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Opinion

NRL Round 1 power rankings

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Roar Pro
15th March, 2021
22

Isn’t it great to have the league back in our lives? What a first weekend to kick off the season.

Plenty of big teams lived up to their pre-season hype, while others will be going back to the drawing board after a lacklustre start to the season. Here are my power rankings after Round 1 in the NRL.

Last week’s rankings are listed in brackets.

Sydney Roosters: 1 (1)
What a performance from this squad – the stars came out to play on Saturday night. James Tedesco looked to be in the best form of his life to start the season, a terrifying prospect for the rest of the competition.

The forward pack looks strong and dynamic and the backs were clicking with Teddy having a hand in everything. Manly were made to look terrible by a truly dominant Roosters squad. This team has all the tools to challenge for top honours.

Penrith Panthers: 2 (2)
The Panthers showed why they are one of the competition’s premier teams with their performance against the Cowboys in Round 1. They look athletic across the park, fit and ready to fire. Their set plays were well orchestrated and Nathan Cleary looks ready to lead this team to the promised land.

As with the Roosters, the Panthers made the Cowboys look bad through their intensity and solid defence. Their next game is against the hapless Bulldogs and the Panthers will be looking to try to prove that they are the best team in the competition.

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Melbourne Storm: 3 (5)
Well, this writer is prepared to eat his words. There was no rust or comedown from the Cameron Smith days as the Storm exploded out of the gates.

They looked sharp all across the park, the forwards were running hard and Ryan Papanhuyzen produced a masterclass of a performance at the back. Great signs with Harry Grant coming back soon. The Storm look primed to push for back-to-back titles.

Ryan Papenhuyzen of the Storm scores a try

(Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

Canberra Raiders: 4 (4)
What a difference a half makes.

The Raiders’ attack looked dispirited and limp in the first half. They fired up and took control of the game in the second, showing us the Raiders that we expected before the season began. They forced multiple errors from the Tigers and used those errors to build up their attack.

Their sixth-tackle defence on their line was dominant, flying up quickly to disrupt everything the Tigers tried to do. It was great to see Ryan James back, what a story that is. Sebastian Kris was also a bright spot for this squad, playing a solid role with Jarrod Croker out and will be pushing for further selection.

South Sydney Rabbitohs: 5 (3)
The pre-season hype train isn’t quite off the tracks, but it’s delayed at the station. Made to look rusty by the rampaging Storm, the Rabbits would have liked the game to begin in the second half.

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The left edge looks to be one of the best in the competition. The Cody Walker, Dane Gagai and Alex Johnston combination looks electric, especially when Latrell Mitchell heads that way as well.

It was great to see Latrell find his feet early and often in Round 1, expect bigger and better things as the season continues. This team is definitely a wait-and-see.

Parramatta Eels: 6 (6)
Another game framed by the classic saying, “it’s a game of two halves”. The Eels were lucky to escape this one with a victory over the plucky Broncos. In the first half, the Eels looked lazy, made slow hit-ups and constantly being out-muscled in each contest.

Reed Mahoney passes

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

There must have been a big rev-up in the sheds at halftime as they came out a completely different team. Still a few questions about their overall ability, they continue to be on the outside looking in.

New Zealand Warriors: 7 (8)
Addin Fonua-Blake is an example of recruitment gone right for the Warriors. Over 200 metres in his first game shows the kind of player he can be and they will need him to be a consistent metre-eater moving forward.

The Warriors did what they had to do to win the game, capitalising on errors by the Titans. It was huge for them to have Ken Maumalo and David Fusitua back to give them some go forward from their own try-line.

With Roger Tuivasa-Sheck not having his best game, the signs look good for this team to continue to perform.

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Cronulla Sharks: 8 (10)
That is how you start a season. The Sharks exploded off the mark, exposing a lacklustre Dragons defence to begin the game. The first half was great for the Sharks as the Dragons barely fired a shot.

A wobbly patch to begin the second half gave the Dragons a sniff, but the Sharks turned it on when it mattered.

A good start, but definitely areas for improvement. They need to try to keep the momentum until Shaun Johnson gets back.

