NRL Power Rankings: Round 9 - Question time

In honour of Federal Budget week, the Round 9 Power Rankings take the form of Question Time.

There are many questions facing the 16 teams heading into the State of Origin period. Some are relatively easy to answer but the lower you go, the harder it is to solve the dilemmas.

1. Bulldogs (last week 2): Tony Williams is in the frame for a recall to the NSW team but is he playing that much better than last year when he was written off as a non-factor? He still doesn’t seem to have enough of an impact for a player of his size and skill and appears to be getting more positive press due to the rise in Canterbury’s performances.

2. Roosters (3): Is James Maloney playing that poorly that he deserves to lose his NSW position? The Blues showed “loyalty” by picking Jamie Soward in the No.6 jersey for all three games in 2011 then dumping him. They did the same with Todd Carney in 2012 before discarding him. Will they again flick their five-eighth after a full series for the third year in a row while the halfback very few Blues fans want to see in the team, Mitchell Pearce, yet again retains his spot?

3. Sea Eagles (1): Is anyone too concerned by last week’s loss to Melbourne in the Manly camp? They shouldn’t be. When supercoach Toovey gets his full team back on deck, they will be one of the teams to beat for this year’s title.

4. Rabbitohs (6): Is Greg Inglis the best player in the NRL? After years trailing the likes of Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith in this eternal pub debate, there appears little doubt the South Sydney fullback is the benchmark for individual talent in the game.

5. Eels (7): Why can’t Jarryd Hayne play that well every week? He destroyed Cronulla. Yes, that’s the thing about enigmatic stars – you can’t always have the good, there’s bound to be a few bad games but if he maintains this form, Parra can seriously consider the finals.

6. Panthers (8): Are the Penrith lads the best smoky to make the top four? They’ve had a good start to the season, Origin won’t wreck their side like some others and they are close to full fitness.

7. Titans (5): Why are they so inconsistent? Is it because their halves are both still relatively young or is there not enough talent on the roster to rely upon them each week. They are officially this year’s tipster’s nightmare.

8. Tigers (6): Another team impossible to predict but can the good outweigh the bad and Wests make the finals? There’s not much experience in their squad so a run of injuries would have more of an impact on them than some of their fellow finals contenders.

9. Cowboys (11): Are we finally seeing the real North Queensland or another of many false dawns? The 27-14 win over Brisbane did not portray the closeness of the match but the Cowboys are at least now showing some fight when the going gets tough.

10. Broncos (9): Will supercoach Griffin still be coaching this team next year? If the Broncos don’t make the finals, you’d have to think he’ll be relieved of his duties. Their playoff hopes are 50-50 at best at the moment.

11. Storm (12): Will supercoach Craig Bellamy really walk away from coaching when his current deal expires at the end of 2016? As you would have seen by the vision of him during the win over Manly (and the subsequent spittle plastered onto the window of the coaching box, he lives and breathes this role. It will be hard for him to go cold turkey.

12. Warriors: Will supercoach McFadden buck the trend in Auckland and see out his contract until the end of 2017? He’s in the midst of a honeymoon period at the moment but as history has shown, there is not a lot of patience at this club for coaches who don’t continue to meet lofty expectations.

13. Dragons (10): Is Benji the messiah? No. Will he be better than the overweight disinterested Benji we saw last year at the Tigers? St George Illawarra fans hope so and the early signs are that he has rediscovered better fitness and his love for the game. Dragons management will look red-faced if Benji’s new-found zest doesn’t last after signing him until the end of 2016.

14. Sharks (14): Will the ASADA cloud still be hovering over Cronulla this time next year or will the government agency finally put them out of their misery? The impending issuing of show-cause notices to 17 players from the 2011 roster won’t tear apart this year’s roster as there’s only a handful of regular first-graders left from that team but it will continue to be a massive distraction this besieged club cannot afford.

15. Knights (15): Will Nathan Tinkler accept responsibility for his part in Newcastle’s downfall this year? He rarely makes public comments and is notorious for his contempt of the media but he needs to admit his poor management of the club has been a major factor in their woeful start to the season.

16. Raiders (16): Who is copping more flak in the national capital this week – Joe Hockey for the penny-pinching budget or supercoach Stuart after Canberra’s second straight loss while conceding 50 points? The Jack Wighton-Terry Campese halves experiment has been abandoned. But what if that doesn’t fix the many problems with the misfiring Green Machine? Is there a Plan C?

The story NRL Power Rankings: Round 9 - Question time first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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