NRL Power Rankings: Round 5 – Warriors prove they’re genuine contenders, Rabbitohs a rabble, Eels slip-sliding


The Warriors have shown last season was no fluke, now the big question is can they take the next step and show they are capable of delivering the club’s first premiership.

After five rounds of the season, that question cannot be answered but there is a world in which this team could be there on Grand Final night in 2024. 

Penrith remain the NRL’s benchmark but the Warriors are as good a chance as any of the contending bunch that also includes Melbourne and Brisbane, maybe Manly and possibly the Roosters of going all the way. 

You can all but put a line through South Sydney and Parramatta, who are both in serious danger of falling well behind the leading pack before the competition even gets to the mid-year State of Origin section.

The Rabbitohs look rudderless due to a mix of injuries and self-inflicted problems to sit in last spot while the Eels have now lost two straight to slump to 14th on the ladder and with Mitchell Moses not due back until the mid-point of the season, it could be too late for them by the time his broken foot has healed.

Team by team, here’s how the Power Rankings stack up after Round 5.

1 Panthers (last week 1): The good news for the rest of the competition is that they’re not infallible, as evidenced by their loss to Manly at Brookvale.

But the bad news is they have the bye this weekend and Nathan Cleary could be back from his hamstring injury the following round when they take on the Tigers in Bathurst so the period of brief “respite” could already be over.

2 Storm (3): They were not at their best in just getting by the Broncos but Cameron Munster will be better for the run and that was the first time Craig Bellamy has had his first-choice spine on the park since Round 18 of 2022. 

Ryan Papenhuyzen is still not quite at his best as he makes his way down the comeback trail after back-to-back serious leg injuries but he’s showing glimpses of his trademark evasive skills. 

3 Broncos (2): Unfortunately it looks like both Brisbane and the Dolphins will be missing key players in this Friday’s derby at Suncorp Stadium.

Adam Reynolds should be given an extra week on top of however long he needs to rest his hamstring injury – he is too crucial to their premiership hopes to risk another early comeback just for the sake of two competition points early in the season. 

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

4 Sea Eagles (6): They needed to bounce back after successive losses to Parra and the Dragons to show their early-season scalps of the Rabbitohs and Roosters were not a flash in the pan. 

Tom Trbojevic is another fullback who hasn’t quite hit his straps in his first month back from shoulder surgery but it’s hard to be too critical of someone who made three line breaks, chipped in a try assist and scored a four-pointer of his own. 

Massive game this weekend for Manly coming up in Auckland.

5 Warriors (8): They could very well be leading the NRL if not for Xavier Coates stealing victory from them in Melbourne on the bell in Round 2. 

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad had a monster game at fullback in his first appearance of the year in the 30-point Rabbitohs rout and with six forwards motoring into triple-figure running metres, highlighted by Addin Fonua-Blake’s 192, this is arguably the most powerful pack in the NRL.

6 Sharks (7): They caught a break with the bye giving their injured forwards a chance to get extra rest without missing another match and they are taking on a Souths side this Saturday which couldn’t be travelling any worse.

7 Roosters (5): The suspension to Dom Young, concussions for James Tedesco (yet another one) and Sam Walker, it all adds up to trouble for a team which is now 2-3 and now the outsider for Thursday’s road trip to Newcastle.

The NRL can’t ignore that the match will be controversial centre Michael Jennings’ 300th but it shouldn’t be celebrated either given the fact he was ordered to pay his former wife a large settlement due to allegations of sexual abuse during his suspension from the sport when he was banned for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Scott Drinkwater makes a break. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

8 Cowboys (10): With apologies to Frank Drebin, beating the Titans doesn’t amount to a hill of beans but these are my hill and these are my beans. And the two competition points count. 

More impressive than any old Naked Gun references was the way in which the Cowboys’ attack hummed against the Gold Coast. Reuben Cotter led the way through the middle, the halves directed the outside backs around and with Scott Drinkwater picking and choosing his moments, the speedsters out wide had a field day.

9 Dolphins (9): They did enough to topple the Tigers and the form of young halfback Isaiya Katoa is encouraging but the injuries to Herbie Farnworth, Tom Flegler and Felise Kaufusi mean they are going to be up against it when they take on the Broncos on Friday.

Wayne Bennett loves being the underdog so it won’t bother him but the Dolphins’ depth is skinny so he will be relying on a few journeymen or young prospects against a Broncos side which could have Reece Walsh returning.

10 Raiders (12): There are two ways a season can go when a coach unleashes a massive spray early on – the team can respond straight away or if it doesn’t work, negativity can set in and the side will spiral rapidly.

Thankfully for Ricky Stuart, his post-game rev-up after they coughed up an 18-0 lead to Cronulla the previous week translated into an inspired performance at home against Parramatta. 

They are 3-2 and nobody outside the national capital gives them a chance of making the finals but they cannot be totally discounted.

Ethan Strange. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

11 Eels (4): It’s time to start worrying about Parra. If Mitchell Moses was going to be back in a few weeks, they’d be fine but they face the prospect of playing the middle two months of the season without their star half following his broken foot. 

After a slender loss to the Tigers, it looked like they could weather the storm but they threw nothing at the Raiders on Sunday night and they’re starting to resemble the team which petered out of the playoff picture rather than the one the year before which went all the way to the GF.

12 Knights (13): They get a slight bump after bumping off the Dragons in the wet at McDonald Jones Stadium. 

The Roosters’ injury toll means they are favourites to win back-to-back matches for the first time in 2024 on Thursday night but on recent form, it’s far from a foregone conclusion.

13 Wests Tigers (11): They came back to earth with a thud against the Dolphins, highlighting how much they depend on Api Koroisau – their skipper was forced off in the first half and was playing wounded when he returned with his thigh heavily strapped.

If he is not combining with Aiden Sezer, this team does not have any other calm customers who can point the rest of them in the right direction. 

14 Bulldogs (16): They have been building momentum after a dreadful start to the year and while there are still a few rough edges to smooth over, they’re trending up for the first time in a long time.

The Matt Burton to Viliame Kikau left-edge link is in the tip sheet every week when teams tackle the Dogs but stopping it on the field is another matter. 

(Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

15 Rabbitohs (14): Every year there is a team that has great expectations but starts poorly and never gets going. Souths look set to be 2024’s big under-achievers. 

Being banned for three weeks could be the jolt that Latrell Mitchell needs to get his game in order – he has been reckless in every match this year with his decision making and his contact with opponents. 

Although similar thoughts have been expressed about the talented fullback in the past and he has continued down this path – Souths can’t afford to have their star fullback soaking up so much salary cap but not delivering anywhere near his value.

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16 Dragons (15): Anyone who can predict how St George Illawarra will play week to week is a liar … or a time traveller.

And if they say they are a time traveller, it’s a fair chance they’re a liar. Even if they are driving a DeLorean.

17 Titans (17): Whether it’s AJ Brimson or Jayden Campbell, or both, Des Hasler needs to get his two biggest attacking weapons involved more. 

Not that a switch in the halves will solve their many problems – some of the defence out wide in Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys was laughable and comical but downright sad if you have the incurable affliction of being a Titans fan.

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