Soward: Sea Eagles, Raiders among five title contenders

The premiership race is down to five teams. After a weekend where two more teams announced themselves as contenders, I can't see how anyone else is going to get into that top bracket.

1. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (Last week: 2)

For the first time in two years, I've put Manly on top. They are the best team to watch. They defend hard, they compete on every play. DCE and Tom Trbojevic are the best seven-and-one combo in the game. Tommy is quickly catching Tedesco as one of the best fullbacks in the game. The Sea Eagles are really fun to watch. They are must-see TV at the moment.

2. Melbourne Storm (1)

An out of sorts Storm in the first half against Manly and in the second half they got their act together. I don't think it's a loss that really hurts them too much in terms of the ladder but it was probably the kind of loss they needed in order to see what flaws they still have if they're going to win the comp.

3. Canberra Raiders (3)

I could've had them at two. A very good win at Penrith and they've announced themselves as a real premiership contender. They're one of the five teams that can win it. John Bateman - what a superstar.

4. South Sydney Rabbitohs (5)

Good to see Cody Walker back in form. The Bunnies weren't at their best and knew it was going to be a tough game with all the stuff going on with the Dragons. But when they fell behind with a minute to go they didn't give up and the quality shone through. They showed they're going to be hard to beat in September, especially when Sam Burgess returns.

5. Sydney Roosters (4)

The Roosters drop a spot but it looks like they're just waiting for the finals. That can be a double-edged sword because you know you can get there and turn it on, but if you catch someone on their day all of a sudden you're in a sudden-death match. I still think they'll make the top four but the Roosters are probably trying to save up enough to have one good go at it with two or three weeks to go.

6. Parramatta Eels (8)

You could sum the Eels up in one word - Bankwest. Unfortunately for Parramatta the grand final isn't played at Bankwest and the semi-final won't be played at Bankwest, so they need to bottle whatever they do at Bankwest and take it on the road if they're any chance.

7. Cronulla Sharks (7)

Got out of jail against the Cowboys but to use an old basketball saying maybe that's the one they needed to see go through the hoop. They needed to snap the losing streak. Maybe winning a tight one will give them a timely shot of confidence, rather than losing another one due to goal-kicking.

8. Penrith Panthers (6)

A huge crowd on a Sunday afternoon in a big home game against the Raiders and they failed to fire a shot after scoring first. They had 60-odd tackles inside the opposition 20 and went back to how they were playing in the opening rounds of the year. A slip-up for the Panthers but they've been up for a while.

9. Brisbane Broncos (12)

Here come the Broncos. They did what they had to do against the Titans and probably took the pedal off the metal in the second half. Four of their next five games are at home and you'd have to think they're a decent chance to sneak into the finals.

10. New Zealand Warriors (11)

Still hanging around. I know they lost but I saw enough signs there to think that if they happen to catch fire for two or three weeks they may get results to go their way and sneak into the playoffs. I put them up a spot. They were a bit unlucky against the Eels.

11. Newcastle Knights (9)

I think the Knights are gone. I don't see them making the top eight after what I've seen over the past month or so. They've had three games at home and haven't turned up. They got walloped a couple weeks ago by the Roosters and just seem to have fallen off a cliff.

12. Wests Tigers (13)

A great win. Congratulations to Robbie Farah and it was nice to see the Tigers win on a milestone game and keep themselves in the hunt for the top eight. They weathered the storm early against the Knights and looked like they wanted it more.

13. North Queensland Cowboys (10)

A learning year for Jake Clifford. I can see this team accelerating next year when they've got Morgan and Clifford as their halves but they need to sort out some outside backs and rotate some young guys in there. It's been a learning month for Clifford and it should help him down the track.

14. Canterbury Bulldogs (14)

Not bad but not great. The Bulldogs are what we thought they are - a team that will have good efforts here and there. It seems like a bit of a broken record and we're saying the same about the Bulldogs every week.

15. St George Illawarra Dragons (16)

A better effort and Widdop certainly helped. They didn't leak as many points as they have been lately but you can't switch off and lose a game like that, especially after the hammering they've copped. More pressure on Ben Hunt, unfortunately.

16. Gold Coast Titans (15)

Some really disappointing individual efforts from the Titans on the weekend. The players run the dressing room up there, but there's no-one up there that should be walking in and running that dressing room and getting rid of coaches and then playing like that. Very disappointing.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.