Soward: Manly mean business; Rabbitohs pass acid test

Another week closer to the finals and we continue to sort out the contenders from pretenders. A couple of telling results in Round 23 gave us a better idea of who will make the top eight.

1. Sydney Roosters (Last week: 1)

The Roosters are in cruise control at the moment - and they've got Latrell Mitchell, Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend to come back. It's going to be a hard 17 to crack into for those guys on the bubble. Their key players like Cronk, Keary and Tedesco are in form and everyone is turning up every week.

2. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (4)

Jump up two spots after a good road win over the Raiders. It seemed that after the Melbourne game they played against a couple of teams that probably weren't at their standard and they played down to that, but they showed on Sunday through adversity that they're a serious football team. Well done Des Hasler.

3. Melbourne Storm (3)

Beat the Titans and did it without much fuss, even if wasn't as convincing or clinical as most were expecting. It was probably a hard game to get up for but they'll be there in and around the mark in the next couple of weeks. They're just managing their players and making sure they're all ready to go in the next couple of weeks.

4. Canberra Raiders (2)

A tough game against Manly but you have to mark hard when the top teams win and the Raiders drop two spots. The worrying sign again is that they concede over their average defensively against the top sides. They had control of that game and it was just a brain snap from Joey Leilua and it could ultimately cost them a top-four spot.

5. Cronulla Sharks (6)

A great performance at home but it was against the Warriors, and the problem for the Sharks is have they left their run too late? They're going to have to come from outside the top four and we all know how hard that it is.

6. Parramatta Eels (5)

A bit of a blip on the radar on Thursday when you compare it to their other solid performances at Bankwest. It was a worrying sign considering they love playing there, and it just looked like they were going through the motions. I expect them to bounce back this week.

7. South Sydney Rabbitohs (8)

The Rabbitohs needed to step it up and they did, and it was a defining win for them. They could've gone two ways - down or bounce back - and they met that challenge in a big game on the road. Now the test is to bottle that and continue to build in what is a tough run home, and then keep it going in the finals.

8. Brisbane Broncos (7)

A better effort in what was a big game, and I could watch that game again for sure. They competed for the first time in a long time for the 80 minutes and gave themselves a chance to almost steal it at the death.

9. Canterbury Bulldogs (10)

Claimed another scalp and they're playing good footy. The challenge for the Bulldogs is doing it next year in the first few rounds and putting themselves in a position where they stay in the hunt, so that when they play like this at the back end of the year it's for something rather than nothing.

10. Wests Tigers (12)

A fantastic performance against the Knights and I think the Tigers are going to make the eight now. It was a big win against a team playing for a finals spot and was like a final. Well done to Michael Maguire for pulling the right strings.

11. Penrith Panthers (9)

Seem to have lost their way and are now in real danger of missing out. To be so unenergetic and unenthused in a game that was defining their season was really surprising. They had more to play for than the Cowboys and I expected to see a more concerted effort.

12. Newcastle Knights (11)

That display against the Tigers was hard to watch. As a club, they'd want a mulligan on the week they just had. For a team that still had a lot to play for, they simply didn't turn up and pretty much got what they deserved.

13. North Queensland Cowboys (15)

A great win at home over Penrith. It was basically a nothing game for them and to play in front of your home crowd and put in a committed performance like that was a credit to them. It's always important to show your fans that you're always trying no matter what stage of the year it is.

14. St George Illawarra Dragons (13)

If you took anything out of the game against the Roosters it was that Tristan Sailor can be your long-term fullback. He was absolute class in a beaten side and it's just a shame some of his teammates weren't up to his standard.

15. New Zealand Warriors (14)

The season has really gotten away from the Warriors and they've really only got themselves to blame. At times they've struggled and haven't been able to play consistently from week to week. It's another long off-season coming for the Warriors.

16. Gold Coast Titans (16)

They competed a lot better than what we'd seen from them in recent weeks and it was much better than what a lot of people probably thought would happen to them in Melbourne. But it's no surprise that they stay in the same spot as last week.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.