Way too early predictions, Cowboys, Dragons, Broncos, Rabbitohs, Bulldogs, Eels, Panthers, Round 2


OK, it’s only been one round. But at least we now have some tangible evidence about what every NRL side could deliver in 2024.

The Storm are back in title contention after their shutout of the premiers the Panthers in Round 1.

Meanwhile, the Eels are set to surge back into the top eight after their impressive display against the Bulldogs.

But there is no room for the Rabbitohs come finals time as some bad old habits from 2023 returned against Manly.

Read on for the way-too-early prediction for every NRL team.

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Eels run riot over battered Bulldogs | 02:10


Way too early prediction: Matty Johns said the Cowboys looked like the 2022 version after their 43-18 win over the Dolphins when they went within a whisker of making the grand final. They may have had some defensive lapses, but to put on nearly 50 points first up shows their attack is back to its best. Based on their first up effort the Cowboys look like they will not only return to the finals in 2024 but can also make a deep run when they get there.

Verdict: Making the top eight


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Hasler flat after debut loss | 02:52


Way too early prediction: Shane Flanagan laughed off suggestions his side would win the wooden spoon after their 28-4 first up win over the Titans. Gold Coast were poor, but you can only beat what’s in front of you and the Dragons showed enough enterprise in attack and starch in defence to suggest they can climb up the ladder from their second last place finish in 2023. They may lack the depth and strike in the forwards to make the finals, but the Dragons look like they will make it out of the bottom four in 2024.

Verdict: Climbing out of the bottom four

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Flanagan era begins with HUGE win | 06:10


Way too early prediction: The Eels were clinical in their first up 26-8 win over arch rivals the Bulldogs and showed they can break back into the finals after missing the top eight in 2023. With Dylan Brown and Shaun Lane back controlling the left edge and recruits Morgan Harper and Kelma Tuilagi improving their depth, the Eels look a more balanced team who will not only push for the top four but make a charge for a drought-breaking title come October.

Verdict: Making the top eight


Way too early prediction: The Raiders were tipped to win the wooden spoon after Jack Wighton’s departure, but Ethan Strange showed there is life after the representative star at the Raiders. Ricky Stuart loves creating a siege mentality and the more the Green Machine are doubted, the more he will use it to drive his players. Jamal Fogarty showed he can steer the ship and if their outside backs can do their jobs, the Raiders have the forwards to match it with most teams after Zac Hoskings’ impressive debut. They might not make the top eight, but they aren’t getting anywhere near the spoon.

Verdict: Just missing the top eight

Dylan Brown makes the Eels a far more dangerous outfit.
Dylan Brown makes the Eels a far more dangerous outfit.Source: Getty Images


Way too early prediction: Manly were impressive in attack in their 36-24 win over the Rabbitohs, but still have some work to do on their defence. Luke Brooks was impressive in his club debut at five-eighth and showed he can take the pressure off Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic having to do everything in attack. With Josh Schuster still to return, Manly’s attack is only going to get better and if they can tighten up their defence they will break back into the top eight and push for the top four in 2024.

Verdict: Top four


Way too early prediction: The Roosters have rediscovered their mojo in attack after their impressive 20-10 win over the Broncos with Paul Kent and Braith Anasta believing they are back to contending for the title after a disappointing 2023 campaign. Led by Victor Radley, the Roosters returned to their famed great wall of defence of old in Round 1. However, more impressive was their less structured attack, which allowed Sam Walker to play to his strengths, while Brandon Smith unlocked fullback and skipper James Tedesco from dummyhalf. If they can maintain the rage the Roosters could be in their first grand final since 2019 in the first week of October.

Verdict: Grand Final

Storm’s incredible Rd 1 record continues | 02:40


Way too early prediction: Every year write the Storm off at your peril. Craig Bellamy kept his 100 per cent Round 1 record in tact with a stunning 8-0 shutout of the defending premiers. The win was made all the more impressive by the fact Cameron Munster was sidelined with a groin injury. Given they missed 44 tackles and still kept the Panthers scoreless speaks volumes of the Storm’s attitude in defence and if they can improve technically in that area they will be very tough to beat. If this is Bellamy’s last year at the helm he may be headed to the Grand Final for one last crack at glory.

Verdict: Premiers

Jahrome Hughes stepped up in the absence of Cameron Munster.Source: Getty Images


Way too early prediction: The Sharks were down 12-0 before storming back to beat the Warriors 16-12 in one of their gutsiest wins in a long time in Round 1. Cronulla were tipped by some experts to miss the top eight, but on the evidence of their win on New Zealand soil they can make the finals for the third straight season under Craig Fitzgibbon. Whether they can break their duck once they get there is another thing, but with Nicho Hynes driving the ship the Sharks will be playing September footy in 2024.

Verdict: Making the top eight.


