Round 9 Power Rankings
1. Bulldogs (2)
Under the radar no more, the Dogs have traded scrappy, grafting wins for dominant poundings, running roughshod over a disappointing Dragons outfit in arguably their most complete performance this year. Now running like a well-oiled machine and getting better by the week, the Bulldogs look to be a genuine threat in 2014.
2. Sea Eagles (1)
Faced one of the NRL's toughest road trips under massive adversity and nearly came away with the win. The Sea Eagles travelled to Melbourne missing vital components of their side in skipper Jamie Lyon, lock Glenn Stewart and five-eighth Kieran Foran – with halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and back-rower Anthony Watmough also less than 100% fit. In the end it was the goalkicking of Lyon that they missed the most, going down 22-19 (after being up 19-10 with 10 to play) having kicked just one goal from five attempts. You can just never write them off.
3. Roosters (3)
The defending premiers were never going that badly, it was more that teams were lifting against them and they were just a tick below their best. But now they're really starting to click, having turned in back-to-back masterclasses against Dragons and now Wests Tigers, letting the rest of the competition know that they'll be doing their darndest to be the first premiers to go back to back since Bennett's Broncos two decades ago.
4. Rabbitohs (6)
The Bunnies have jumped from eighth to fourth in the past two rounds, with key players hitting form and the side overall seeming to adapt to the new rules and new pace of the game. Barnstorming prop George Burgess has made life very difficult for opponents with his powerful runs returning to peak 2013 effectiveness as the previously stout Gold Coast defence caved under a cardinal and myrtle avalanche. Now look like a genuine top-four side.
5. Storm (7)
We're prepared to say not too many teams will be recording two victories over Manly this year but the Storm have already crossed that one off their to-do list. In a battle befitting their recent titanic rivalry the Storm surged home late to defy a resilient Sea Eagles outfit and show why you can never write off a team containing the likes of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk. Like a few other clubs there are some possible tough times ahead over the representative period for the men in purple and there remain questions over their defence in 2014, but they're moving in the right direction.
Watch the NRL LIVE with a 2-week free trial.
Get the NRL Digital Pass now!
6. Titans (4)
Plenty of pundits have been predicting that sort of a performance from the Titans all year but aside from that one whitewash from Wests Tigers back in Round 2 they've just kept proving people wrong. The Bunnies were outstanding in disposing of the Titans last week but the Gold Coast boys are still sitting pretty in third place on the ladder. A potential long-term layoff to Greg Bird won't help their chances through an already-tricky representative season, making the next few weeks very interesting for John Cartwright's charges.
7. Broncos (5)
A step backwards for the Broncos with a rare loss to little brother from up north and a slip down to 11th place on the ladder – leapfrogged by North Queensland, meaning both other Queensland clubs now sit ahead of them. Some cracks may be starting to appear in the forward rotation with first Ben Hannant and now Marty Kennedy relegated to the Intrust Super Cup as coach Griffin looks to fire up his charges in a below-par forward pack. It will be two Queensland derbies in two weeks when the Titans visit on Friday night and the last thing the once mighty Broncos will want to do is be officially the least good Queensland club for a second straight year.
8. Eels (9)
It was hardly a polished or clinical performance from the Eels but crucially, they bounced back from a woeful loss in North Queensland to record a win, arresting a two-game losing streak, and they kept fortress Parra intact to remain the only side unbeaten at home in 2014. The Sharks were awful and still put four tries past the Eels, which will give Brad Arthur some concern, but some attacking brilliance – particularly from star fullback Jarryd Hayne – papered over the cracks for another week.
9. Cowboys (10)
Is the sleeping giant finally awakening? We've said, many many times, that the Cowboys' roster is too good for them not to be threatening the top four, and already this season and in recent years they just keep finding ways to disappoint. They're not officially out of the doldrums but they backed up a great all-round win over the Eels in Round 8 with a strong win over Brisbane last week, with Test prop Matt Scott turning in one of the best performances by a front rower in recent memory and JT shrugging off a concussion to play like we all know JT can.
10. Panthers (11)
A win, a loss, a win, a loss... for nine weeks in a row now the Panthers are yet to win or lose two games straight. It must be frustrating for the coach and the fans but it's seen them climb to sixth on the premiership ladder and their strong win over an admittedly diabolical Knights outfit contained plenty of encouraging signs. With key players missing, and more players going down during the match leaving just two fit men on the bench at times, this was a victory brimming with character.
11. Tigers (8)
O Robbie where art thou? The talismanic Tigers skipper was reportedly fit to play against the Roosters but the club erred on the side of caution. The side spent most of the night going backwards and even when they did get into attacking position they looked bereft of ideas and in most cases made an error to let the Roosters off the hook. Following on from a rare drubbing at their spiritual home of Leichhardt, the injured troops can't get back soon enough. There is good news on that front, with Farah, Anasta and Suauso Sue and the suspended Tim Simona all named to return for the trip to Cronulla – who, on current form, should present less of a challenge than the defending premiers.
12. Warriors (14)
A week of good news for the men from across the ditch with coach Andrew McFadden signing on through to the end of 2017 and the side notching its best win of the year on the back of some dazzling stuff from the likes of Shaun Johnson and Sam Tomkins. It was the kind of breathtaking footy that only the Warriors are truly capable of and if McFadden can solve the riddle of how to get them to play like that more often than not their charge up the ladder could continue.
13. Dragons (12)
As good at the Bulldogs were, the Dragons insisted on making life easy for them. In fact it seemed like the whole team was just treading water as it waited for new high-profile signing Benji Marshall to suit up in the Red V, and forgot there was still a game or two to play before their trump card emerged. If they're expecting miracles from the 2005 premiership-winner they may be disappointed – they look like they may have a few more issues than just being one quality playmaker short.
14. Knights (13)
The highlight – or should that be lowlight – reel from the Panthers game is one that unfortunate centre Joey Leilua will want to avoid for some time to come. Leilua wasn't the only lacklustre performer on Sunday afternoon but gifting your opponents two tries amid a bagful of errors amounts to a coach-killing performance of the highest order. Bennett may be scratching his head looking for answers after that one, and we're not sure where he's going to find them.
15. Sharks (15)
Looked like they were trying to climb down that final rung to the bottom of the power rankings with a completely disorganised performance against the Eels and it was only the dismal efforts of the side below them that keeps them propped up into 15th place. They were actually less bad than the Eels in a few statistical categories but let themselves down with poor errors at the wrong time and struggled for inspiration in attack. They continue to have no luck with injuries – having finally seen Gallen, Tupou and Lewis return they saw Carney and now Fifita added to the casualty ward.
16. Raiders (16)
108 points in two weeks. That's the most concerning number facing Ricky Stuart right now. Plenty of sides, including some up at the pointy end of the ladder, have had a big score put on them at some point this year, but have generally managed to bounce back with a better effort the week after. To concede 54 points to a Cherry-Evans-inspired Manly at Brookvale is bad but when a side plays that well sometimes you just have to shake it off and move on. But for the Raiders, for the second week running, they saw a side not only strike form but run through the Green Machine at will both through the middle and on the edges. A further 54 points conceded over in New Zealand has finally led to widespread changes to the playing 17 as Stuart starts pushing the panic button. Whether that – and a return to GIO Stadium – makes a difference, we'll find out on Sunday.