Soward: Bunnies booming again; Tigers tough it out

As we head into the final round of the season there are big some changes at the top but there wasn't much over the weekend that required any major alterations at the bottom.

1. Sydney Roosters (Last week: 1)

Didn't get out of third gear and weren't troubled by a poor Panthers side. Cooper Cronk got another valuable week's rest and they still have Cordner and Friend to add to the mix. They're peaking at the right time. They now they strap themselves in for a big finish to the year.

2. Melbourne Storm (2)

A professional effort and a good bounce back after a less-than-convincing performance the previous week. They looked all business against Manly and made a pretty strong statement which would've pleased Craig Bellamy. They are what we thought they are and I expect them to meet the Roosters in the grand final.

3. Canberra Raiders (4)

A great win on the road against the Sharks. Aidan Sezer stood up and you have to give credit where credit it is due. He probably hasn't convinced too many people this year that he can get the job done, but I'll put my hand up after being critical earlier in the year. He came up with a performance that will instil a lot of confidence in Ricky Stuart and the players that he can steer the team around.

4. South Sydney Rabbitohs (7)

The Bunnies are back. I'm not sure if they're all the way back but they bottled something from that trip to Brisbane and took care of the Warriors with little fuss. I said I didn't think they could win it but I may have to eat my words. We'll have a better idea of where they're at when they meet the Roosters this weekend.

5. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (2)

Unfortunately, they've lost arguably their best player and they may bow out in quick succession now. They've got a big game against Parra and then another big one the week after. Des has a tough challenge on his hands.

6. Cronulla Sharks (6)

Lost a nail-biter to Canberra and it would've been a tough one to swallow after a great first half. But they wouldn't have lost any fans and now they get their finals game one week early in a hostile environment at Leichhardt.

7. Brisbane Broncos (8)

How long can they ride the wave? We'll have to wait and see, but they're going to be playing finals footy. They're certainly playing with hunger. You have to give Anthony Seibold some credit because he was under the pump and they'd underachieved until a couple of weeks ago.

8. Parramatta Eels (6)

Still haven't convinced me in terms of how deep they can go in the finals. They're probably going to come up against the Broncos in a couple of weeks. The good teams in the top eight can win on the road and the Eels still haven't shown us that. Right now I don't see them going deep into the playoffs.

9. Wests Tigers (10)

Needed to win against the Dragons to keep their season alive and did so pretty comfortably in the end. It was a big occasion against an old foe and they turned up and got the job done. The Tigers face another huge game this week and should be feeling confident after two convincing wins.

10. Canterbury Bulldogs (9)

They'd be happy with how they've finished the season but the hard work starts when they come back on November 1 and they need to prove this late-season form isn't fool's gold. They probably should've won that game against the Cowboys but they just lacked a bit of class.

11. Newcastle Knights (12)

A big performance at home against the Titans but it's not one to brag about. They've got a really, really big preseason ahead of them if they're to make the jump next year. When you reflect on their season, they've underachieved.

12. North Queensland Cowboys (13)

Really happy for all the fans that travelled to 1300Smiles Stadium for the last game there. It was a beautiful way to send off that stadium and I can't wait to have a look at the new one. To Matt Scott - a fantastic career and good luck in retirement.

13. Penrith Panthers (11)

Right alongside the Dragons as my biggest underachievers for the year. Watching them play, they look really disconnected and you can see why they've struggled with their attack this year inside the 20.

14. St George Illawarra Dragons (14)

Planning for 2020 and some big decisions certainly need to be made. Playing at the SCG on Sunday, I expected them to put up more of a fight, but you can see that the players are waiting for the season to end.

15. New Zealand Warriors (15)

Big underachievers. I didn't have them in my top eight but to have the amount of talent they have in New Zealand and still miss the finals must be extremely disappointing for Warriors fans. They really need to have a look at their whole club from top to bottom and make a decision where they want to take the franchise.

16. Gold Coast Titans (16)

They've had some bad performances during the year and that game against Newcastle was just about their most disappointing performance of the season. I'm happy for Tanah Boyd but there it's hard to say anything positive about the Titans at the moment.

 

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