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Opinion

NRL Power Rankings: Round 2 - Manly rising rapidly, Dragons crash back to reality, spotlight intensifies on Rabbitohs

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17th March, 2024
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Two rounds into the NRL season and there is now officially double the evidence of who’s rising and which teams are still yet to kick into gear.

Manly have caught the eye in the opening fortnight as the most impressive of the five teams with back-to-back wins. 

Anthony Seibold’s positional changes, the addition of Luke Brooks and the return of Tom Trbojevic adds up to a team that looks like it could emerge as a genuine threat after an uninspiring 2023 campaign. 

There are no alarm bells ringing at the Rabbitohs just yet but they have been the biggest letdown of the four sides propping up the bottom of the ladder with an 0-2 record. 

The Knights and Warriors are a trifle unlucky to still be winless while Canterbury at least showed some fight last Friday to suggest they may not stay in last place for too long.

St George Illawarra fizzled in Round 2 after they sizzled to start the year to reinforce the fact that Shane Flanagan has plenty of work to do to undo the damage that’s been done during the past few seasons.

Team by team, here’s how the Power Rankings stack up after Round 2.

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Round 2 Power Rankings

1 Panthers (last week 1): There were eyebrows raised when they kept top spot after losing in Round 1. The premiers were not purr-fect in their 26-18 win over Parramatta but very few teams are in Round 2.

They are lucky to have Jarome Luai available this week – he should have copped a ban of at least one week for his high shot which knocked Bailey Simonsson out of the contest.

2 Sea Eagles (up 4 spots): They have two big scalps to start the year in the Rabbitohs and Roosters. Their attack is clicking and while their edge defence is still a work in progress, they look very solid through the middle. 

Luke Brooks is in the ideal role now that he is the secondary playmaker to Daly Cherry-Evans and with Tom Trbojevic adding an unpredictable third point of attack from the back, this team can go a long way.

3 Storm (down 1): They were fortunate to get out of jail against the Warriors following Xavier Coates’ gravity-defying last-minute acrobatics. 

And with no Cameron Munster for another week due to his groin injury and Jahrome Hughes likely to be out this Sunday due to his ref bump, Melbourne could be in strife with their third and fourth-choice halves lining up in Newcastle.

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 16: Xavier Coates of the Storm scores the match winning try during the round two NRL match between Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors at AAMI Park, on March 16, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia.

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

4 Broncos (same as last week): Reece Walsh was too much for the Rabbitohs to handle but the catalyst for their attacking machine to click into gear is Adam Reynolds so his knee injury is a major concern leading into their Grand Final rematch in Penrith on Thursday.

The Selwyn Cobbo switch to centre looks like a winner, filling the vacancy left by Herbie Farnworth relocating to Redcliffe.

5 Sharks (same as last week): They did what was required to get on top of a committed Canterbury side on Friday night but the result could have been different if Briton Nikora had been sent off, as he should have been, for his hit on Viliame Kikau. 

Cronulla’s other second-rower, Teig Wilton, was again impressive – it’s too early for Origin bolter talk but he could loom into NSW calculations this year if he continues his rapid rise over the past 12 months.

6 Roosters (down 3): They lacked creative spark at Brookvale on Sunday. They grinded their way past the Broncos in Round 1 but when it came to shifting the ball wide, Manly made them look second-rate and the Roosters were probably lucky they didn’t lose by more than seven. 

Perhaps Trent Robinson should consider shifting Brandon Smith to the bench to make some impact against tired opponents because he’s not generating much dummy-half momentum as a starter.

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7 Eels (up 1): They lost no admirers for the way they pushed Penrith.

They have that feeling of a team that will make the lower half of the top eight by beating the sides they should and not upsetting too many above them.

8 Cowboys (up 1): Neither side deserved to win that match at QCB Stadium on Saturday afternoon. There should have been audible groans when the match went to extra time but North Queensland people are too polite for that and they were quickly put out of their misery with the ecstasy of Chad Townsend’s winning field goal.

9 Rabbitohs (down 2): They didn’t have the speed to match Brisbane on the fringes or in the middle of the field.

Losing Jai Arrow to injury for most of the season is a huge dent to their pack – Cameron Murray can’t do it all by himself in the middle.

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10 Raiders (up 1): They’re off to a solid start but a trip to NZ this Friday followed by a shorter one to Cronulla in Round 4 and a clash with Parramatta the next week will provide a more accurate gauge of whether Canberra’s encouraging form is sustainable.

11 Warriors (down 1): They deserved to win in Melbourne but there was a hint of panic in their defence in those frenetic final minutes which contributed to the Storm’s two late tries. 

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has taken no time flat to find his feet – they’ve got to engineer a way to get him early ball as much as possible.

12 Knights (same as last week): They were much better than Round 1 but still way too loose with the ball to fritter away their chances to put the Cowboys away. 

A draw at the end of extra time would have been the right result for a match that both teams tried their best to lose.

13 Titans (up 1): They rise due to the Dragons’ fall. Unfortunately for them, any further rises in the rankings will need to be earned via on-field performances. 

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14 Dolphins (up 2): Well, that was quite the bounce-back. Losing by 25, winning 38-blot. Carry the two, divide the remainder – that works out to be a 63-point turnaround.

Truth be told, for the first hour at Redcliffe on Sunday night it was a slugfest that was tough to watch before the Dolphins started making inroads out wide with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Jake Averillo and Jack Bostock cashing in. Tougher tests await before anyone thinks this team is potential playoff material.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Isaiya Katoa of the Dolphins passes the ball during the round two NRL match between the Dolphins and St George Illawarra Dragons at Kayo Stadium, on March 17, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Isaiya Katoa passes. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

15 Dragons (down 3): The bubble burst quicker than you can say St George Illawarra wasn’t rebuilt in a day. 

Shane Flanagan warned in the pre-season to keep expectations low and their insipid performance on Sunday night against the Dolphins was a concern for a team that had shown a steely resolve in Round 1 and the pre-season.

They won’t be in the finals mix but they shouldn’t play that badly again.

16 Bulldogs (down 1): There were some encouraging signs for long-suffering Canterbury fans with the commitment shown against Cronulla but they still look off the pace in more than a couple of areas.

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Viliame Kikau looked switched on but when he is the only forward making more than 100 running metres, it’s going to be hard to compete most weeks.

17 Wests Tigers (same as last week): Benji Marshall is clearly investing in youth by starting Lachlan Galvin with Bud Sullivan in the halves and there may be short-term pain but at least he’s taking a direction. 

It’s hard for a club to ask fans to be patient after 12 years of missing the finals but they shouldn’t be expecting too much in 2024.

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