The race for a spot in the top eight is set to go down to the wire while the Broncos could end a 23-year wait for a minor premiership.
Read below for the latest NRL Power Rankings!
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Edwards extends until end of 2028! | 02:13
1. BRISBANE BRONCOS
Last week’s ranking: 2nd (up one spot)
Analysis: The Broncos move into top spot after a hard fought win over the Raiders in Canberra. They are now in the box seat to pick up their fifth minor premiership, however coach Kevin Walters has rested a host of players for their final round clash against the Storm, who have also left out a raft of regular starters. Adam Reynolds is under an injury cloud with a calf issue but the skipper is confident he’ll be right for the first week of the finals series. What may be a touch more concerning though, is the health of gun lock Pat Carrigan who is battling a foot injury. Walters has his team humming at the moment with seven straight wins and alongside the Panthers, they are a side who will be an extremely tough matchup for whoever they take on in the finals. It’s worth noting, that the Broncos have gone onto win the grand final in all four years they’ve finished with the minor premiership (1992, 1997, 1998, 2000).
Injuries/suspensions: Pat Carrigan (foot, Finals Week 1), Adam Reynolds (calf, Finals Week 1), Kotoni Staggs (suspension, Finals Week 1).
Run home: Storm (h)
2. PENRITH PANTHERS
Last week’s ranking: 1st (down one spot)
Analysis: Penrith drop back to second spot after a shock loss to the Eels in Round 26. Interestingly, it was their second loss to Parramatta this year after thrashing them in the 2022 grand final. However the bigger blow was the shoulder injury to Jarome Luai. The star playmaker is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks, potentially longer. The difference in winning strike rate for the Panthers with Luai in the side (88.5%) to when he isn’t (53.8%) is quite stark, but captain Nathan Cleary says he’s confident the partnership between him and Luai’s replacement Jack Cogger will get the job done. Penrith have named a mostly full-strength side for their clash against North Queensland, but if the Broncos win on Friday to lock up the minor premiership, Ivan Cleary could rest a few stars to avoid an unnecessary injuries on the eve of the finals.
Injuries/suspensions: Izack Tago (leg, Finals Week 1), Jarome Luai (shoulder, Finals Week 3), Taylan May (knee, season).
Run home: Cowboys (h)
Hot mic sledge prompted Knights streak? | 01:28
3. NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Last week’s ranking: 4th (up one spot)
Analysis: Penrith and Brisbane are deservedly the premiership favourites, but the resurgent Knights are shaping up as a scary proposition for any side to come across this finals series. Newcastle have won eight on the bounce, including a dominant 32-6 win over the Sharks last Sunday. They have been one of the stories of 2023, considering their slow start to the season, the concussion problems their superstar Kalyn Ponga had to overcome and the reports coach Adam O’Brien was just about on his way out. What could derail the Knights’ season though is the shoulder injury to Ponga, who left the Sharks win early after copping a huge hit. Ponga will miss the final round clash against the Dragons with the club saying he will be fine for the Knights’ elimination final in a fortnight, but will he be 100%? There’s no doubt he’s been the best fullback of the competition over the past couple months, with his shift from five-eighth the catalyst for Newcastle’s impressive run.
Injuries/suspensions: Krystian Mapapalangi (shoulder, indefinite), Bailey Hodgson (shoulder, season), Jayden Brailey (knee, season)
Run home: Dragons (a)
Last week’s ranking: 4th (back one spot)
Analysis: It may be harsh to drop them back to fourth spot considering they won their seventh-straight last week, but it was far from convincing. They’ve taken on three sides already eliminated from contention over the past three weeks and all in New Zealand. Last week, they struggled to put away the Dragons, were tied up at 22 with seven minutes to go against Manly two weeks ago and the round prior to that, only beat the Tigers by eight points. There is something that can be said about finding a way and winning ugly, but their formlines of late doesn’t appear to be of a team that is primed for a deep run. What is in their favour is that they are clearly a galvanised unit, will be ensured of a home final at some stage and know how to win.
