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Brad Fittler's NRL power rankings

More The Lowdown News

Rugby league great Brad Fittler takes the reigns this week to rank the 16 NRL sides as he sees them so far in 2013.


The Rabbitohs have been the strongest team in the NRL all year. They were sharpened up early on by the Melbourne Storm, who taught them a lesson in round six, and since then they haven't looked back.


Coming off an ordinary season last year, under new coach Trent Robinson the Roosters have created a brick wall in defence and on the back of that are sitting pretty in second place. If Souths manage to slip up I can see a challenge for the minor premiership from the Roosters.


The 'big three' – Smith, Cronk and Slater – have missed a few games this year as they always do around State of Origin time, but the Storm will finish strong and will keep everyone honest in the finals. The defending premiers will give themselves another chance of winning the comp.


Dad's army keeps soldering on, and I can see them being a threat in the semis. They've got a lot of experience and big game players at the club.


Newcastle are another team that's looking a bit dated but they're doing a fantastic job at the moment. Their playmaker Jarrod Mullen is really steering them around with a great kicking game and with Darius Boyd hitting some real fine form they can also send some shockwaves going into the semis.


The overachievers of the season. They've had a huge injury list and have some big players coming back. It's hard to say whether Penrith will make the semi-finals considering the other teams on the fringe of the top eight. It'll take a big effort from them, and the quicker they get the likes of Sika Manu back the better. With the spirit they're playing with, they'll at least be in there with a chance.


The Sharkies are dangerous but also look very fragile at times. They've got some big injuries at the moment and were towelled up by the Roosters 40-0 this weekend. I'm sure they'll learn a lot from that.


It was always going to be a tough year for the Warriors with a new coach and the circumstances that their last season ended in, but they seem to be on the same page now. They're obviously very talented and their halfback Shaun Johnson is starting to show some real spark. If they get to the semis they'll put fear into all of their opponents.


The Bulldogs started the season terribly but coach Des Hasler held his nerve, and they've somehow managed to find their way back into sixth position on the NRL ladder. They've got a fairly tough run home, playing several of the top sides, so that'll tell us how far they want to go in the competition. If they don’t climb a few positions by the end I'd say they won't last long in the semis.


The Raiders seem to just come eighth (or ninth, or tenth) every year. It's hard to see what they'll be able to do if they make the eight, as a lot of their semi finals will be on the road. Their away form is awful, while their form at home is unbelievable. But if they finish eighth they won't get a home final so will have to beat a team away, and that doesn't look like happening. They are a tough side, so they'll bruise a few teams up in the run home.


After a couple of disappointing years they've found some form this season. At the start of the year I had some really high hopes for the Gold Coast but injuries have hurt them. Their strike weapon Jamal Idris is out for a lengthy period, and the fact that they've been beaten twice by 40 or 50 points this year obviously hurts their finals chances. With the likes of Greg Bird and Nate Myles – if they can stay injury free – the Titans can finish on the edge of the eight.


They've only missed four finals campaigns since 1988, a pretty impressive record for the biggest club in the competition. So the fact they're running 12th is highly disappointing. Their management of players has been tough this year, with a lot of players moving on. Even with Justin Hodges, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker and Matt Gillett there, I just don't know if they can do enough to make the finals this year.


What's happened to the Dragons? They've lost a lot of players in the past few years and finding any continuity seems to be a problem, and that really shows in their attack. I'm not really sure if many of them know the way to the tryline at the moment. With Josh Dugan joining the club they are now forming some new combinations and can scare a few sides at the back-end of the year – as they did with Souths on Monday night.


Given their lineup, the Cowboys have had an atrocious season. The pressure is on their coach Neil Henry, to say the least. You'd think they'd have to win every game from here until the end of the season to have any chance of making the finals, but I think the damage is done and they'll be focusing on next year.


Their fortunes this season have been highlighted by the fact Benji Marshall, one of the most high-profile players in our game, announced his exit from the club in strange circumstances in the middle of the year, after being handled really poorly by the club. The club's trying to get back on its feet, but the in-fighting between the Wests and Balmain parties continues and it doesn't seem to be getting any clearer. It always goes back to the words of the great Jack Gibson: if you don't get your head office in order, you're in trouble.

16. EELS

Last but not least, the mighty Eels. They've won three games, and have shown spirit at times but their lineup looks almost unrecognisable. Seven players have been told to find another club and they've got a few good signings for next year, so they are definitely focusing on next season.

Catch Brad Fittler and the gang on the Clubhouse, live on SportsFan at 8pm, Mondays to Thursdays.

Follow Brad on Twitter @BradFittler or SportsFan on Twitter @sportsfan_live.