Way too early prediction: The Tigers had the bye in Round 1, which has them in ninth spot on the ladder heading into their first game of the season against the Raiders in Canberra. The Tigers showed some improvement in the trials, but the problem is the teams around them will improve as well, which will make it difficult to avoid a third straight wooden spoon. Until they play a game we can’t give them the wooden spoon just yet, but from what we saw in the trials Benji Marshall will do well to get them out of the bottom four in 2024.

Verdict: Finishing bottom four

Sharks prove themselves with gritty win | 01:36


Way too early prediction: The Warriors started strongly to lead 12-0, but imploded to go down 16-12 to the Sharks in a worrying fade-out to start the season. After making the top four last year no one will be taking the Warriors lightly and they will be hunted every week in 2024 both at home and on the road. The Warriors still have the squad to make the finals under reigning Dally M coach of the year Andrew Webster, but given the improvement from other teams they look like being one of the sides to drop out of the top eight at this early stage of the season.

Verdict: Missing the top eight


Way too early prediction: The Panthers have now lost two on the trot with their World Club Challenge defeat followed by an 8-0 loss to the Storm in Round 1. Given the Storm haven’t lost in Round 1 ever under Craig Bellamy it is not panic stations yet for Ivan Cleary’s side. But it was the nature of their loss to a Storm side missing Cameron Munster, which was the main concern, with their attack failing to score a single point in 80 minutes. The Panthers still have the squad to make the top eight, but the early signs suggest the top four might be a bridge too far as they hunt four straight titles.

Prediction: Making the top eight

Panthers deflated with round 1 loss | 04:13


Way too early prediction: The Broncos got an early reality check that they can’t just rock up and expect to make another grand final in 2024 following their 20-10 loss to the Roosters. Reece Walsh was kept quiet by some strong defensive tactics from the Roosters, which could be a blueprint for sides playing Brisbane this year. However, the Broncos still have plenty of class players but replacing Herbie Farnworth and Tom Flegler won’t be easy. They should still make the finals in 2024, but they are not certainties for the top four given the improvement in the teams around them.

Verdict: Making the top eight


Way too early prediction: Latrell Mitchell carried the Rabbitohs in attack with some moments of brilliance, but they didn’t offer much outside of their fullback in their 36-24 loss to the Sea Eagles. Some bad old habits from their dismal 2023 season fade-out reared their ugly head against Manly, particularly in defence. Cody Walker and Lachlan Ilias need to do much more in attack and the club desperately needs Jack Wighton to return from suspension to give them some strike on the edges. Based on their injuries and poor defence it is hard to see the Bunnies climbing back into the top eight in 2024.

Verdict: Missing the top eight

Cody Walker and the Rabbitohs looked poor in attack, despite Latrell Mitchell’s brilliance.Source: The Daily Telegraph


Way too early prediction: The Knights built their charge to the finals last season on making their home ground a fortress, but they surrendered that advantage with a 28-12 loss to the Raiders in Round 1. Given Canberra were tipped to fall out of the top eight, the Knights could struggle to make the finals let a lone the top four this season. The team has become too reliant on Kalyn Ponga providing the magic in attack and when he has an off game they struggle to score points. Some bad old habits returned in defence against Canberra and on that performance they will struggle to make the finals in 2024.

Verdict: Missing the top eight


Way too early prediction: There was plenty of hype around the new Utility Dogs, but the same problems seem to have remained after their 26-8 loss to the Eels in Round 1. It was always going to take time for combinations to develop with 11 changes to their squad from last season. But Canterbury struggled to unleash Stephen Crichton, while the jury is out on halves Matt Burton and Drew Hutchison’s ability to create consistent try-scoring opportunities. Their defence was much better at times, but if they can’t work out how to score more points they won’t be climbing out of the bottom four this season.

Verdict: Finishing bottom four

Upsets continue throughout round 1 | 01:28


Way too early prediction: Des Hasler was meant to turn the Titans around, but on the evidence of their first up 28-4 loss to the Dragons they have a long way to go. Given the Dragons finished second last in 2023, the fact the Titans could manage just one try shows the gulf in improvement of the two teams. The Titans look rudderless when Kieran Foran doesn’t play, while they can’t get Jayden Campbell back soon enough to add some much needed spark in attack. But it is the five tries conceded that will be worrying Hasler and unless the Titans can show massive improvement on both sides of the ball, they won’t be climbing out of the bottom four in 2024.

Verdict: Finishing bottom four


Way too early prediction: The Dolphins beat the Roosters in Round 1 in their inaugural campaign but their 43-18 loss to the Cowboys was a far cry from that to kick off 2024. The Dolphins brought in Tom Flegler and Herbie Farnworth to address their leaky defence, but the early signs were not promising as they let in eight tries against the Cowboys, including six in the first half alone. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow had a shocker at the back, while Sean O’Sullivan and Kodi Nikorima failed to ignite their attack. But until the Dolphins fix their shocking defence they are much closer to a first wooden spoon than their first finals appearance in 2024.

Verdict: Winning the wooden spoon


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