me following the Dogs v Sharkies game taking place 10km away in Parramatta in a quagmire. It occurs to me that we are still three hours from kick-off between Souths and Parra and the rain is still falling.
I’m just about old enough to remember pre-Super League, pre-summer footy rugby league in the UK, when conditions were like those in Sydney over the weekend, except it was also much colder. Warriors, they were, and not of the New Zealand kind. Well, some were from New Zealand I suppose. Robbie Paul, what a guy. Where were we?
Yes! Power Rankings! Let’s rank some footy teams. The important part was that I had an onion tied to my belt, as was the style at the time…
1 – Penrith Panthers (-)
Penrith got a bit of a fright on Friday from the Roosters. I’m not sure if that improves their standing in the Power Rankings or not: is it better that they won a close game with grit or would it have been better if they’d have just blown the Chooks off the park?
Life’s too short to worry about these things and obviously, the Panthers are still top.
2 – Melbourne Storm (-)
Melbourne lost on Thursday night to Manly, which you think would lose them points in this ranking, right? Well…
Go back and read our last NRL edition for what I thought of the Cowboys’ miracle comeback, because here at Power Rankings Towers, we rated that as something of a fortunate escape. For the Storm to drop, they would have to be overtaken by the Cowboys, who also befell a similar fate at Brookie Oval, except somehow got out of it.
Had the game gone five minutes longer, there’s a decent chance that Melbourne would have got the win – and that was without Cam Munster, and with a clearly ring-rusty Ryan Papenhuyzen. Come finals time, they’ll beat the Cowboys: don’t you worry about that.
3 – North Queensland Cowboys (+1)
How bout them Cows, eh? They’re better than Brisbane, for sure, and better than most teams. I’ve been quite down on them because I see a little of the fool’s gold about their draw, but you can’t knock a team that keeps winning like this.
YouTube favourite Chad Townsend keeps holding them together, they defend superbly as a group and nobody can handle them. Next is the Sharks at home, too, which promises to be a cracker because Cronulla will have real top four ambitions that would be well and truly proved were they to win in Townsville. Over to you, Fitzy.
4 – Parramatta Eels (-1)
I don’t know why I waste breath and hope on this Parramatta team. If I’m being charitable, I still believe that they’ll beat most teams in the Finals and, as we’ve seen, they can give Penrith and Melbourne a shake in a manner that I’m not sure anyone else *cough* Cowboys *cough* can.
But honestly, they make you look silly if you put any belief in them. Long-time readers will know that I think South Sydney are better than their league position would suggest, but still: that performance from the Eels on Saturday was pitiful.
Now, Parra have to finish top four to have a chance because they will lose at least once in the finals and I don’t see them winning enough in succession. If they scrape fourth, lose at Penrith and then get someone at CommBank in a semi-final, then it can happen.
If they’re finishing fourth, however, they’ll have to make up a game on the Sharks and that might be quite hard if they can’t win against teams lower down the ladder.
5 – Cronulla Sharks (+1)
On those Sharks: they got the two points against a resurgent Canterbury and for that, I commend them. It’s hard to draw too much of a form line through a game played in conditions more befitting Oldham v Batley in November 1994, so let’s simply say well done and move onto the juicy stuff.
Cronulla now enter a nightmare run of fixtures: Storm, Cowboys, Panthers back-to-back, including trips to Penrith and Townsville, followed by clashes with the Bunnies and Dragons, whom you would expect to be fighting for their finals lives by that point.
The Sharks will likely fall out of the top four – if Parramatta can keep any sort of pressure up, at least – and then have to fight their way back in with four of their last five being against bottom four sides. It’s going to be tight.
6 – Brisbane Broncos (-1)
The Broncos don’t quite get our ‘good defeat’ points for this week, because only a late flurry of tries made their loss in North Queensland acceptable, but they do get caveats.
Adam Reynolds had a shocker: but it was his first in Broncos colours, so we can forgive, plus he’s held together with sticky tape. As I have mentioned before, the issue at Brisbane is that their first 17 is quite good and the back-ups are Brenko Lee and Tyson Gamble, which is something of a drop-off in quality.
With Reynolds playing needled and Payne Haas now also injured, it’s a problem that they will have to face head on. Their week off comes at the best possible time – though they lose a few to Origin – and by the time the Dragons roll into Lang Park a week on Sunday, they will have to be back to their best.
Realistically, Brisbane will only need three more wins to make finals and still have the Tigers and Knights to visit Brisbane, plus they get to play the Gold Coast, so my expectation is that they will sneak in and probably get bundled out week one. But that’ll be a good season for them, onto the next one.
7 – Manly Sea Eagles (+2)
Those Sea Eagles keep on a-soaring. Their performances have been consistently good for a month now: they got a nice easy landing in Origin by facing the Warriors and Tigers at their lowest ebb, and turned that into a good 70 minutes against the Cowboys and a good 75 minutes against Melbourne.
It’ll annoy Des Hasler that his boys only got three from four when it should have been unbeaten, but then everything annoys Dessie and, if you’ve have given him the Origin period without Tommy Turbo and said they’d get 75% of available points, he’d have bitten your hand off.
Their route to the mythical 12 wins is an interesting one, because they have the Roosters, Eels and Sharks still to visit the Northern Beaches and will fancy their chances in all three. If they win just one, they have other games elsewhere to pick up valuable points and get to the goal.
8 – Sydney Roosters (-1)
The undisputed kings of ‘good defeats’ are the Roosters and they pick up that award again this week. The ability of Trent’s gents to get beaten but look decent in the process – or to run into sides that play well against them – is unparalleled.
