NRL Ladder predictions: Newcastle and Wests Tigers the big movers this week.

Stat of the week: 685 days since the Dragons found themselves inside the 8 at ANY stage of any round and 966 days since they last touched the top 4. Time to reset the counter on both of those numbers.

Round 3 (NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Parramatta Eels. (2nd) Up 3 spots. Only put away an injury ravaged Sharks in the last 10, although they lost Moses early themselves. They’ve done what they’ve needed to do so far and their next 5 games are against non top 8 teams from last year. A very favourable home and away draw is going to help this team that doesn’t really need it.

2. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Up 2 spots. Finally played a decent opposition and were just relentless all night. Never gave up and that got them the win despite ultimately losing 3 of their first choice spine, proving they have outstanding depth. Have a very favourable short term draw with the harder games at home.

3. Melbourne Storm. (11th) Down 1 spot. Fantastic contest worthy of a Grand Final rematch. Very unlucky not to win and I think the result would have been reversed had it been played in Melbourne. Very rare back-to back losses but they’ve had no easy games and have had to travel to probably the two biggest fortresses in the NRL, Bankwest and Penrith Park.

4. Sydney Roosters. (3rdt) Down 3 spots. Losing Keary is massive and I can’t see them winning the comp with Hutchison/Lam as the halves combo. Did well to win the 2nd half but the game was gone at 24-0.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (7th) Down 2 spots only due to Parra and Penrith. On fire against the ladder leaders going into the round and just blew them away early. Always a traditional grudge match and the Roosters weren’t quite up to it in front of Russell Crowe and his mates. There seems to be a clear top 5 at the moment proving very difficult working out who’s who in the pecking order.

6. New Zealand Warriors. (9th) Up 3 spots. A great comeback win but need to watch out giving big leads to better teams. Can’t fault their start to the season too much, unlucky not to be 3 from 3.

7. Cronulla Sharks. (12th) Up 1 spot despite the loss. Looked good for 70min dealing with adversity but looking good while not winning won’t get you up the ladder and the Sharks need to start doing that soon or they’ll lose touch with the front runners. Should win at least 2 of their next 4.

8. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (5th) Up 2 spots. Time will tell how they go against the better teams, starting with the Knights next week. All their games so far have been winnable, and to pull 4 points from a tough roadtrip/short turnaround shows they’ve found some resilience. Trying hard not to get too excited about them too early but they deserve their spot in my 8.

9. Gold Coast Titans. (4th) Up 1 spot. Their much talked about forwards really stood up and the offloads really killed the Cowboys. Most experts have them in their 8 but I’d rather see how they perform against the top teams first. Helped by some woeful defence.

10. Canberra Raiders. (6th) Down 3 spots. They can complain all they like about forward passes, which actually looked ok to me, the fact remains they blew a 21 point lead, at home, against a side they should beat most days. Not good enough and will struggle win the premiership.

11. Newcastle Knights. (8th) Down 5 spots. Played well for about 5 mins. Ordinary completion rate but led most of the distance stats. Not a top 8 side at the moment and certainly not premiership contenders. Can’t lose games like that at home and expect to play finals footy. Terrible performance.

12. Wests Tigers. (13th) Up 4 spots. A really tough win but they let in some really soft tries and made some shocking errors. Kudos to them for ruining Pearce’s 300th and winning an important away game. Still a long way from matching it with the top teams.

13. Brisbane Broncos. (10th) Up 1 spot. Had a much needed win but it was only due to 2 individual efforts from Isaako with about 20 to go in a disgraceful game of football before the floodgates opened. They can’t win for another month and are likely to be 1 and 6, and in a red hot fight for the spoon.

14. Manly Sea Eagles. (16th) Up 1 spot. Simply got thrashed. Although the coach remains positive if I were a supporter I wouldn’t be. Should of conceded 50 and the scoreline of 38-12 made them look better than they were.

15. Canterbury Bulldogs. (15th) Down 3 spots. Their discipline is terrible as is their finishing highlighted by their complete inability to score points, which is surprising given that Barrett was lauded for the Panthers great attack last year. Need to turn it around quickly but they won’t win for at least a couple of weeks.

16. North Qld Cowboys. (14th) Down 3 spots. Just terrible. Todd Payten will be looking for a new job soon. Handling and defence not good enough and let the Titans run all over them. Missed Morgan and Taumalolo badly.