Daniel Nichols – NRL Power Rankings: Round 5

Each and every week until the finals I will present the totally unofficial LeagueFreak.com power rankings. Just a quick explanation, these are not based on who the better team is, or who would win if they played each other etc, it’s more a who would be happier with where they are, form, judgement type of system. The aim is not to bag out on teams, but create discussion. Please let us know if you agree, disagree etc, but please don’t turn this into a social media attack.

1. Titans (5)
Sitting pretty at the top of the top of the table, the Titans continue to prove the critics wrong. What money would have you have gotten if you bet on the Titans leading the competition at this stage of the season? A last minute Greg Bird penalty goal gave them victory in Melbourne, yet another victory the experts gave them little to no chance of achieving. Albert Kelly’s form has made him a bolter for City/Country Origin selection.

2. Dogs (6)
The Bulldogs are running red hot at the moment, and there thrilling win over the premiers just goes to prove how tough they are. Josh Reynolds continues to impress behind a monster forward pack, who after a slow start are starting to fire. The Dogs are not missing Ben Barba anywhere near as much as expected, while Cheyse Blair has proven quite a find. His unfortunate injury will lead to the return of Mitch Brown who will hope to show the same form.

3. Tigers (9)
Belted by the Warriors one week, smashing premiership heavyweights the Sea Eagles the next. The Tigers proved once again how hard it is to take the points from Leidtchart Oval with a crushing performance. James Tedesco was right in Origin calculation until his injury, while Luke Brooks continues to porve himself at the NRL level. The real surprise has come in the form of the dominant Tigers forwards who have beaten their more fancied rivals up the middle numerous times.

4. Broncos (1)
A dissappointing loss in front of their home fans to the Eels sees the Broncos slip down the all important Leaguefreak rankings. Far from embarassed by the Eels, it would have been a game the Broncs would have been confident of winning. The return of Hodges is a huge plus for the Brisbane side, however Ben Barba is still a long way from his best. Still way ahead of where most had them right now.

5. Panthers (8)
Overcame some terrible conditions to beat the Raiders. Josh Mansour’s form has been a huge piece of the puzzle for the Panthers. Soward and Wallace continue to develop their partnership while Tim Grant made a solid return to the top 17. Lots of positive signs coming from the foot of the mountains and an exciting season ahead for the Panthers and their fans.

6. Sea Eagles (2)
Nothing shows the ups and downs of the NRL like the Sea Eagles results in the past two games. A week ago they held the premiers to nil, yet the next weekend they are beaten by a mile by the Tigers. The Glen Stewart contract drama continues to drag on and threatens to split the playing group from officials. Will be looking to get back on track with a big win over the Sharks at Brookie.

7. Dragons (3)
Continue to slid down both the rankings and the premiership table after a big loss to the Bunnies. Two straight losses for the previously high flying Dragons has some fans worried, but they can take confidence from their three wins as they have proven they can do it. Gareth Widdop needs a hand on the creative side of the game. Dugan is back from injury and will need to play extremely well to play Origin.

8. Eels (11)
The Eels of 2014 have done something the Eels of 2013 could not do … win away from home. The Eels have clawed their way back into the top eight after a brilliant win in Brisbane. Chris Sandow’s return to first grade was a good one and Jarryd Hayne goes from strength to strength. Semi Radradra is a deadset superstar and leads the try scoring charts. Play the Roosters, who have absolutely feasted on Eels the last few times they have met.

9. Storm (4)
Lost at home to the Titans, something at they would never have thought possible. Refereeing controversey aside, the Storm were at times well outplayed by their opponents. Rumours of players wanting out probably are not to blame for the loss, however it is not something you hear about the Melbourne club often. Need a big performance on Monday night in front of their own fans against the Dragons.

10. Roosters (7)
Two losses to sides that will likely be there come the business end of the season in the Dogs and the Sea Eagles. James Maloney’s form is a worry for the premiers, who travel to the in form Eels Pirtek Stadium this weekend. SBW returned to action and will improve with each game after turning in a rare bad game. RTS has looked good when moved to fullback and you get the feeling the permanent move might not be too far off.

