The St George Illawarra revival is now prompting a question that was on nobody’s radar heading into the 2024 season – can the Dragons make the finals? 

After thumping the Warriors in Wollongong on Friday night, Shane Flanagan’s rebuilding side is 4-3 and leapfrogging plenty of teams that were considered playoff contenders. 

The Dragons can be red hot and ice cold but with wins over Manly and the Warriors in the opening seven rounds, they have quickly restored respect to the tarnished club after the woeful results over the past few seasons.

Another no-nonsense old coach is getting his team into the playoff equation with Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins ensconced in the top four with four wins from six. 

Bennett was not able to make the trip to Darwin to face Parramatta due to an illness along with several of his injured regular first-graders with Kristian Woolf overseeing their 44-16 cakewalk.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that once they get Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Felise Kaufusi, Tom Flegler, Connelly Lemuelu and Herbie Farnworth back in the coming weeks that they can challenge for the top eight.

Team by team, here’s how the Power Rankings stack up after Round 7.

1 Panthers (last week 1): The scary news for the other 16 teams is they have only dropped one game while Nathan Cleary has been hamstrung and with their star half due back very soon, the premiers are well placed heading into the mid-season representative program. 

If the surprise exit of James Fisher-Harris leads to the Panthers having enough salary cap room for Sunia Turuva, then that would be a great result for a team that has lost a full squad of top-line talent over the past three years.

2 Storm (2): They continued their trend of getting a victory despite still not clicking into top gear.

The only question for Melbourne is whether they are just a gritty side which can eke out a win against allcomers or can they start putting together complete performances in attack and defence to blow teams off the park?

3 Broncos (3): There is no doubt about Brisbane’s credentials as title contenders – the poor old Raiders were never in the contest on Saturday night once Reece Walsh started finding a glimmer of space to operate in.

When they get Payne Haas and Adam Reynolds back on deck in the next couple of weeks, it will be a timely boost for Brisbane with the Origin workload just around the corner.

4 Sharks (7): They deserve a bump up the ranks after knocking over the Cowboys in style on Sunday – Craig Fitzgibbon’s side has been much more consistent than the Sea Eagles, Warriors and Roosters in recent weeks and with their attack humming, they are shedding their flat-track bully reputation. 

Kayal Iro has been impressive since coming in at centre with Siosifa Talakai giving Cronulla more value as a bench weapon in the forwards and they’ve blooded another young gun with winger Sam Stonestreet scoring on debut.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 21: Thomas Hazelton of the Sharks scores a try during the round seven NRL match between Cronulla Sharks and North Queensland Cowboys at PointsBet Stadium, on April 21, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Thomas Hazelton scores a try. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

5 Sea Eagles (4): Yes, they won on the weekend but they also allowed the winless team coming last to put 30 points on them so they drop a notch on the totem pole. 

It’s hard to get a true gauge on Manly this season – just when they look like top-four certainties, they show that they are not quite in the class of the leading contenders.

5 Warriors (5): No need for drastic alarm despite copping an 18-point thumping from the Dragons. 

If the Warriors are starting to believe the hype that’s building around them, the kind of reality check delivered in Wollongong could be beneficial in the long run.

7 Roosters (6): There’s still a huge question mark over their attack. Sam Walker should be right to return on Anzac Day against the Dragons and they need his creativity because they looked one-dimensional in their loss to Melbourne.

8 Dolphins (11): They made a similar start last year before injuries exposed their lack of depth. 

It looked like they were headed for another fall when they sent a decimated side to Darwin to face Parramatta but they returned home with the most impressive win in their short NRL history. 

Whether their 2024 form is sustainable remains to be seen but it is unlikely they will suffer the same dramatic drop-off that happened last season when they lost 10 of their last 12 matches.

DARWIN, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 19: Jack Bostock of the Dolphins celebrates after scoring a try during the round seven NRL match between Parramatta Eels and Dolphins at TIO Stadium on April 19, 2024, in Darwin, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Jack Bostock celebrates after scoring a try in Darwin. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

9 Dragons (12): At some point the f word needs to be used for St George Illawarra – finals? Shane Flanagan wisely went with the pragmatic option by keeping expectations low heading into the season by saying they were focused more on getting right for 2025.

But this team is not without a chance of making the playoffs – in simple terms, the pack is getting forward and muscling up in defence, the halves are clicking and with Zac Lomax in career-best form and Tyrell Sloan a dynamic attacking option, their 4-3 start to the year is no fluke.

10 Cowboys (10): They have now lost three of their past four outings after starting the season with a hat-trick of triumphs – and the Cronulla caning was by far their worst. 

North Queensland need to go up a couple of gears this Saturday at home to Penrith to show they can mix it with the top teams because the evidence from their losses to Brisbane and Cronulla suggests they will end up in mid-table mediocrity this year, at best.

11 Raiders (8): They have been punching above their weight but the loss of Jamal Fogarty to a long-term bicep injury could be the body blow which sends Canberra to the canvas. 

Ethan Strange, Chevy Stewart and Xavier Savage are the building blocks for the future but the inexperienced trio could be out of their depth with veterans like Fogarty, Corey Horsburgh and Jordan Rapana are sidelined.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 21: Daniel Saifiti of the Knights is tackled during the round seven NRL match between Canterbury Bulldogs and Newcastle Knights at Accor Stadium, on April 21, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Daniel Saifiti is tackled. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

12 Bulldogs (15): Trending upwards and deservedly so. Their pack contains few stars apart from Viliame Kikau but they work overtime. 

And when that happens, Matt Burton is able to kick and pass with plenty of time, and when you have try-scoring threats like Stephen Crichton and Josh Addo-Carr playing off the back of that, there will be more wins on the horizon for the Dogs like their 36-12 domination of Newcastle on Sunday.

13 Eels (9): You can’t keep pointing to Mitchell Moses’ absence as the reason for Parra’s hot-and-cold recent form.

It is possible they started to become complacent after leading at half-time against the Dolphins but why did nobody, or the team collectively, stand up to do anything about the domino effect as tries kept coming and coming – eight of them in a 25-minute stretch? Bad signs for the Blue & Gold fold that they folded like that. 

14 Knights (13): They should be thankful that a couple of big clubs in Parramatta and South Sydney have been hogging the headlines as the biggest disappointments of 2024 because Newcastle have been just as bad, if not worse.

Their entire fate seems to hinge on Kalyn Ponga and if he is out for a lengthy stretch with the foot injury on top of his hip problem, this team will not only fail to return to the finals but could end up among the distant also-rans at the bottom of the ladder.

15 Wests Tigers (14): Three straight losses heading into clashes with Brisbane and the rejuvenated Bulldogs means the honeymoon is well and truly over for Benji Marshall’s coaching debut. 

While the wins aren’t coming at least the Tigers are showing vast improvement in defence this year – Penrith had to work hard for their 22-6 triumph and Wests have not conceded more than five tries in a match in 2024 after regularly conceding massive totals last season. 

16 Rabbitohs (16): The loss of Tevita Tatola out for three months with an ankle injury makes a difficult assignment for Jason Demetriou of trying to salvage their season even harder.

17 Titans (17): Silver Coast finished second for the sixth straight game despite putting 30 points on the board.

Des Hasler could do worse than switching David Fifita to lock and getting him more involved in attack and defence, if he truly wants to silence his growing army of critics who say he doesn’t do enough to justify his star billing. 





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