NRL Power Rankings: Round 17 – Run-in to finals too long

With Origin reaching its not-as-thrilling-as-it-would’ve-been-if-it-was-a-decider climax, the focus supposedly turns back to the NRL.

But if recent years are any guide, it takes the players and the fans a few weeks to get over the Origin hangover.

The Origin players are either heavy-legged or injured and it takes a while for the teams to adjust. Also, there are nine rounds left between now and the finals. Too many. The finals race doesn’t really get interesting until a month out from the playoffs.

The next few weeks traditionally form something of a lull period where Origin is still casting a shadow and the finals are too far off in the distance.

And thankfully this weekend is the last round where byes are scheduled. Another reason for the halt in momentum for the premiership. It’s hard to keep a close eye on your team when you’re never quite sure if they’re playing each weekend.

1. Bulldogs (4): Came back fresh after the bye, even without their Origin stars. Tony Williams started his career as a winger trapped in a forward’s body, now he’s the world’s biggest halfback.

3. Sea Eagles (1): They looked a little complacent against the under-strength Bulldogs last Friday night. Supercoach Toovey won’t be too happy with that kind of display and will be having a word or two to his players before this Friday’s clash with the Tigers on the topic.

2. Panthers (2): Showed the previous week’s loss to the Warriors was indeed a blip on the radar with a professional polishing off of the Tigers at Leichhardt.

4. Roosters (3): Ring those alarm bells out Bondi way, supercoach Robinson. They led by 24 over Cronulla and lost. How can that happen? Complacency. The Roosters were guilty of thinking they would score every second set and frittered away their advantage in embarrassing fashion.

5. Warriors (6): Had the bye but move up due to South Sydney’s loss.

6. Rabbitohs (5): That’s two performances on the trot with the lacklustre loss at home to the Titans on the back of the defeat in Townsville. Luke Keary’s return from injury gave them a bit more spark in the halves but supercoach Maguire’s Bunnies look unsettled.

7. Eels (7): Had the bye.

8. Dragons (10): It was fitting that the Reg Gasnier tribute match featured some spectacular finishing for tries with Jason Nightingale showing he’s pretty much perfected the winger’s art of diving for the corner to get the ball down even if it means his body flies off in various angles into touch. A well-deserved first career hat-trick for the Kiwi international.

9. Storm (9): Had the bye.

10. Tigers (8): It’s going to get better for Wests with Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods returning from Origin duty but the likely loss of Braith Anasta for the rest of the season on top of James Tedesco leaves supercoach Potter with very few experienced options in the key positions.

11. Cowboys (11): The three-point loss to St George Illawarra gives them a 7-9 record and 13th place on the ladder. Another season of under-achievement looms.

12. Broncos (12): Had the bye.

13. Knights (13): See above.

14. Titans (14): A much-needed win over Souths and they need more good publicity – the Gold Coast Suns are getting significantly bigger crowds to their games.

15. Sharks (15): After three straight weeks without scoring, they’ve had back-to-back wins after trailing by more than 20. So before Cronulla fans start dreaming of a miraculous rise from the bottom of the ladder, remember they’ve had two decent halves of football from the last 10. Interim fill-in reserve supercoach Shepherd deserves another week or two after that win.

16. Raiders (16): Had they bye. And boy were they happy with that.

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