Tongue breaks down the Holden Cup
The first six weeks of the Holden Cup have seen record comebacks, dazzling individual performances and everything in between.
The Roosters and Panthers are the only teams with five wins this season, and quite fittingly, will face-off on Monday night at Allianz Stadium in what should be a ripping contest.
The third-placed Cowboys are only two points in front of the tenth-placed Titans, while last year's runners-up Manly are the only team without a win.
Fox Sports commentator Alan Tongue has been keeping a close eye on the under-20s competition throughout 2016, and told NRL.com that he believes the defending premiers (Penrith) are the team to beat for now.
"It's one of those competitions where it's hard to pinpoint who's going to be the top sides at the moment," the former Canberra Raiders great said.
"I think the Panthers over the last few weeks have really started to assert their dominance and shown that they're going to be right at the top come the backend of the season.
"I got to commentate them in Round 1 against the Raiders – and they actually got beaten at the death – but I've been watching them for the last couple of years and they've got some really exciting talents."
Those prospects include star halfback Nathan Cleary, who leads the Holden Cup with 82 points, as well as excitement machine Dylan Edwards, who is coming off a freakish 327-metre effort against the Cowboys.
"Nathan has such a cool, calm head on his shoulders for such a young man, and he's got some real footy smarts about him. Dylan Edwards has been great, and like most fullbacks he's got great ball-playing skills."
Tongue says the ever-changing landscape of Holden Cup squads makes it hard to foresee which teams will gel come the latter stages of the season.
"It's a really hard competition to predict in that a lot of the under-18s kids when they finish SG Ball will start coming through into the NYC teams, and a lot of clubs are pushing guys into the Intrust Cup, so it’s still a little bit of a juggling act," he said.
"A lot of these squads have had a very short time together because a lot of these kids might have just finished school.
"We often see the footy gets better at the backend of the year because the kids have more time to play together and to settle into their systems."
The former Country representative said it's hard to judge a team based on their current form, citing the sudden revival of the Melbourne Thunderbolts as a perfect example.
Melbourne lost four game on the trot – including two games where they scored 40 or more points – but bounced back to thump the Bulldogs 60-10 on the weekend.
"It's such an exciting competition with plenty of points on offer most weeks, so there are going to be some sides that will get confidence as the season goes on," the NRL Ambassador said.
"All of a sudden you see a team like Melbourne on the weekend have a 40 or 50-point win after a lot of people started thinking that they'd be a side that would finish towards the bottom of the ladder."
Melbourne's return to form has been sparked by the form of boom halves sensation Scott Drinkwater, and Tongue says he is just one of a number of stars to have made their mark on the Holden Cup.
"There are some real exciting talents across the board. Scott Drinkwater from Melbourne, we got to see him a couple of weeks ago, he looks like he could be really exciting," Tongue said.
"Lachlan Stein from the Sharks had a fantastic performance on the weekend. He was up against Jed Cartwright who has some fantastic raps on him and he really took it to his opposition number.
"I haven't been able to see all the teams yet, but it's been great to see some of the kids really stand up early in 2016."