Injuries/suspensions: Wayde Egan (throat, TBC), Te Maire Martin (leg, Round 26), Ali Leiataua (hamstring, late season), Brayden Wiliame (leg, late season), Valingi Kepu (foot, season)
Run home: Dolphins (a)
‘Clearly the culture is not right’ | 06:27
5. MELBOURNE STORM
Last week’s ranking: 5th (no movement)
Analysis: They showed their class late against the Titans, but it was much closer than Craig Bellamy would have been comfortable with inside the final 20 minutes. The Storm were also unconvincing for much of the game against the Dragons a fortnight ago, but were able to flex their muscles when they needed to pull out a victory. Plenty of stars will earn a much-needed rest in the final round with Harry Grant and Jahrome Hughes also getting some reprieve to deal with injury niggles. The Storm boast a remarkable record against the Broncos, winning their past 13 matches against the Brisbane-based side. No matter what happens between them on Thursday, there’s a big chance they face each other in the first week of the finals at Suncorp Stadium.
Injuries/suspensions: Jahrome Hughes (knee, finals week 1), Harry Grant (shoulder, Finals Week 1), (George Jennings (knee, season), Dean Ieremia (knee, season)
Run home: Broncos (a)
6. SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Last week’s ranking: 7th (up one spot)
Analysis: Ticking over beautifully at the moment, with fans likely wondering where this was earlier in the season. Have they left their run too late though? Even if they do beat the Rabbitohs on Friday, their spot in the finals still rest on other results going their way (Cowboys lose to Panthers OR Raiders lose to Sharks). After a shaky start to the game, they ended up defeating the Tigers with the ears pricked last week, however it did come at a cost with Joey Manu hobbling off with a hamstring injury and forcing him out of their final game of the season. The good news – captain James Tedesco (head knock) returns from a week off.
Injuries/suspensions: Joey Manu (hamstring, TBC), Paul Momirovski (shoulder, indefinite), Connor Watson (knee, indefinite), Sitili Tupouniua (neck, indefinite), Angus Crichton (knee, indefinite), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (suspension, next season).
Run home: Rabbitohs (a)
7. CRONULLA SHARKS
Last week’s ranking: 6th (no movement)
Analysis: They are hard to gauge this team. Their best is very good, but that is a big gulf between their worst. A silver lining was that even with the absence of Nicho Hynes, they were level with the red-hot Knights last week at halftime before Newcastle kicked right away in the second forty minutes. Connor Tracey has been excellent since replacing Will Kennedy at the back, and will give coach Craig Fitzgibbon something to think about when the incumbent returns from injury. Cronulla take on the Raiders this week with a spot in the finals pretty much locked up, unless they lose by a big margin and the Cowboys thrash the Panthers. They look safe, however when it comes to their title hopes, their form against the better sides this year will mean many will view them as easy pickings.
Injuries/suspensions: Will Kennedy (hamstring, finals), Teig Wilton (knee, season), Kade Dykes (knee, season), Dale Finucane (bicep, season)
Run home: Raiders (h)
8. CANBERRA RAIDERS
Last week’s ranking: 8th (no movement)
Analysis: They tried hard against an outstanding Broncos side and if it wasn’t for a Jordan Rapana brain fade and a questionable refereeing decision, they would have gone close to winning. The equation is simple. Beat the Sharks and not only play finals footy, but lock in a home game at GIO Stadium in the first week. The Raiders play in the final game of the regular season, so there’s a chance a finals spot could already be clinched if the Cowboys lose to the Panthers on Saturday night. Many believe the Raiders will be making up the numbers if they make finals, and it’s hard to disagree considering their awful for and against and lack of killer instinct, but Canberra are a gritty outfit and one of those sides who can measure up to anyone on their day.
