Power Rankings, Knights, Eels, Roosters, Storm, Rabbitohs, Bulldogs, Raiders, Dragons, Sharks, Warriors

Round 1 of the 2022 NRL premiership race tossed up some enthralling contests and major upsets as some team’s stocks rose considerably, while other’s title hopes plummeted.

The Knights were the biggest risers after their dominant 20-6 win over the Roosters, while last year’s grand finalists South Sydney were woeful in their loss to the Broncos.

Read on for the NRL Power rankings heading into Round 2.

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Eels win another close encounter | 01:45

16. COWBOYS

Last week’s ranking: 9th (down seven spots)

Analysis: The Cowboys were arguably the most disappointing team last season given their roster, despite the fact the Bulldogs finished with the wooden spoon. Based on what they showed in their 6-4 loss to Canterbury on their home turf in Round 1, things could get a whole lot worse before they get better at North Queensland. Granted fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow nearly stole a win for his side at the death, but even the winners in this game wouldn’t have been too proud of their performance and it won’t scare the other 14 teams in the competition. The jury is still out on the switch of Valentine Holmes to centre and Jason Taumalolo continues to look a shadow of the player that won the Dally M Medal earlier in his career. Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden still look like two similar halfbacks doing the same job in one team and Scott Drinkwater may be needed to reinvigorate their attack. Their defence was much better than the 2021 Cowboys, but unless Todd Payten can unlock Holmes and Taumalolo, the Cowboys won’t be playing finals this season.

Jason Taumalolo is still below his best.Source: Getty Images

15. RABBITOHS

Last week’s ranking: 11th (down four spots)

Analysis: Arguably the most disappointing side in Round 1 were last year’s grand finalists the Rabbitohs, who could only manage four points against a Broncos team that haemorrhaged tries last year and even in the trials. It didn’t take long for South Sydney to realise just how much of a gaping hole Adam Reynolds’ departure has left at halfback and now with just two games under his belt, Lachlan Ilias will have to learn fast. However, more disappointing was the performance of Cody Walker who was arguably the best attacking half in the game last year, but he went missing without his old running mate in Round 1. Souths’ defence was still solid which will give them something to work from and Latrell Mitchell will provide a massive boost in attack when he returns from suspension. However, where he plays and how Souths cover for Reynolds’ departure will make or break their season and while it is still only Round 2, the clock is ticking.

Cody Walker is already missing Adam Reynolds.Source: The Daily Telegraph

14. BULLDOGS

Last week’s ranking: 15th (up one spot)

Analysis: It might seem a bit tough to put one of the eight winners from week one this low, but the Bulldogs were hardly convincing in their dour 6-4 win over a woeful Cowboys outfit. The Bulldogs and the Cowboys finished 15th and 16th respectively in 2021 and based on what they dished up in the season opener, it could be another long year for both clubs. However, the Bulldogs have eight new players in their team so it was always going to take time for combinations to come together. The best thing about their Round 1 win was holding an NRL side to four points and that will give their defence, that was so terrible last year, plenty of confidence. The Bulldogs still need to unearth a halfback and it remains to be seen if Jake Averillo can provide enough support to star recruit Matt Burton in attack. Still, a win is a win and the Bulldogs didn’t get many of those last year, so they will take it.

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Dogs survive late scare for round 1 win | 03:13

13. TIGERS

Last week’s ranking: 7th (down six spots)

Analysis: The Tigers were impressive in their first outing albeit in a loss to a Storm team that never loses in the first round, despite their wretched run with injuries. However given the adversity the Storm faced before and during the game, it was definitely one that got away from Michael Maguire’s side as they let an opportunity slip. Dane Laurie and Luke Brooks looked good in attack as did recruit Jackson Hastings, but they still need more thrust from James Roberts and Oliver Gildart on the edges. The knock on the Tigers for so long has been their inability to produce good defensive performances consistently and if they continue to leak 26 points a game they won’t be breaking the longest finals drought in the NRL in 2022.

Jackson Hastings looked good in his Tigers debut.Source: Getty Images

12. WARRIORS

Last week’s ranking: 12th (no movement)

Analysis: The Warriors clearly missed their best attacking player in Reece Walsh due to suspension in Round 1, with makeshift No.1 Chanel Harris-Tavita struggling at times on both sides of the ball. Shaun Johnson missed six tackles and was guilty of a late kick brain fade with the game on the line that cost his side dearly and he now faces a month out with injury. Tohu Harris is a massive loss to the Warriors pack, that can look lacking with steel and commitment at times, while Matt Lodge will bolster the forwards when he too returns from suspension. The club also lost winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and centre Viliami Vailea to injury which will create issues with their outside back depth. Walsh’s return will do wonders for their attack, but they still need to see more from Johnson, who is out injured for the next month while his halves partner Kodi Nikorima has been dropped this week. Harris-Tavita and Ash Taylor get the reins this week and if they also fail to fire it could be a long season for the Warriors.

