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The Roar



NRL Power Rankings: Round 3 - Eels seal real deal status, Bunnies need Easter miracle, Tigers terrrrific, Titans in tatters

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24th March, 2024
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For some teams, Round 3 showed they can be better than expected in 2024.

But for others, the outlook is worse than first feared – that’s you, Gold Coast and South Sydney. 

The Titans were always going to have plenty of doubters this season despite Des Hasler’s arrival but South Sydney have gone from premiership contenders to a red and green rabble in the space of three weeks. 

There are serious issues at Souths and unfortunately for coach Jason Demetriou there does not appear to be many apparent answers for a team lacking in confidence, intensity and basic defensive commitment.

It’s not too late for teams to overturn the early-season trends but history shows that very few sides who struggle in the first month of the season go on to reach great heights.

Team by team, here’s how the Power Rankings stack up after Round 3.

1 Panthers (last week 1): If anyone has any doubt about the next-level footy IQ that Nathan Cleary possesses, rewatch the first half of Thursday night’s game.


Brisbane out of their comfort zone with players in new positions after Reece Walsh’s unfortunate injury, so Cleary directs Penrith left then sends the attack right to expose the makeshift edge defensive combination. 

Poor old Brendan Piakura thought he had nailed Cleary with a classic tackle only to look up to see he had slipped the pass at the perfect moment to give Izack Tago a gallop to the line.

2 Roosters (up 4): They are by no means the finished product after some of their key players have shuffled in and out of the line-up in the first few weeks but that 48-6 Rabbitohs rout was mightily impressive.

As bad as the Bunnies were, the Roosters were relentless and they probably would have surpassed the half-century if not for Sam Walker having to go into concussion cotton wool. 

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Dominic Young of the Roosters scores a try during the round three NRL match between Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium, on March 22, 2024, in Sydney, Australia.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

3 Eels (up 4): They competed strongly the week before in their loss to Penrith and again proved they can mix it with the best by coming back from 14 down against Manly.

The top four is definitely not out of reach for this side based on the early returns. Parra can be genuine title contenders but getting over the Penrith hump is much easier said than done, as they found out two grand finals ago.


The Eels have been craving for extra strikepower out wide and junior representative star Blaize Talagi definitely looks ready for NRL level based on his instant impact at centre in his try-scoring debut against Manly.

4 Sea Eagles (down 2): They seemed to lose momentum midway through the first half when Junior Paulo came on at CommBank Stadium.

Probably the main question over Manly is their lack of an intimidating presence in the middle of the ruck – Jake Trbojevic is a great worker, Josh Aloiai can be hit and miss while Taniela Paseka has the size but not the reputation of being the spearhead of a pack. 

Everywhere else on the field, the Sea Eagles look strong. 

5 Storm (down 2): They get docked a couple of spots this week but that’s mainly due to the fact they were below strength in losing to Newcastle. 

When they have Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes back in the saddle and Nelson Asofa-Solomona throwing his bulk around in the middle, they’ll reclaim a spot in the upper echelons.

6 Broncos (down 2): Reece Walsh’s six-week facial fracture, on top of Payne Haas being out for a month, compounding Adam Reynolds’ dicky knee adds up to trouble for Kevin Walters. 


There’s short-term pain on the horizon for this side but as long as more injuries to key players don’t pile up, their finals prospects are still rock solid.

7 Cowboys (up 1): Still one of the hardest teams in the competition to get a gauge on. They were brilliant first up in demolishing the Dolphins, lucky to get past Newcastle and then sluggish before steamrolling St George Illawarra on Saturday. 

They are the only unbeaten team after three rounds to sit No.1 on the actual ladder but they need a big scalp to enhance their reputation, starting with the depleted Broncos in Brisbane this Friday.

8 Sharks (down 3): They looked out of sorts from the get-go against the Wests Tigers and even at 6-6 in the first half, they looked like a team that thought they could mail in their performance and finish with two competition points. 

Whether it was an off night or a cause for greater concern is not yet possible to know but without a few key forwards leading into Sunday’s home game against Canberra, they’re a tad vulnerable. 