Injuries/suspensions: Corey Horsburgh (suspension, grand final), Josh Papali’i (biceps, season), Corey Harawira-Naera (seizure, indefinite), Albert Hopoate (ribs, indefinite), Danny Levi (jaw, season), Elijah Anderson (knee, season)
Run home: Sharks (a)
9. SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Last week’s ranking: 9th (no movement)
Analysis: With all the turmoil surrounding this club over the past week-and-a-half, I’m certain the Rabbitohs are keen to just get out and play on Friday night after a bye week in Round 26. It is a do-or-die scenario for Souths, who will progress to the finals if they defeat the Roosters, however will miss out if they can’t get the job done. That result would be a rather embarrassing end to a season which promised so much, especially after Souths were sitting top of the table after 11 rounds. Their star fullback Latrell Mitchell will miss one game through suspension, replaced by the reliable Blake Taaffe. If the Bunnies can turn their form around and manage a win against their arch rivals, they have the team on paper to challenge for a premiership. However on current form, it’s hard to be too confident they’ll even get past the red-hot Chooks.
Injuries/suspensions: Jed Cartwright (back, TBC), Latrell Mitchell (suspension, Round 27), Tom Burgess (suspension, finals).
Run home: Roosters (h)
10. NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Last week’s ranking: 10th (no movement)
Analysis: A year of peaks and troughs for Cowboys fans but they are still alive, just. After losing three in a row, they found themselves back in the winners’ circle last week with a victory against the Dolphins. The end score was 34-10 but it could have been much more decisive had the Cowboys capitalised on all their chances. They take on the Panthers in Round 27, but it appears as if the defending champions won’t rest many players like they did in the corresponding clash last year which North Queensland won 38-8. That could change though if Brisbane win on Thursday to collect the minor premiership. Even with a win against Penrith, who they did beat earlier this season (sans Origin stars), the Cowboys will need other results to go their way to sneak into the eight. If they miss out, it’ll count as a frustrating 2023 campaign for last year’s preliminary finalists, which ultimately can be attributed down to their poor start to the season. Alternatively, if they can manage to nab a finals berth, their form in the middle of the season says they have to be considered a live threat by any side.
Injuries/suspensions: Semi Valemei (knee, TBC), Jeremiah Nanai (shoulder, finals), Valentine Holmes (suspended, finals), Tom Chester (knee, season)
Run home: Panthers (a)
11. PARRAMATTA EELS
Last week’s ranking: 12th (up one spot)
Analysis: It was a little too late, but the Eels played some of their best footy of the season in the upset win over the Panthers, earning them a jump to 11th on these rankings. It had to be frustrating as a Parramatta fan to watch that performance, knowing their side has been robbing them of seeing their best footy for much of the year. The Eels were the first club since the 2018 Cowboys to miss the finals the year following a grand final. There were a number of excuses, including suspensions and injuries late in the season to key players and a tough draw, but ultimately, 2023 will be reflected upon as very disappointing. With the win over the Panthers in the battle of the west, at least they finished on a high and can take some momentum into next season.
Run home: bye
12. MANLY SEA EAGLES
Last week’s ranking: 11th (down one spot)
Analysis: Manly were playing for pride against the battling Bulldogs and did enough to win but it was a scrappy affair. Gordon Chan Kum Tong made his NRL debut against Canterbury after years of toiling in reserve grade and booted a penalty goal at the death. It’s one of the few feel-good stories in coach Anthony Seibold’s first season at the helm. Josh Schuster has failed to live up to his price tag and star fullback Tom Trbojevic suffered a season-ending injury in Origin. The Sea Eagles will look to finish their season on a high against a Wests Tigers outfit missing their injured No. 7 Luke Brooks who is heading to Brookvale next season to partner Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves.
Injuries/suspensions: Taniela Paseka (knee, finals), Josh Aloiai (shoulder, season), Tom Trbojevic (pectoral, season), Matt Lodge (knee, season), Reuben Garrick (back, season), Cooper Johns (biceps, season), Karl Lawton (shoulder, season)
Run home: Tigers (h)
13. GOLD COAST TITANS
Last week’s ranking: 13th (no movement)
Analysis: The Titans trailed by just two points early in the second half against the Melbourne Storm before Craig Bellamy’s side turned it on and scored 19 unanswered points in 15 minutes.
However, the injection of Keano Kini in the second half provided a new-found spark in the Gold Coast attack as AJ Brimson was shifted to the centres.