Shaun Johnson struggled in his return to his old club.Source: Getty Images

11. SHARKS

Last week’s ranking: 8th (down three spots)

Analysis: The Sharks were tipped by many experts to climb into the top eight this season, but on the evidence of their first outing, there will be some growing pains while all their new players learn their systems and develop their combinations. Losing coach Craig Fitzgibbon to Covid hurt their preparations no doubt, but it is still up to the players to execute his game plan under pressure on the field. The loss of Wade Graham and Cameron McInnes from the pack hurts their creativity. Nicho Hynes and Matt Moylan still provide plenty of firepower in attack, but it will take time for the side to gel. Fitzgibbon’s Roosters wouldn’t have given up 24 points too often during his time with the Tricolours and he will be hoping to bring that number down as the season progresses. Still, the Sharks showed they still have plenty of upside and they will only get better with more games under their belt.

Nicho Hynes looked dangerous at halfback.Source: Getty Images

10. SEA EAGLES

Last week’s ranking: 5th (down five spots)

Analysis: They may have been playing a well drilled Penrith side fresh off a drought-breaking title, but Manly were one of the biggest disappointments in Round 1. Minus Nathan Cleary, the Panthers were ripe for the picking and yet Manly barely fired a shot all night in attack, save for a long-range try orchestrated by the Trbojevic brothers on halftime. Des Hasler called out his side post match for falling into the trap of waiting for Tom Trbojevic to inspire something and they need much more from skipper Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran in the halves, while Lachlan Croker’s lack of a running game makes them predictable in attack around the ruck. The Sea Eagles clearly miss the creativity of Josh Schuster in their pack, but they have the class to get better quickly, if they can iron out their defence and find new ways to take the pressure off their star fullback, so he doesn’t have to do it all.

Tom Trbojevic was contained in Round 1.Source: Getty Images

9. TITANS

Last week’s ranking: 13th (up four spots)

Analysis: The Titans were one of the most impressive sides to lose in Round 1, at least in terms of their attack, but they still have a way to go with their defence. Justin Holbrook’s side showcased some excellent attacking football led by new halfback Toby Sexton, who looked in control in the No.7 jersey and replacement five-eighth Will Smith also looked dangerous with three try assists. David Fifita produced some brilliant moments, but Holbrook still needs to work out how to get him more involved with ball in hand because he is such a handful when he is given time and space. The Titans were cruelled by a lopsided penalty count, but their defence still needs to be much better if they want to match the top sides consistently. Still, there was plenty to like about their first up performance and they can only improve when AJ Brimson rejoins the team and their spine gets more runs on the board as a unit.

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Raiders late try in thrilling win | 01:42

8. RAIDERS

Last week’s ranking: 10th (up two spots)

Analysis: The Raiders were not given much hope after star halfback signing Jamal Fogarty went down with a pre-season injury, that ruled him out for four months. However, Brad Schneider showed glimpses of his promise in the No.7 jersey and Jack Wighton looked back to his best, running for over 100 metres at five-eighth. The Raiders have one of the most consistent packs from the last few seasons and they appear to have adjusted better to the rule changes this season than they did in 2021. An injury to hooker Josh Hodgson soured their Round 1 win, but in Tom Starling they have a ready-made replacement until he returns in Round 4. Charnze Nicholl-Klokstad was impressive at the back and with him and Xavier Savage waiting in the wings, the Raiders have the firepower if they can continue to work on their defence.

Jack Wighton looked to have rediscovered his running game in Round 1.Source: Getty Images

7. DRAGONS

Last week’s ranking: 6th (down one spot)

Analysis: They were not as convincing as their wins over the Eels and the Rabbitohs in the trials, but the Dragons still found a way to get the job done in a 28-16 win over the Warriors, their third in a row. Winning is a habit and the Dragons will be full of confidence after an unbeaten start to the season, including the trial period. Fullback Tyrell Sloan looks like he is getting better with every game he plays, while Dragons recruits Moses Mbye, Moses Suli, Jaydn Su’A and Francis Molo all impressed in their first outing for the Red V. Aaron Woods’ injury soured the win but George Burgess will replace him this week which speaks to the Dragons’ depth in the forwards. The Dragons could be one of the biggest movers up the ladder this season.

