The Roar
The Roar



This season's NRL ladder climbers and sliders

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Roar Guru
29th March, 2020

With Australian sport now largely closed until further notice, it is a worrying time for all of us.

For NRL supporters, there’s talk of clubs falling over and talk of an abbreviated season. With no end date in sight, uncertainty reigns supreme.

But let’s stay positive here. Let’s say that the NRL restarts in a couple of months and all 16 teams front up for Round 3. We’ve only seen two rounds of the NRL, but I am going out on a limb here. Here’s my list of teams on the rise, teams on the fall and teams that we are no chance to get an accurate read on.

I’m no proud Queenslander, but I do expect the Broncos to have a big impact on the competition this year. With captain Alex Glenn still on the sidelines, the Broncos have looked the goods.

The signing of Brodie Croft has clearly added some organisational skills to the halves but it is the young guys who are shining through.

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While David Fifita and Payne Haas rightly receive the accolades, I can’t help but be impressed by Pat Carrigan and Tom Flegler. Carrigan has shone in a co-captaincy role while Flegler gets through a mountain of work.

The dominance of the forward pack is opening up opportunities for the likes of Anthony Milford and Kotoni Staggs. Staggs, in particular, is destined for higher honours in the game.

I’ve also been impressed by the Penrith Panthers so far. While they got out of jail against the Dragons in Wollongong, their first-round win over the Roosters was all class.

Viliame Kikau’s fitness is key but he is part of a hard-working pack of forwards. They won the battle of the middle in their first two matches.

Many wondered how Nathan Cleary would perform with James Maloney no longer next to him.

Nathan Cleary of the Panthers runs the ball

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

The answer so far is very well. Jarome Luai plays an entirely different role to Maloney so Cleary has organised much of the play. This seems to suit his game more.


Api Koroisau has introduced plenty of creativity from hooker and will have a big impact on this team.

Of my teams to fall, here is the big one. The Roosters won’t win the premiership this year.

Sometimes you don’t miss something until it’s gone. Cooper Cronk’s retirement is a massive blow for the Roosters. While he couldn’t be described as a flashy player, he had composure that’s been lacking in those first two losses.

The Roosters could easily be 2-0 instead of 0-2 however they lacked the composure to make the right play at the right time.

Kyle Flanagan will be a good halfback but he is a way off Cronk. The loss of Latrell Mitchell has also cut a focus point out of the Roosters’ back line, placing a lot more defensive pressure on James Tedesco.


The Sharks will also slide down the ladder this year.

They could also be sitting on four competition points rather than zero. That Melbourne game was there for the taking but some late errors and poor discipline gave the Storm the chance.

The Sharks will learn from this but that is just the problem this year. They are a young team missing a heap of experience. Losing Josh Morris doesn’t make it any easier.

The Sharks will be a quality team in a few years’ time, with Blayke Brailey, Ronaldo Mulitalo and Will Kennedy all relatively new in the squad but seemingly having long careers in front of them.

Cronulla will again be regular finalists in years to come, but they won’t be this year.

And finally for the teams where the jury is still out.

It’s hard to get a read on the Cowboys. With a back line as strong as they have and a forward pack featuring Jason Taumalolo, they should be in the running for a top-four spot.

Jason Taumalolo

(Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)


They won’t be, but it’s hard to put a finger on exactly why. Perhaps their forward pack is ageing a bit and the best days are gone for Gavin Cooper and Josh McGuire.

A lot falls on Michael Morgan again this year and his best form is at State of Origin level rather than club form. With a list as long as the Cowboys, Paul Green is under plenty of pressure to perform.

And finally, the Tigers. They had an impressive win against the Dragons before a capitulation against the Knights. It seemed like the Tigers weren’t aware of the crowd lock-out at Leichhardt because, at times, they seemed uninterested and that’s a big concern.

There are a lot of new faces at the Tigers including a new centre pairing in Adam Doueihi and Joey Leilua. Perhaps the defence is taking some time to gel.

Michael Maguire took the Rabbitohs to great heights but was let go with two years to run on his contract. He has a big job in front of him if the Tigers are going to reach the finals for the first time in many years.

We’re only two rounds into the competition and most NRL fans, instead of premiership glory, would settle for a competition restart this year with their team still playing.

However, assuming that 2020 does go ahead, there will be some ladder climbers and sliders. It’s early, but it’s also fun to speculate.