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The Roar



NRL Power Rankings: Round 1 - Small sample size but major concerns at a few clubs, Flanno back in style at Dragons

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10th March, 2024
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Another year, another attempt to decipher the strengths and weaknesses of the NRL stable of 17 by using the time-honoured tradition of assessing form not based solely on where they sit on the competition ladder.

The NRL’s off and running and straight out of the gates, a few teams have bolted off to strong starts while others are still in the barriers. 

St George Illawarra, Cronulla, Melbourne and the Cowboys were the most impressive of the first-up winners when the prolonged round ended this weekend following the Las Vegas extravaganza to kick off the new season. 

With the four Vegas teams playing against each other for the next two weeks, there will be a mini battle within the competition between Brisbane, the Roosters, Souths and Manly. 

And while the first Power Rankings of the year are based off the smallest of sample sizes of 80 minutes, there are already a few teams that have concerns adding up. 

Canterbury look like they’re at the start of another false dawn of their fans being let down by grandiose promises, the Titans couldn’t have begun the Des Hasler era with a poorer performance while the Dolphins looked like boys against men in their 25-point surrender to North Queensland.


Team by team, here’s how the Power Rankings stack up after Round 1.

Round 1 Power Rankings

1 Panthers: They were below their best on Friday night in Melbourne and there are a range of excuses that could be trotted out, namely the trip to the other side of the world and back in the pre-season for the World Club Challenge final. 

They started slowly last year too but will remain the team to beat unless their misfiring first-up effort becomes more than just a one-off.

2 Storm: They are a sneaky hope to win the title this year now they have their Clive Churchill Medal-winning fullback in Ryan Papenhuyzen back in the No.1 jersey. 

Their remarkable opening-round record aside, it was an impressive performance to knock off the premiers without Cameron Munster or Nelson Asofa-Solomona.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 08: Jahrome Hughes of the Storm passes the ball during the round one NRL match between Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers at AAMI Park on March 08, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia.

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)


3 Roosters: Their Las Vegas show was nothing flash or fancy, but it was effective. The double-edged sword that is Victor Radley was crucial – if he can keep peeling off big hits without going high or losing his hotheaded temper, he can be a difference maker for the Roosters this season. 

Spencer Leniu deserves a long ban, and will get one, but at least for the Tricolours they have Jared Waerea-Hargreaves coming back from his long ban stretching back to last regular season.

4 Broncos: Nothing to panic about from their Vegas loss to the Roosters, they were flat and couldn’t get any momentum going through the middle third through their usual method of the Payne Haas and Patrick Carrigan one-two punch skittling defenders. 

Brisbane or the Bunnies will be starting the season 0-2 after they lock horns at Suncorp Stadium this Thursday but the Broncos look much more settled than Souths at this early stage of 2024.

5 Sharks: Possibly the most impressive win of Round 1 – to go over to Auckland and take two competition points away from the Warriors was a great way for the Sharks to start their season in their two-pronged bid to make the finals while also showing they can knock off top-four sides. 

There’s a sameness to the Sharks which can be a strength and a weakness but with Briton Nikora and Teig Wilton roaming down the edges, they have two of the more impactful wide-running forwards in the NRL.


6 Sea Eagles: There are two Manly sides – the one that struggles when Tom Trbojevic is out and the Turbo-injected one which was way too strong for South Sydney in the States. 

The Luke Brooks experiment got off to a great start but Wests Tigers fans will warn you that a one-off starring performance does not necessarily lead to another.

The Sea Eagles could be top-four challengers if everything goes to plan – that is, if Tommy Turbo stays on the field.

7 Rabbitohs: They get a slight benefit of the doubt after their Round 1 loss to Manly given that Jack Wighton was out suspended, it was their first game without Campbell Graham and the Bunnies are notoriously slow starters each year. 

But in a season where they are determined to prove last year’s ninth-placed finish was a blip on the radar, they can’t afford to drop Thursday’s game in Brisbane heading into their Round 3 grudge match with the Roosters.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 09: Bryce Cartwright of the Eels celebrates celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round one NRL match between Parramatta Eels and Canterbury Bulldogs at CommBank Stadium, on March 09, 2024, in Sydney, Australia.

(Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

8 Eels: They get credit for their professional performance in putting the Bulldogs away but not too much given their opposition didn’t throw much at them in attack or defence.


If Bryce Cartwright can continue to be an attacking threat on the right edge without being a defensive liability it will take plenty of pressure off Mitchell Moses to shoulder so much of the attacking burden.  

9 Cowboys: Another team which looked vastly improved on the hot-and-cold outfit which faded badly last year but they also didn’t have to do a helluva lot to get on top of a bumbling Dolphins side.

They didn’t make many roster changes in the off-season but the addition of James Maloney to the coaching staff looks like it will get their attacking machine back into top gear.

10 Warriors: It’s just one loss so nothing too much to worry about. Luke Metcalf can be a frequent source of points if he can stay on the park, easing the burden on Shaun Johnson. 

The decision to roll out an inexperienced option in Taine Tuaapiki to replace the injured Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad in the No.1 jersey when you have a Dally M Medal-winning fullback in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck sitting there in the centres was hard to understand. Yes, it was his first game back from his rugby stint but RTS knows his way around the fullback role.

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 07: Zac Hosking of the Raidersis tackled during the round one NRL match between Newcastle Knights and Canberra Raiders at McDonald Jones Stadium on March 07, 2024, in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Zac Hosking is tackled. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

11 Raiders: Green Machine grit was too much for a rusty Knights side looking to take shortcuts. Canberra coach Ricky Stuart was unusually circumspect after the win in Newcastle on Thursday, perhaps not wanting to add to his reputation of always having a chip on his shoulder.


But the sense of damaged pride in the national capital is real after they were widely tipped to be wooden spoon contenders. They won’t finish last and they are unlikely to make the finals but they’ll be competitive mongrels more often than not in 2024.

12 Knights: Their loss was possibly the most concerning of the Round 1 losers. They didn’t play like the blue-collar side that represents Newcastle.

They were all flash and no foundation. And when the forwards don’t dominate the middle of the field, Kalyn Ponga can only do so much. 

Just one loss, small sample size, etc, but that kind of entitled display cannot be repeated.

13 Dragons: They will be like the Raiders this year and punch above their weight even though the finals are a bridge too far.

St George Illawarra look noticeably fitter and slicker, and with Shane Flanagan instilling toughness into a team that had developed a reputation for having a soft underbelly, they are making strides to becoming a team that will attract free agents after missing out on several high-profile recruits in the off-season.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 09: Kyle Flanagan of the Dragons celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round one NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and St George Illawarra Dragons at Cbus Super Stadium, on March 09, 2024, in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Kyle Flanagan celebrates with teammates after scoring. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)


14 Titans: They didn’t have Kieran Foran, David Fifita or Jayden Campbell against the Dragons but that didn’t excuse the lack of intent shown by most of the 17 players that took the field. 

AJ Brimson is not happy about being shifted to centre and he was wasted out there on Saturday night – particularly with Campbell and Foran out, he should have been given a chance to get his hands on the ball more often at five-eighth or fullback.

15 Bulldogs: Deja vu at Canterbury with another off-season of high-priced recruits and promises of better times ahead leading to a false dawn in Round 1.

The shoulder injury to Josh Addo-Carr weakens their already anaemic attack. Stephen Crichton contributed just eight runs for 62 metres in his club debut – they need to get him to fullback quick smart.

16 Dolphins: Well, that was ordinary. Losing Tom Gilbert for the year in the pre-season was a massive blow but even at his best, he would not have been able to do much to stem the flow of pointst that the Dolphins conceded at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday. 

Their pack looks a little long in the tooth and with Jake Averillo, Euan Aitken and Isaiya Katoa unused reserves in Round 1, Wayne Bennett has options at his disposal to give this side a jolt of attacking spark.

17 Wests Tigers: The back-to-back wooden spooners enjoyed a comfortable win over the bye. Their mission gets harder next Saturday in Canberra.