9 Warriors (up 2): They probably played better the week before when they lost to Melbourne on the bell but they did what they needed to do to overcome Canberra in Christchurch. 

Their win at Apollo Projects Stadium was not quite of the scale of Project Apollo but it ensured they avoided an 0-3 start and if they can consolidate by nullifying the Knights this Sunday, then they’ll be back in the top eight before you can say Roger Tuivasa-Sheck should be their permanent fullback, which he underlined during his fill-in stint against the Raiders.

10 Raiders (same): They’re one of the few teams who have put in a solid performance all three weeks of the season. 

Xavier Savage’s attacking talents are going wasted on the wing. The Raiders should roll the dice and invest in him as their fullback of the future. They’ve done the same with Ethan Strange at five-eighth, it’s time to turn the page on a few of the veterans in their line-up.

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Ryan Papenhuyzen of the Storm tackled by Bradman Best of the Knights during the round three NRL match between Newcastle Knights and Melbourne Storm at McDonald Jones Stadium, on March 24, 2024, in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Scott Gardiner/Getty Images)

Ryan Papenhuyzen is tackled by Bradman Best. (Photo by Scott Gardiner/Getty Images)

11 Knights (up 1): They couldn’t have been less impressive in winning at home against the depleted Storm on Sunday night. 

Perhaps it’s some kind of karma after they were unlucky to lose the previous week to the Cowboys but they need to take control of their own destiny in Auckland this weekend against the Warriors otherwise they will be playing from a long way behind the leading pack for the rest of the season.


12 Dolphins (up 2): No one knows when it is a good time to get the bye but the Dolphins have improved their status by doing nothing at all thanks to the ineptitude of the Titans and Rabbitohs.

13 Rabbitohs (down 5): Losing by 42 can happen but when you are supposed to be up for a contest like South Sydney’s storied rivalry with the Roosters, that kind of insipid performance should be ringing alarm bells. 

The Damien Cook to the bench theory was worth a shot but he still didn’t have much impact coming on when defenders were tired and Siliva Havili made a couple of crucial dummy-half errors.

Ultimately, this team will go as far as it’s taken by Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker this year and judging by the first few weeks, that won’t be anywhere near the finals equation.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Cameron Murray of the Rabbitohs talks to team mates during the round three NRL match between Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium, on March 22, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Cameron Murray talks his teammates at Allianz Stadium. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

14 Bulldogs (up 2): They get lifted two spots on the back of their 32-point shellacking of the Titans. But it was just the Titans after all. 

The Dragons flogged them in Round 1 and then got beaten by a bigger margin the following week at Redcliffe. 


Canterbury are getting value out of Viliame Kikau finally so the more reps they can get in with Matt Burton linking with his old Panthers teammate, the greater their chances will be of rising up the ladder after several seasons in the doldrums.

15 Wests Tigers (up 2): Benji Marshall’s youth movement is gathering momentum. Lachlan Galvin has been ultra impressive at five-eighth and with Aidan Sezer and Api Koroisau dominating the tactical decision making, it gives the rookie pivot and fullback Jahream Bula a chance to learn on the run without being overwhelmed by too much responsibility.

And it’s still hard to figure out how Justin Olam fell out of favour so dramatically at Melbourne. His impact was immediate in his Tigers debut in the centres and a few Sharks have the bruises to prove it.

16 Dragons (down 1): Hot and cold over the first two weeks, they managed to condense that mantra into 80 minutes at Kogarah last Saturday. 

An 18-4 lead after 20 minutes by no means guarantees victory but the comedy of errors, penalties and poor decisions that the Dragons dished up straight afterwards meant they were trailing by half-time before repeating the pattern in the second stanza.

17 Titans (down 4): The ACL tear to Tino Fa’asuamaleaui will hurt the Titans as much as a similar injury has torpedoed Manly’s chances in the past when they’ve been without Tom Trbojevic. 


But the main difference is that the Titans are starting from a very ordinary base and now that they’re going to be playing the rest of the season without the tower of strength who has carried them for years means the wooden spoon could be taking a trip to the Gold Coast later this year.