11. Bunnies (14)
Return to the winners circle for the first time in weeks, with a big win over the Dragons.When Greg Inglis plays well the Bunnies are very hard to beat. Sutton’s record breaking game was one to remember for the fans of the red and green. Travel to Penrith this Friday night in what shapes as a huge Sydney derby. Reynolds seems to have completely fallen off the Origin radar. Souths outside backs need to lift big time to match the efforts from their big men up front.

12. Cowboys (15)
A big win brought the Knights back to Earth while getting their own season back on track. Paul Green faced some serious questions heading into the game this Monday night and his chargers answered them for him. Never looked anything less than in control. The Cowboys big men won the battle, and with Thurston pulling the strings in attack, the North Queenslanders don’t lose many games when their forwards are on top.

13. Raiders (13)
Raiders fans, welcome to the Ricky Stuart era. Conditions aside, Stuart’s structured attack doesn’t seem to be working for the Raiders, who look their best when Milford and Campese play off the cuff. Put up a huge fight against the Panthers but never really looked capable of winning the game. Time is running out for the club to be able to change the mind of Milford, who would be in the mix for Origin if not stuck behind two of the best fullbacks of our generation.

14. Knights (12)
Were unable to reproduce their form of the week before and found themselves on the wrong end of a Cowboys masterclass. Should welcome back Jarrod Mullen for their clash in the nation’s capital. Kurt Gidley is still transitioning into his new role and the return of Mullen should help the captain no end. Will need to play with more than emotion if they are to save their season. As seen last season, they are more than capable.

15. Sharks (16)
Finally on the board with a huge win over the Warriors in the Saturday afternoon sunshine. A Todd Carney led Sharks looked a completely different side to that who failed to record a win in four attempts. Fifita is a dangerous yet distracted player and you get the feeling he will return to his very best when his future is locked in. Nathan Stapleton announced his return to first grade by scoring four tries. The return of Gallen, Lewis, Ryan and co. is getting closer.

16. Warriors (10)
A club in crisis? Lost their coach after copping a hiding to the hapless Sharks. McFadden has taken over, however Nathan Brown and Stephen Kearney have already said they are not interested in the job next season. Host the red hot Bulldogs this weekend, a game they should be extremely fired up to win. Sam Tomkins hasn’t justified his price tag yet however he has not received much help at the back. Manu Vatuvei was out jumped by a much smaller winger, which shows you where his confidence is at right now.

Half Problem For NSW
James Maloney’s fluctuating form has presented Laurie Daley with a problem. Daley made no secret of his desire to pick the same halves combination as last season, however Maloney has failed to live up to his career best 2013 form. Josh Reynolds looks the most likely, however many are urging the NSW coach to take a punt on a more creative player like Albert Kelly. Pearce looks likely to hold his position regardless of his team’s inconsistent performances.

Wing Stocks Flying High
Whereas the halves options look thin, there is no such problem in the wing positions. Brett Morris surely has one of the wing spots sewn up, however there are multiple options on the other thing. Jarryd Hayne is in great form and may be pushed to wing to accomodate Josh Dugan, while Josh Mansour has had a brilliant start to the season. Jorge Taufua returns this weekend to press his claims while former Origin players Uate and Merrit are in the running. Mansour looks a certainty for mine.

@ Another Social Media Blow Up
Robbie Farah’s throw away line has lead to yet another social media blow up. His comments about Jamie Soward’s reaction to Beau Ryan’s (deep breathe) impersonation led to a ridiculous reaction online. Soward surely knew what he was in for in expressing his comments, and it’s hard to see how Farah’s comments were bullying. Huge over reaction but another reminder of the downfalls of social media.

Oh My Valentine
The Sharks, although big winners on the weekend, have had a horrible start to the season. One bright light however has been the form of Holden Cup fullback Valentine Holmes. Sharks fans will be hoping rumours linking him with the Cowboys are incorrect as Holmes has set the competition alight. His performance against the Warriors on the weekend adds to the pressure on Peter Sharp to promote him to the first grade side before he looks elsewhere ala Tyrone Peachey and Michael Lichaa.

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