In the last month, they might well have beaten the Raiders in Canberra, Penrith in Penrith and the Storm at the SCG, but instead are on a four-game winless streak. It’s a tough old game.
The green shoots are already there, however. Joey Manu looked a lot better in the five-eighth role with more hands on the footy, and Sam Walker looked better with the clarity that came from being the clearly dominant half.
If the Chooks can put in the performance that they did on Friday when they face the Dragons, Knights and Sea Eagles next up, they’ll win.
9 – South Sydney Rabbitohs (+1)
Souths’ win over Parramatta might have been their best performance of the year. If it wasn’t, it was close to it. They benefit so much from having Latrell Mitchell, even a rusty version of him, because the extra yard of depth that he give their attack has such a precipitous effect on their completion rate.
Saturday was a bit of a perfect storm. Trell’s return meant that they had that extra depth anyway, and were not so obsessed with playing close to the attacking line and relying on a Campbell Graham/Cody Walker catch-pass to get them over the line.
They also played in a monsoon, which forced them to put away some of their more annoying affectations in attack. A focused mind, etc. They caught well and thus attacked well. Oh, and they ran into an Eels side that have mouse hearts.
As ever, sustainability will be the problem. Next up will be two eminently winnable fixtures against the Dogs and Knights before a horror trot to end the season. They need to win those two and build some confidence and form.
10 – St George Illawarra Dragons (+2)
The Dragons are the cockroaches of the NRL, who simply refuse to die. Another week in the books and another unconvincing, dreadful game in which they pick up two points that they could have easily lost, but didn’t.
I make that five times this season that they have done it: at home to the Raiders, Tigers, Knights and Warriors plus away to the Warriors in round 1.
There might be a skill in winning close games, because St George Illawarra play such a dull, grinding style that they will barge their way through any defence that allows them to and fail against anyone remotely good.
Still, 12 wins is the goal and they might just get there. Pray for us all if they do.
11 – Canberra Raiders (-3)
Having just lost to the Dragons, it’s not really fair to put Canberra above them – although in truth, we all know that they are a better side and were somewhat robbed by either a bad decision or bad rules or both.
The issue at the Raiders seems to be that their biggest weapon for many years has been Josh Papali’i, and his form has gone off a cliff in recent weeks. I’ve no idea how he’s still in the Queensland team, put it that way.
His minutes are down, and what he does in that time on the field is also down. Joseph Tapine has done superbly to take up some of the slack, but still. It’s a lot of slack.
If the Raiders are to make the 8, they would have to win at least five from here out, and that is looking highly unlikely after yesterday’s defeat. If you were wondering why Ricky Stuart was so angry, there it is.
12 – Canterbury Bulldogs (-1)
If we aren’t reading much into Cronulla’s win over Canterbury, then we probably shouldn’t read that much into Canterbury’s defeat to Cronulla. The conditions killed the game and both sides should be happy that it’s over.
The biggest loss will be the injury to Tevita Pangai jnr, who looks set to miss at least a month with a lower leg problem sustained against the Sharks. The rest of the season is essentially a free hit for the Dogs, but they would have liked to have their main pack weapon on hand for it.
Barring a Titans or Tigers renaissance, they won’t finish bottom and that is likely a success for a team that was beyond awful until Mick Potter took charge. If they can throw a few spanners in other team’s finals works before the end of the year, and keep their feel-good vibes going, then it’ll be a good end for Bulldogs fans.
13 – Newcastle Knights (-)
The Knights are also in free hit territory after their win over a bad, bad Titans team on Friday. I do wonder if there is much point delving deeply into Newcastle at the moment, given that they’re not going up or down much, so let’s say that it was nice to see Edrick Lee do so well after his injury issues and well played for that.
You’re better than the Titans, Knights fans, which you can take as a gentle pat on the head from me.
14 – New Zealand Warriors (+2)
Emotional stuff at the Warriors, who won a genuine spoonbowl on the field that was surpassed by the scenes off it. Neither side was good, but the Kiwis had more to play for and it showed.
The interesting aspect of their play was that, without Reece Walsh, they look so devoid of ideas in attack that it took them 80 minutes to score three tries against the Wests Tigers – this Wests Tigers, too – and when they did come, two were from kicks.
Obviously all of this doesn’t really matter because the game wasn’t really about the nitty gritty of tactics but it will have not gone unnoticed by Stacey Jones, who gets a week off to fix it before they face the Eels in Parramatta, Canberra in Canberra and, oh dear, the Storm.
15 – Wests Tigers (-1)
What can you say about the Wests Tigers? Going nowhere fast. If Brett Kimmorley thinks that this is his audition, he’s failing it. It will be the biggest of Leichhardt miracles if they beat Parramatta there on Saturday, and they’ve already used up their ‘Parra miracle’ card this year.
Then they get the Panthers, Cowboys and Brisbane in Brisbane. Newcastle in Campbelltown is the only game that they have a chance of winning before the end of the season and I don’t know that they ever win in Campbelltown. Stop, stop…he’s already dead.
16 – Gold Coast Titans (-1)
Speaking of dead men walking, Justin Holbrook. If the Titans coach survives the week, he will be lucky. I don’t have anything new to say, other than that his team are very bad and look to be getting worse. I don’t know how they think you win football matches. I know you don’t win them by not tackling. Friday 5th August, 6pm in Melbourne could see the Warriors’ record under threat.
https://www.theroar.com.au/2022/07/04/nrl-power-rankings-cowboys-souths-sharks-up-even-worse-news-for-tigers-and-titans/ Cowboys, Souths, Sharks up, even worse news for Tigers and Titans