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Gold Coast Titans: 9 (7)
The Titans started the season looking slow and disjointed. Much hyped in the pre-season, they failed to set tongues wagging in this encounter. While they weren’t blown off the park by the Warriors, they simply looked limp.

Their high-profile signings failed to impress on debut, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui especially trying too hard and making a number of errors. One bright spot for them to build upon was the play of Corey Thompson on the wing, a few barnstorming runs and provided a spark.

A few more weeks needed before knowing what this team can be.

Newcastle Knights: 10 (12)
This game was all about the forwards. Daniel Saifiti proved why he is considered one of the top front-rowers in the game. It was a masterful performance from him and he led this punishing Knights pack around the park.

A great debut for Tyson Frizzell, putting on some big shots and running hard. Once the Knights found their rhythm they looked like a solid and well-rounded team. The only question mark moving forward for this team: how the hell is Bradman Best only 19?

Bradman Best of the Knights

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Wests Tigers: 11 (11)
A frantic but solid defence, especially in the first half, gave the Tigers a shot in this game.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t sustain the intensity for the full 80 minutes and faded as the game continued. Joey Leilua still continues to be a wildcard for this team, capable of brilliance and being boneheaded all in the one play.

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The Raiders’ defence was particularly strong in this game and the Tigers found it difficult to breach. Too many errors for the Tigers – they need to cut this out to have any chance of making the eight.

Manly Sea Eagles: 12 (9)
Turmoil and tantrums are the name of the game for the Sea Eagles. The chat coming out about Des Hasler and his contract will only add to the dramas for this team. Far more problems and not many solutions leave this team dramatically sliding down the power rankings.

Des Hasler press conference

Des Hasler (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Kieran Foran started the game well but faded, along with the rest of the team under an onslaught of Roosters supremacy. Defence will need to be addressed if the Eagles have any chance of improving but they are looking far more likely to be wooden spooners than title favourites.

St George Illawarra Dragons: 13 (13)
Meh – that’s all that really needs to be said. Flashes of solid play, flashes of terrible defence. They will struggle until they have the ability to put together a complete 80-minute performance. Started the second half really well after being shut out in the first half.

Matt Dufty is the wildcard here. Can look so flash when running the ball but he has been diabolical under the high ball. Errors need to be reined in before this team has any real chance of beating the better teams in the competition.

Brisbane Broncos: 14 (16)
Pride comes before the fall. A blockbusting start for the Broncos, expelling all previous doubts and showing that they are a team for Brisbane to be proud of. Unfortunately, they couldn’t sustain the pace for the whole 80 but there are encouraging signs.

They have athletes all across the park and if Xavier Coates can escape without a major injury, there is plenty of promise in these young Broncos. When Anthony Milford takes on the line, this team looks like world-beaters.

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Unlocking his talent and keeping him moving forward will be the key for Kevin Walters to getting this squad out of the depths of the spoon race. Jordan Riki also looked impressive – expect more big things from the youngster.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs: 15 (15)
Kyle Flanagan proved this writer correct by showing off his playmaking skills in this one. The Bulldogs’ first try was a thing of beauty with a lovely skip pass to the wing. The errors in key positions hurt the Dogs all night, they looked sloppy and the Knights capitalised on it.

As with a few teams in the bottom eight, a lot to like but also many more questions for these Dogs before they can have grandiose fantasies. The Bulldogs will also need more from their forward pack to give their halves some front-foot ball for them to be dreaming of finals football.

North Queensland Cowboys: 16 (14)
Todd Payten was right to blast this team and their performance – they barely troubled the Panthers on the scoresheet and looked dismal in attack the whole night. A lacklustre effort from Jason Taumalolo is not what this squad needs to be at their best.

They looked tired and lacked effort across the park. The Payten factor is huge as we know what he can get out of his players, but he was rightly disappointed in their first hit out. Much improvement must be had before this team can think about moving up in the power rankings.

They simply do not have the talent across the park to keep them in games. One lucky break is that they face the similarly bottom-dwelling Dragons squad at home next week which gives them a good chance to get a win on the board.