Kini will look to reprise that role on Sunday against the Bulldogs as he starts on the bench with Brimson retaining his place at fullback.
The forward pack has also been bolstered by the return of barnstorming prop Moeaki Fotuaika.
Interim coach Jim Lenihan will also want to wrap up his tenure with a win in front of the Titans’ home fans before the Des Hasler era gets underway.
Injuries/suspensions: Jayden Campbell (knee, season), Sam Verrills (shoulder, season), Beau Fermor (knee, season), Phil Sami (foot, season), Erin Clark (shoulder, season), Isaac Liu (finger, season), Tanah Boyd (shoulder, next season).
Run home: Bulldogs (h)
14. ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Last week’s ranking: 14th (no movement)
Analysis: Playing away to the Warriors was always going to be a tough ask for the Dragons and that’s exactly how it transpired, with the team taking 61 minutes before scoring their first points of the game.
The Dragons missed an alarming 17 more tackles than the Warriors did and the issue must be rectified if they are to have any hope of beating the red-hot Newcastle Knights on Saturday.
Jack de Belin returns to the starting lineup for the final game of the season and will hope to provide some added bite to the forward pack.
For Dragons fans, Shane Flanagan can’t get his feet under the desk fast enough.
Injuries/suspensions: Tyrell Fuimaono (hip, season), Cody Ramsey (illness, season), Jaydn Su’A (shoulder, season), Jack Bird (shoulder, season)
Run home: Knights (h)
Last week’s ranking: 15th (no movement)
Analysis: The Dolphins ran into a rampant Cowboys side who had everything to play for and came up well short in a 24-point loss.
However, Wayne Bennett’s side have surpassed all expectations by finishing well clear of the wooden spoon and are assured of a 14th-place finish at the minimum.
Bennett will no doubt welcome the return of skipper Jesse Bromwich into the forwards for their final game of the season as they host the Warriors, who have already sealed a home finals game and have significantly reshuffled their team.
The Dolphins may have been left to rue a large casualty ward throughout the season, but Bennett and the team’s faithful fans can be incredibly proud of the team’s efforts in their debut season.
Injuries/suspensions: Jeremy Marshall-King (shoulder, season), Ray Stone (toe, season), Brenko Lee (leg, indefinite), Tom Gilbert (shoulder, season), Robert Jennings (knee, season).
Run home: Warriors (h)
16. WESTS TIGERS
Last week’s ranking: 17th (up one spot)
Analysis: Benji Marshall and Tigers came crashing back down to earth following their dramatic win over the Dolphins and were pumped by the resurgent Roosters last week. Apisai Koroisau copped a late shot in the loss, which saw Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves cop a four-game ban after losing at the judiciary, but he shook it off and will start at halfback again in their final game. Only a complete thrashing from Manly, and the Dragons upstaging Newcastle, will hand the Tigers a second straight spoon. The sooner 2024 arrives the better for long-suffering Tigers fans.
Injuries/suspensions: Adam Doueihi (knee, season), Jake Simpkin (head knock, TBC)
Run home: Sea Eagles (a)
17. CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Last week’s ranking: 16th (down one spot)
Analysis: The Bulldogs are officially at rock bottom with the club engulfed in turmoil this week amid reports players have walked out and quit before season’s end. They won’t collect a second wooden spoon in three years but it sure feels like Canterbury are sitting at the bottom of the pile. They weren’t terrible in a 42-24 loss to the Sea Eagles last weekend but the NRL’s worst defensive team still leaked well above their average of 31.5 points conceded per game heading into the clash. They’re limping to Mad Monday amid reports of player unrest at the club due to rookie coach Cameron Ciraldo training them too hard. But Ciraldo and Canterbury general manager Phil Gould came out this week and doubled down by declaring that rolling the sleeves up is the only way out of this mess. The Dogs finish with an away game against the Gold Coast who have the third-worst defence in the competition – expect plenty of tries.
Injuries/suspensions: Karl Oloapu (neck, indefinite), Ryan Sutton (neck, indefinite)
Run home: Titans (a)