Soward: Super Storm top of the class; 'D' for Dragons

Something different this week. With the 25-round regular season wrapping up on the weekend we're down to eight teams vying for premiership glory. So rather than the usual weekly Power Rankings, each team has been marked on an end-of-year report card.

Brisbane Broncos - C

Their season never really got going and we never really knew what we'd get each week. I watched them play the Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium in one of the games of the year and then they backed that up with an immature performance against the Bulldogs.

It's great to have the best young roster in the competition but if you're not going to play with maturity each week you're just making up the numbers - and that's what they're doing in the eight. They need to solve their halves problem by the start of 2020.

Canberra Raiders - A

Outstanding job by Ricky Stuart. You can play the most elaborate footy and with a lot of flair, but if you don't defend hard and don't establish yourself as one of the top two or three defensive teams it makes it so hard to rely on point-scoring every week. They're one of the best teams to watch play, but can they win it all? I'm not sold that they can but they're going to be hard to beat if they get a game at home.

Canterbury Bulldogs - C

A great finish to the back end of the year but they finished exactly where they did in 2018. I need to see this team playing like this when the pressure-cooker is on at the start of the year and be contending for a top-eight position on their own merits, rather than having to rely on results going their way. Dean Pay needs to be congratulated on how they've finished but it means little if you start the season so poorly.

Cronulla Sharks - B-

They scraped into the top eight but it hasn't been the most consistent season. You look at the talent in that squad, if they could've put it all together and got a few kicks going through the posts more often, then they were probably competing for a top-four spot. Making the eight certainly kept them relevant but I wouldn't say they're a powerhouse.

Gold Coast Titans - D

A horrible year and they need to do a lot of improving under Justin Holbrook - he's got a huge task ahead of him. The only faith I have is that Mal Meninga is up there helping drive their culture. Jai Arrow is a must-keep if they want to be successful next year.

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles - B+

Des Hasler for coach of the year after doing an amazing job with this roster. He's got the best out of those fringe guys and kept his team tough and focused for most of the year. Even though they've lost their best players at times they've still been competing hard on every play. Des has been outstanding and so has his whole squad.

Melbourne Storm - A+

I probably wrote them off a little too much at the start of the year by tipping them on the fringe of the eight but Craig Bellamy is one of the best coaches in the game. He's in an elite group and he continues to re-invent the wheel, but also keeps it simple for those guys to go out there and do their job. Absolutely outstanding to claim another minor premiership.

Newcastle Knights - C

A huge disappointment because the potential was there for a top-four finish in terms of the promising run they had and their talented roster. A failure in 2019 and they've moved the coach on, and Adam O'Brien comes in with the task of getting that playing group to stand up and be accountable each week. I'm expecting a huge bounce back in 2020.

New Zealand Warriors - C-

They didn't win enough games at home, and while their culture is something they've bought into it hasn't been enough for my liking. With all that talent you'd think they'd have strong first and reserve grade sides coming from one country, but year after year they continue to disappoint. 

North Queensland Cowboys - C+

I think this is the last we'll see of those '15 and '17 grand final teams because they have to blood some new players alongside Taumalolo, Drinkwater, Morgan and Reece Robson next year, and get some depth in the outside backs. I wouldn't go as far as saying they underachieved but it certainly wasn't their best season.

Parramatta Eels - B+

Well done to Brad Arthur, what a turnaround. It could've easily been an 'A' on the report card if they'd been a little bit more consistent throughout the year, but they showed they can be a top-four squad. Mitch Moses deserves a lot of credit. I've been a critic of his and I'm happy to say he's had an impressive year. We all enjoy watching him play when he's on the front foot, taking the line on and running, and defending, well.

Penrith Panthers - C-

A disappointing season and they never really got off the ground. They had those six wins around the middle of the season but you never truly felt they were all the way back. They've turned some players over and they'll be even younger next year, and in the second year under Ivan Cleary they'll be looking for a big improvement.

St George Illawarra Dragons - D

Huge underachievers in 2019. They can blame injuries, losing Widdop for a period and off-field troubles with their players, but it's just not good enough. They didn't play a style of football that deserved to get in the top eight, and their best players didn't play at their best often enough.

South Sydney Rabbitohs - A-

The way Wayne Bennett has got them to finish the season has shown the master coach has still got it. Whether they can win a couple of big games in a row we'll have to wait and see, but they've handled disruptions in the club off the field better than some of the other clubs that have underachieved. They've been able to fight their way into contention for this premiership.

Sydney Roosters - A

It's hard being the champs, you get everyone's best game every week. I don't think you could've asked any more from that squad. They've managed their way through to put themselves in a great position to win it all again. It's going to take some big games from their big-name players, but they're sitting pretty. I'm still firmly entrenched in the Roosters camp to win it all.

Wests Tigers - C

It was all on the line for them on Sunday but they failed to deliver. The buildup to the game really masked some of their failures in 2019. With their season on the line I expected them to fire a shot but the ninth-place curse continues for the Tigers. They just can't seem to get it right in big patches throughout the year and force their way into the eight.

 

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