Now that we’ve had five rounds in the competition, it’s safe to say there are three standout candidates for the premiership, the other three who could realistically stand a chance and nine teams fighting it out for two playoff berths.
And there is no prize for guessing the 16th team that fits into any of these three categories. The West Tigers would be lucky to score 10 competition points this season, especially with teams only getting two points from a by-round nowadays.
Penrith, Parra and Melbourne are the clear three at the top, though there’s little question mark over it as the Storm, Cronulla, Manly and Rooster could be the de facto title contenders as the season transpires, but for the rest, you’re on who. Will you make the final?
The South seems to be the safest bet, but they are 2-3 with Latrell Mitchell for two months and Cody Walker with Adam Reynolds in an untimely form of slump no longer by their side. The Warriors and Cowboys are in the top eight as it stands, but there are hot and cold offers at best, Newcastle, the Gold Coast and Canberra have potential, but their campaigns haven’t gotten on a roll yet.
Raiders vs Cowboys at GIO Stadium, 7.50 PM
Can Javier salvage Canberra’s weather? The 19-year-old attacker was in red-hot form at the Dynamo Trials but has got a chance off the bench against the Cowboys, something he hasn’t seen at NRL level so far this season. In the 2–3 and 12th rank offense, Ricky Stuart doesn’t necessarily have time to be radical, but coming up against Savage’s exhausting defense could give the Green Machine extra power they didn’t have in the first five rounds.
Will the cowboys be more adventurous? A curious takeaway from the first five rounds is that North Queensland, with 13, has more seven-tackle sets than anyone else, but not once has they attempted one of these. Chad Townsend is a good organizer and Tom Dearden’s form has improved this year but he needs to take more chances when the Cowboys are on the attack.
Rabbitohs v Bulldogs at Accor Stadium, 4 p.m.
Can’t the South team be so sluggish with the ball? Rabbitoh has made 10 or more errors in five of their last six matches, after hitting the unwelcome benchmark only four times in the last 11 matches. Only the winless West Tigers (70) have bowled more than the Souths (68).
Will Dogs Feed Foxx? The Josh Edo-Carr is still an elite assault weapon but he’s doomed. He has made 28 tackle breaks this year, second to NRL-wide Titans winger Greg Marze, and five line breaks but zero four-pointers, which equals his share of the last spot on the list to try. There’s no point in buying a Ferrari if you’re not going to give it away in the open.
Panthers vs Broncos at Bluebet Stadium, 7.55 pm
How many Premiership Rings will Clearys collect? With the announcement of unexpected news this week that Evan and Nathan Cleary had re-signed by the end of 2027, how many more titles could the premiere pick up over the next six seasons? If you set the over/under to 2.5, you’ll get an even split. With Klee at halfback and with a core of a youth team that has already won a grand final making the prospect of a stay together over the next few years, the Panthers could enjoy their first golden era where they won a decade. Has won many trophies in the intervening time.
What is Payne Haas’s real worth? With so much speculation going on at the moment as to whether the Brisbane prop is worth seven figures per season, the Broncos will get an idea of how much they rely on him when they return to the Penrith pack without Haas following a one-week ban. come to the fore. For his dopey scuffle with teammate Albert Kelly. With Pat Carrigan injured and Tom Flagler re-suspended, Brisbane are leading Penrith’s front with a mid-forward rotation of Corey Jensen, Kobe Hetherington and Keenan Palacia. These three are goers but it can get ugly if not matched with the panthers in the middle.
Sea Eagles vs Titans at 4 Pines Park, 5.30 PM
Can the Sea Eagles keep repeating? Manly has 11 repeat sets in the 2022 NRL season, more than any team, while Gold Coast (14) have won the most. Daly Cherry-Evans is adept at controlling possession, forcing line drop-outs nine times this season, three more than anyone else.
Will Titans regret another close defeat? Gold Coast have lost three matches by four, two and six, while the other games have been won by two points each. They are always in competition but clutch lacks class and experience. If only they had a high priced second-rover with basic and Test experience that could be the difference with a match-winning fee or two…
Storm V Shark at Aami Park, 7.35pm
Is Melbourne ready to be all of them? This may sound strange as most people see the game as a test of Cronulla’s credentials, but so far this year, the Storm won an unconvinced victory over the Tigers, defeating the Bunnies via a field goal in extra time. Defeated, lost to Parramatta at home, blamed for a miserable Canterbury flogged and reduced attackers. They’re the massive favorite of $1.37 to beat the Sharks, but that’s not a sure thing.
Are Sharks All That Cracked? Cronula are also 4-1 and a favorite of hipster NRL fans this season, along with the likes of Andrew Johns and Michael Hagen, who think they are bound for the top four. Nico Hines has exceeded expectations at halfback, especially with his game management. Cronula has made more attempts (10) behind a penalty than anyone else.
Roosters v Warriors at SCG, 2 PM
Is it time to give Suali some runs? The 18-year-old whiz-kid has played a few matches in the NSW Cup to regain his match fitness following foot surgery and the roster could have done so with youthful pace and sweeping power. They have used only 19 players in their five matches, the lowest figure for any club. Sualy is on the extended reserve bench and Paul Momirowski’s spot should be vulnerable after being chipped by Kotoni Staggs last week.
Can Warriors score a point in the second half? In their last four matches against the Roosters, there are zero total points scored by the Warriors. Nathan Brown has already cut and replaced his team this season with more than any other coach he’s used, with 24 players, but that looks to be his first four-game run since 2018 with the team. There is a chance for a winning streak.
Dragons V Nights at Win Stadium, 4.05 pm
Will Griffin survive getting hooked? One of the early signs of a coach losing “the full support of the board” these days is when a story leaks out about how much it will cost to get rid of him. It’s a way for clubs to gauge fans’ sentiment about whether they should pull the trigger or stay with the coach. If the story of this week’s $450,000 payout figure doesn’t bring a sharp improvement in fortunes from the team, Griffin may not last the season. He did not trouble the scorers in the opening half of the last two losses in his four-match streak.
Can David Klemmer be an elite prop again? It seems like he’s been around forever since he made his debut as a teen in 2013, but Klemmer is only 28. He is making a comeback after suffering a knee injury in Round 1. His average running meters per game in his three seasons at the Knights are falling to 169, 172 and 164 after reaching 181 in his final season at Canterbury. Blues coach Brad Fittler has looked elsewhere for his middle forward over the past few seasons, but Klemmer could still be a substitute for the Kangaroos team for the World Cup if he returns to his best.
Eels v Tigers at Combank Stadium, 4 p.m.
Are Eels fans nervous yet? They are a funny bunch that they are most concerned about when everything is going well. The gloom of the post-1986 years has created an inferiority complex amongst Mercury fans that the next disaster is just around the corner and they will be at their most nervous in a game like this when they are expected to outshine their pitiful opponents. Will go
How are those deckchairs looking? The shuffling chairs on the Titanic cliché have been largely outdone this week with Michael Maguire taking Luke Brooks to five-eighths and dumping Ken Maumalo, Jacob Liddle, Oliver Gildart and Tyrone Peachy. They had to try something after five consecutive losses, but when your roster isn’t exactly stocked with game breakers, it’s hard to see any newcomers outperforming. The scary thing for Tigers fans is that those four players should have been part of the solution but their poor form has only added to the trouble for the club.