You can already rule a line through the Sea Eagles, Rabbitohs, Titans, Knights and Raiders. Here’s why none of those sides can be taken seriously.
Just as we’ve seen in recent seasons, a similar group of NRL clubs have separated themselves from the rest.
The Storm and Panthers, once again, are the benchmark. But the Roosters and Eels have title claims, boasting strong rosters. All four of those clubs have banked early season wins, setting the wheels in motion for another finals tilt.
Cronulla is the other outfit that has shown enough to warrant some degree of premiership consideration. But that’s it.
Here’s why the clubs in the next group – the peloton – are just making up the numbers.
The Sea Eagles were handed a tough start to the year – games against the Panthers and Roosters. Since two early losses, Manly have won three straight, including an impressive 30-6 victory against the Knights without injured superstar Tom Trbojevic.
In recent seasons, the Sea Eagles have struggled against the top teams and that’s already been on full display this year.
The Rabbitohs have endured a tough first month of footy
On top of losses to Melbourne and Penrith, gun fullback Latrell Mitchell has been ruled out for the next two months with a hamstring injury.
Dane Gagai’s departure to the Knights has diminished outside back depth, but the bigger concern is more central – the halves.
Cody Walker hasn’t been the same since the loss of halves partner Adam Reynolds to the Broncos.Embed from Getty Images
The Titans show glimpses, but the inexperience denies them from ever putting in a full 80 minutes.
They were unimpressive in wins against the Warriors and Tigers, plus somehow blew a 22-0 lead against the Raiders.
The playmakers need time, while million dollar forward David Fifita encapsulates the team’s lack of consistency.
The Knights started strong, beating the Roosters, but the wheels have come off… ironically since Kalyn Ponga’s return.
The star fullback hasn’t found touch yet, dealing not only with a knee injury but distracting contract speculation.
A pre-season Achilles tear for captain Jayden Brailey hasn’t helped, while replacing Mitchell Pearce hasn’t been smooth sailing either.
It’s a common trend for these teams, but consistency is plaguing the Raiders, too.
A win over the Sharks was followed up with a tough beat in North Queensland.
The long-term injuries to spine pairing Josh Hodgson and Jamal Fogarty make it hard to mount a case they can reclaim 2019 form.