NRL Power Rankings: Round 9
There's a new leader in the NRL power rankings, with the reigning Premiers re-capturing the No.1 spot. The Roosters thanks to some timely returns are the big movers in the middle of the pack and could be a team to watch in the coming weeks if they can even closely resemble the form that has led them to the last three minor premierships in a row.
1. Cowboys (Last week: 2)
A slip up from their Queensland rivals allows the premiers to slide into top spot in this week's rankings, with their latest classy win coming against the Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval. Encouragingly the Cowboys seem less and less reliant on playmaking maestro Johnathan Thurston, with Michael Morgan and Lachlan Coote both outstanding in recent weeks while Thurston continues his reign as the game's best player.
2. Broncos (Last week: 1)
Things were looking ugly for Brisbane halfway through Sunday's clash in Cronulla, trailing 28-6 after being ambushed by a terrific Sharks side in the opening 40 minutes. But a dominant second-half performance featuring four tries was an impressive response, and even if the Broncos didn't come away with the win it shows their excellent form hasn't completely abandoned them yet. They will need to avoid similar slow starts in the next few weeks though with a string of away games coming up.
3. Sharks (3)
It will take something drastic for the Sharks to miss a top-four finish this season with their win over Brisbane in Round 9 just the latest impressive display from Shane Flanagan's men. Their attack has improved markedly following the recruitment of new halves James Maloney and Chad Townsend and they were already strong in every other facet of the game.
4. Storm (5)
For a few weeks Melbourne were winning despite not playing well but now they've hit top gear on the back of a 42-0 thumping of the Warriors and a 38-0 win over the Titans. After rep round they'll face much stiffer competition when they host the Cowboys – they've shown they can thrash the weaker teams, but can they beat the best?
5. Eels (4)
They now sit in last place on the NRL ladder after being docked 12 competition points for salary cap breaches, but in terms of ranking who will beat who on any given week the Eels remain one of the league's strongest sides – hence their lofty position in our Power Rankings. They showed impressive mental strength to beat the Bulldogs last week despite the withdrawal of Kieran Foran for personal reasons, and will need much more of the same to maintain their impressive run after the salary cap blow and with Foran set to remain on the sidelines indefinitely.
6. Bulldogs (6)
Friday's loss against a weakened Eels side continues Canterbury's inconsistent run this year, with the Bulldogs sitting just behind the top sides so far this season. There are good reasons for their fans to keep patience with Des Hasler's side though, even if tipsters start losing theirs.
7. Panthers (8)
Another week, another nail-biting result for the Panthers, this time a one-point win over the Raiders. Even more so than the Bulldogs, the Panthers seem capable of beating or losing to just about anybody. They've only got one game at Pepper Stadium between now and Round 15, with their next "home" game a clash with the Warriors in Christchurch in Round 10.
8. Raiders (7)
Last week's 60-6 demolition of the Wests Tigers is Canberra's only win from their last four matches, and like the other teams in the middle of this list, finding consistency is the main issue for the Raiders at this stage.
9. Sea Eagles (9)
A week after losing Brett Stewart and Tom Trbojevic to injury Manly weren't expected to challenge the Cowboys, and they didn't, but they did show plenty of fight against the reigning champs. There's still a lot of potential in this Sea Eagles side when they're all fit and firing, but they're still some way off that yet.
10. Roosters (13)
Back to full strength after the return of Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner, the Roosters reminded everyone why they'd won the past three minor premierships with a 38-0 win over the struggling Knights. Pearce slotted back into the side like he'd never been gone and is immediately back in contention to regain his NSW spot.
11. Wests Tigers (14)
The Tigers went into last Thursday's clash with the Rabbitohs with the team – and especially the coach – under a mountain of pressure, and they responded in the perfect way with four quickfire tries to all but kill off the contest inside 20 minutes. It's unclear at this stage whether the winners or losers were more responsible for the result in that match, but we've given Wests a bump in our rankings nonetheless.
12. Warriors (15)
It was a good thing the Warriors came out of Sunday's home game against the Dragons with a win because not much else has been going right for Andrew McFadden's men of late, from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's season-ending injury to Issac Luke playing his way out of the Kiwis squad to six players being stood down by the club for off-field indiscretions. Fortunately for them the only game they play outside New Zealand between now and Round 15 is against the lowly Knights.
13. Dragons (10)
A disappointing loss to the Warriors has sent the Dragons back to the drawing board, although at least they have been scoring some points of late. The good news is they're still one of four teams tied in eighth place on the NRL ladder so their finals chances are still well and truly in place if they can lift their game.
14. Rabbitohs (11)
Commentators were left scratching their heads at South Sydney's horrendous start against a Tigers side that had been beaten by 54 points the previous week, and despite a second-half fightback the Rabbitohs slumped to their sixth loss of the season. It's hard to believe that most of the playing squad of the 2014 NRL premiers are still at the club, such has been their fall from grace since the latter part of the 2015 season.
15. Titans (12)
After a strong start to the season, the Gold Coast have slumped to five straight losses, with the heaviest being Sunday's 38-0 defeat at home to the Storm. They exceeded expectations early on but it's starting to look like the Titans could be set to join the Knights in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
16. Knights (16)
It's been a luckless campaign so far for the inexperienced Knights and that lack of luck continued with the timing of their clash against the Roosters, who instantly transformed from last-placed strugglers into potential finals contenders with the return of their big guns. Newcastle were never in the contest and will probably be enjoying the week off from NRL footy as much as any team.