NRL Power Rankings
Canterbury's Trent Hodkinson thoroughly deserves his first NSW jersey. Photo: Getty Images
The best thing about Origin time for club coaches, especially those towards the bottom of the ladder, is there are usually a few matches where competition points come a lot easier than they otherwise would.
Now that the 34 anointed players for the opening game of 2014 have been announced, club football takes a back seat. It's a unique situation. No other sporting competition in the world is beset by this problem - they either have their regular league play or international breaks.
It will be rehashed elsewhere at some stage over the next few weeks but there simply is not a better system for the NRL. Pretty much every day of the week has been tried for Origin and all sorts of rules to protect clubs from fielding weakened sides but the clubs seemed to have learnt to grin and bear the existing system which still gives them a couple of months after Origin III to get their house in order for the playoffs.
South Sydney's Adam Reynolds didn't do enough against Melbourne. Photo: Getty Images
1. Bulldogs (last week 1): It's great to see good form rewarded by the Blues selectors in choosing Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds as their halves combination although it's a little scary that Mitchell Pearce still would have been picked if he didn't have his Kings Cross incident to bear.
2. Sea Eagles (3): Eagle-Eye Cherry Evans is having that sort of season that even when he was below his best, he still had the confidence to nail a long-range last-gasp field goal to get Manly home against a determined Newcastle side on Monday night.
3. Eels (5): As they proved in their 2009 run to the finals, when Jarryd Hayne's in this sort of form, the rest of the team just have to provide solid support. For the last couple of years, Hayne has not been consistent and even when he did fire, his support cast was terrible. He was a class above in the 36-0 shellacking of the Dragons.
4. Roosters (2): The curse of the defending premiers seems to be growing. They've retained pretty much all of last year's squad but apart from winger Daniel Tupou and second-rower Mitchell Aubusson, everyone else in the team seems to be way down on form, desire, hunger, motivation, whatever that magical ingredient needed. Supercoach Robinson faces the toughest test of his brief career.
5. Panthers (6): It was an ugly win in Canberra but give supercoach Cleary's men the respect they deserve - they're in third spot after 10 rounds and even though the Origin selectors saw nobody in their side worthy of representative honours, opposition teams are no longer under-estimating the Panthers.
6. Rabbitohs (4): Adam Reynolds is a great kicker but can he kick himself? He should be after letting Trent Hodkinson leapfrog him in the Blues' pecking order. Reynolds had a perfect opportunity to show he was ready for the Origin furnace in a big Friday night game against Cooper Cronk and the Storm but he was ineffective throughout the 27-14 loss.
7. Cowboys (9): Like the Jarryd Hayne situation at the Eels, all that supercoach Green needs from 16 of his player is for them to fill their roles and the skinny fellow in the headgear can do the rest. Johnathan Thurston is benefitting from what has proved to have been a masterstroke in switching halfback Michael Morgan to the No.1 jersey. He's not quite Matt Bowen in his prime but he's giving North Queensland a better second attacking option than when he played alongside Thurston in the halves.
8. Tigers (8): For whatever reason they have had the wood on the Sharks in recent years and there seemed an air of inevitability about their comeback win at Cronulla last Saturday night. A 6-4 record after 10 rounds proves this team means business and would not look out of place in the finals this year.
9. Storm (11): They needed last Friday night's match on many levels. They needed a big match to stoke some fire in their belly. They needed to show they were not a spent force. And they needed the win to stay in the top eight leading into the Origin period. Still not back to their best but there's life in the old Storm legs yet.
10. Broncos (10): They lack impact in the forwards while Sam Thaiday is out but they'll never be outworked with the likes of Matt Gillett, Corey Parker and Josh McGuire in the side, backed up by the likes of David Stagg and Todd Lowrie on the bench.
11. Titans (7): The season-ending torn pectoral suffered by Aidan Sezer in the loss to Brisbane could well be the moment supercoach Cartwright looks back on this season and says that's where it all went wrong. It looks like another chapter is about to be written in their ongoing story of being fast out of the NRL gate then falling back mid-season.
12. Warriors (12): They could very well have stolen victory over the Bulldogs, they're showing they can be competitive with the top teams. They have a chance over the next few weeks while they're not affected by Origin to make up some of the ground they gave up to other teams with their poor start to the season under the guidance of the departed supercoach Elliott.
13. Dragons (13): Last week's ranking included the line "Dragons management will look red-faced if Benji’s new-found zest doesn’t last after signing him until the end of 2016". His timing was terrible against Parramatta, which is to be expected. If he doesn't get that back in the very near future, what then can St George Illawarra do? Canberra thought they had solved their halves problem a few years ago by signing a veteran playmaker who said he was ready for the challenge in Matt Orford. That didn't end well.
14. Sharks (14): Sometimes it's best not to rush back from injury. Todd Carney didn't, and couldn't, get out of second gear against the Tigers and is back in the injury ward nursing another hamstring problem.
15. Knights (15): It's easy to forget Akuila Uate was a barnstorming selection for NSW a couple of years ago, now he's infuriatingly hot and cold, as evidenced by his performance on Brookvale Oval where he set up a win with his attack then cost his team the game at the defensive end.
16. Raiders (16): Supercoach Stuart is right - struggling teams don't get the rub of the green when it comes to refereeing decisions. Whose fault is it that Canberra are playing so poorly? His comments about the refs last Sunday being "not up to first-grade standard" and "laughable" could quite easily apply to his own team judging on recent performances.