Tyrell Sloan was impressive in Round 1 at fullback.Source: Getty Images

6. BRONCOS

Last week’s ranking: 16th (up 10 spots)

Analysis: The Broncos were in turmoil going into Round 1 with a number of players missing due to Covid protocols, but they turned out to be one of the surprise packets of the opening weekend. In the absence of skipper Adam Reynolds, Albert Kelly and Billy Walters stepped up and guided their side to a thrilling 11-4 victory. The Broncos can offer plenty more in attack and no doubt Reynolds will improve their end of sets when he returns to the team. However, the Broncos had a horror defensive record last season and they were no better in the trials, so holding last year’s grand finalists to four points was nothing short of remarkable for this team. If the Broncos can maintain the rage on the defensive side, they have enough weapons in attack to push hard for a top eight spot in 2022.

Albert Kelly scored the match sealing try.Source: Getty Images

5. ROOSTERS

Last week’s ranking: 4th (down one spot)

Analysis: Arguably the biggest upset of Round 1 saw the Roosters dominated from start to finish by a resurgent Newcastle outfit. James Tedesco was unusually quiet given his own lofty standards, while Sam Walker struggled, particularly in defence with six missed tackles. The Roosters made an uncharacteristic 12 errors across the team, which is just too much dropped ball to win a footy game in the NRL. Joseph Manu is too good a player to be stuck on the wing and while he does have a roving commission, he needs the ball in his hands more often because he makes things happen. However, no doubt master coach Trent Robinson can get them back on track this week and if they can hold the ball they will be a much tougher assignment for the Sea Eagles in Round 2.

Sam Walker struggled in defence against the Knights.Source: Getty Images

4. EELS

Last week’s ranking: 1st (down three spots)

Analysis: The Eels were many experts’ pick for an elusive drought-breaking title heading into the season, but on the defence they dished up against the Titans they are still a long way off title favourites. Still, the Eels showed plenty of class in attack with the return of Reed Mahoney and Mitchell Moses giving the Eels some valuable variety in their kicking game. However, Dylan Brown and Clint Gutherson had quiet days at the office and the Eels will need a lot more from them on both sides of the ball. Sean Russell was a revelation on the wing with a hat-trick, but was injured which will put the pressure on their wing stocks. The Eels found a way to win which is a good sign for a team that was clearly below their best, but if they don’t address their defence the title is a bridge too far for this team – given how good the Panthers and Storm are in that area.

Mitchell Moses’ kicking game was on song against the Titans.Source: Getty Images

3. KNIGHTS

Last week’s ranking: 14th (up 11 spots)

Analysis: The Knights were many experts’ pick for the wooden spoon this season, but they dominated one of the competition heavyweights in the Roosters and made them look second rate at times in a 20-6 win. Dane Gagai was superb in his return to the club and his partnership with Bradman Best has the potential to be one of the best centre pairs in the competition. Kalyn Ponga also produced a perfectly understated performance and didn’t try to overplay his hand, in a solid season opener at the back for the new Knights skipper. New halves pairing Adam Clune and Jake Clifford were both up around the 100 run metre mark and are clearly benefiting from working with Andrew Johns. On this form the Knights will cause plenty of surprises this season and make a mockery of those pre-season predictions.

Kalyn Ponga was impressive in Round 1.Source: Getty Images

2. STORM

Last week’s ranking: 2nd (no movement)

Analysis: The Storm may have suffered a catastrophic night with injuries, but they also continued Craig Bellamy’s record of having never lost in the first round and they have plenty of cavalry returning in Round 2. Christian Welch is out for the season, but Jesse Bromwich will return to take his place, while Harry Grant returns from suspension for Brandon Smith at hooker. The Storm have options to replace George Jennings on the wing and Cameron Munster, their best player is back in action this week with a point to prove. Over the course of a long season those injuries could come back to bite the Storm, but for the time being they will be just fine and their production line of depth will cover for the loss of those three players.

Cameron Munster and the cavalry is on the way for the Storm.Source: Getty Images

1. PANTHERS

Last week’s ranking: 3rd (up two spots)

Analysis: Any fears the Panthers would make a slow start to their premiership defence due to the loss of Nathan Cleary were quickly allayed in their 28-6 demolition of last year’s top-four finishers Manly. Sean O’Sullivan filled in at halfback with aplomb, with skipper Isaah Yeo taking the pressure off by helping shoulder some of the playmaking responsibility. Jarome Luai didn’t try to overplay his hand and Api Koroisau was creative out of dummyhalf, as the Panthers blew Manly away. However, the most impressive thing about the Panthers’ first performance was their superb rush and scramble defence that was the best in the competition over the last two seasons and shows no sign of slowing down in 2022. If the Panthers defend like this every week, it is hard to imagine any team scoring enough points to beat them with or without Cleary.

Jarome Luai was excellent in the Panthers’ Round 1 win.Source: Getty Images

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