9) MELBOURNE STORM (-3)
Have not really played a game where at least 2 of their spine were not missing or hindered so plenty of excuses South of the border at the moment. Needed to win and did against the Tigers. Will be a great litmus test this week against South Sydney who are battle hardened. Will need to find another couple of gears from their last 3 weeks output to not continue their slide from perennial finals locks to those on the outside looking in.
8) NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS (+4)
Andrew Webster is doing a phenomenal job with this squad. He has pretty much turned the team on its head and off only one preseason into a gritty, disciplined squad that defend for each other. Shaun Johnson has wound the clock back 5 years and their outside backs have fans reminiscing to years gone by.
7) THE DOLPHINS (+1)
The Dolphins just seem to relish every challenge thrown at them, unfortunately with their injuries it feels like a squad hanging by a thread. With a tougher run of games incoming and a depleted squad they are going to need every bit of the grit and defensive resolve displayed in the opening month.
6) SYDNEY ROOSTERS (+1)
Had the feet up this week after a great victory in the battle of the games’ oldest rivals. Think they only improve moving forward and look for them to bank some wins in the coming weeks. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves had a momentous return from injury and showed a small glimpse of what a lot of fans expect to see this year. If Robbo can harness the combination of loosely wired humans into controlled and disciplined aggression it could be the missing piece to the puzzle for this star-studded unit.
5) CRONULLA SHARKS (-)
I am an unashamed Nicho Hynes fanboy but what a difference a great halfback makes to a side. As mentioned, the Dragons were abysmal but that was an absolute clinic from the great man. Briton Nikora is playing the game at breakneck intensity also and has been right at the pointy of a very competitive group of right edge backrowers in the competition this season.
4) MANLY WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES (+5)
Manly are on a great trajectory in the early part of the season. Josh Schuster is great at creating oodles of space for his outside backs. Throw in a sharp upturn in production from Taniela Paseka and the forward pack, a fit and firing Tom Trbojevic and its hard to put a ceiling on what this team can achieve in a wide open premiership race.
3) SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS (-1)
A win full of merit bubbling with emotion after the passing of the late great John Sattler. Was great to see Cody Walker keep his head and play football for seemingly the first time this year. Souths are just treading water awaiting the return of troops in the forward pack. Like many of the top sides their draw opens up moving forward.
2) PENRITH PANTHERS (-1)
After an absolute clutch play from Nathan Cleary to get them to extra time Penrith fell just short of an Eels side they have struggled with at times in recent years. There is plenty to work out offensively but as long as they maintain their stingy defence the panthers will be right around the money for the foreseeable future.
1) BRISBANE BRONCOS (+2)
A couple of wins where they got the job done despite not being at their best which is always the hallmark of good sides. Firepower, X-factor and a couple of elite forwards being steered around by one of the best game managers in football. Only injuries can stop the Broncos making a charge at a top 4 berth it seems.