NRL Power Rankings: Round 1
The first round of matches has come and gone and some of the league's biggest off-season recruiters endured a sluggish start to the new campaign. Here's how we rate the sides going into Round 2.
1. Cowboys (Last time: 1)
They had the privilege of naming a 17 that had won last year's grand final, and that team was strong enough to hold off a spirited Cronulla side in Townsville in probably the highest quality contest of the weekend. There was nothing spectacular in the win, but the reigning premiers haven't put a foot wrong yet.
2. Broncos (2)
Won the first game of the new season at Parramatta and looked every bit the premiership contenders everyone's tipping them to be, scoring their points early and then grinding out the win in typical Wayne Bennett-like fashion. Will be expected to trounce the Warriors and Panthers in the next couple of weeks before their Round 4 match-up with North Queensland.
3. Storm (3)
Kept their 12-year streak of Round 1 wins going, although they only managed to scrape past the Dragons 18-16. But grinding out tight wins is what the Storm do, and they'll be confident of piling on a few more points at home against the Titans on Sunday.
4. Sharks (5)
It was a losing start but still a strong one for the new-look Sharks, with James Maloney fitting into his new role at the club nicely, Jack Bird making a smooth transition to centre and the entire team pushing the reigning champs all the way in Townsville. The loss of skipper Paul Gallen to injury over the next few weeks obviously hurts but will give others in the forward pack a good early challenge to step up in his absence.
5. Rabbitohs (7)
Injuries to key men Adam Reynolds and John Sutton stole the headlines and – if last season is anything to go by – could potentially derail South Sydney's season for a while, but in the meantime the Rabbitohs started the season superbly with a 42-10 thrashing against their age old foes the Roosters. Even without Reynolds and Sutton you can expect to see Souths make light work of Newacstle next week.
6. Bulldogs (9)
After an off-season dominated by the hype of big-name recruits elsewhere in the NRL, the Bulldogs gave us a strong reminder on Friday night of the advantage of having a settled side. They simply blew Manly off the park in the opening stages of the game, showing they're more than capable of scoring points even without old halfback Trent Hodkinson or injured fullback Brett Morris. James Graham was superb up front, and there were good early signs for the Josh Reynolds-Moses Mbye halves combination as well.
7. Eels (6)
Coming up against the competition favourites in Round 1 is no easy task, and the Eels weren't quite up to it on Thursday. Still, they competed well despite losing Kieran Foran before kick-off and Corey Norman during the game, and with those two back in the halves spots have the talent to threaten any team.
8. Sea Eagles (4)
It was a tough initiation to life as an NRL coach for Trent Barrett, as a very new-look Manly team was thumped by a hardened Bulldogs outfit coached by Sea Eagles club legend Des Hasler. It's way too early to write off Manly's chances this season but it's also obvious that all the new combinations at Brookvale will take some time to click.
9. Roosters (8)
Having lost three genuine stars to other clubs in the off-season before losing three more to injuries and a club-imposed suspension, the Roosters were expected to start the new campaign slowly – and that they did. Were walloped by Souths but should improve steadily as the season goes on.
10. Raiders (11)
Superb in the first half against Penrith, before losing Blake Austin to injury. Aidan Sezer wasted no time getting accustomed to life in Canberra with a couple of tries in his club debut, and the Raiders again look like a team capable of conceding a fair few points on any given week – but scoring more. But they face a tough next month or two with Sezer (cheekbone) to join Austin (knee) on the sidelines.
11. Wests Tigers (14)
The Tigers continued their strong recent history of Round 1 wins, taking full advantage of their home crowd at Campbelltown and a sloppy start by the Warriors to rack up 28 points by half-time. Mitchell Moses was brilliant in the absence of suspended halfback Luke Brooks, and Jason Taylor's reshuffled line-up and focus on play-it-as-you-see-it footy worked wonders. The fact they let the Warriors back into the contest and only cemented the win in the final minute is a bit of a worry though.
12. Dragons (12)
A visit to Melbourne in Round 1 is one of the tougher starts to an NRL season, but the Dragons performed admirably and led 10-0 after 15 minutes before being chased down. They've got another big game coming up against rivals the Sharks on Sunday afternoon and will get another chance to show they can match it with a finals contender.
13. Warriors (10)
A second-half comeback that only a team like the Warriors could pull off (or almost pull off) at least saved some blushes for Andrew McFadden's men, but they were genuinely awful in the first half against the Wests Tigers. New men Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck could take a bit of time to gel with the excellent-as-usual Shaun Johnson in attack, but it's in defence where the team needs to improve if they are to become a finals force.
14. Panthers (13)
Anthony Griffin has already made his stamp on the team, dropping Elijah Taylor from the 17 before kick-off, but despite tries to new recruits Trent Merrin and Peta Hiku the Panthers couldn't match it with the Raiders in Canberra on Saturday. They missed Matt Moylan's attacking spark from the back and are suddenly very short in the hooker position after letting Apisai Koroisau go in the off-season and losing James Segeyaro to a broken arm.
15. Titans (16)
After an almost cataclysmic off-season the Titans endured weather to match on the Gold Coast on Sunday afternoon, but they put their best foot forward with a comfortable victory over Newcastle. James Roberts, Nate Myles and Aidan Sezer may be gone but the Titans still have a star or two in their ranks, with Greg Bird leading the way on Sunday.
16. Knights (15)
New coach Nathan Brown made a statement that he was planning for the future last week, naming a new-look side featuring five debutants, but that future looks a long way off after their heavy defeat against one of the league's wooden spoon favourites on Sunday. They may have four players with State of Origin experience in their backline but it's in the forwards where the Knights need to lift if they are to avoid back-to-back spoons this year.