Who Would Be the Best Ranked NRL Team if the Competition Was Run Over the Last Three Years?

Everything changed in 2020 with the global Covid-19 pandemic. It saw the NRL postponed and upon the resumption rule changes changed rugby league’s landscape. Here’s how your team would be going if the competition was continuous from 2020 to the end of the 2022 season.

RankTeamWonLostDrawnPointsForAgainstPts Difference
1Penrith Panthers59811231,849854995
2Melbourne Storm521601082,0061,0021,004
3South Sydney Rabbitohs46220961,9001,279621
4Parramatta Eels46220961,5661,234332
5Sydney Roosters45230941,8171,245572
6Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks38300801,5731,400173
7Canberra Raiders38300801,4501,35694
8Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles32360681,6091,59613
9Newcastle Knights29381631,2211,607-386
10North Queensland Cowboys29390621,4611,629-168
11St George-Illawarra Dragons27410581,3211,637-316
12Gold Coast Titans25430541,3811,706-325
13Brisbane Broncos23450501,2281,869-641
15Wests Tigers19490421,2921,898-606
16Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs13550301,0051,789-784
based on NRL regular season results between 2020 and 2022

The Penrith Panthers would be leading the competition by 15 points off the back of their defence, being the only side to concede less than 1,000 points in the 68 regular season games since 2020.

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Not far behind is the Melbourne Storm who by far scored the most points with 2,006 thanks to some big wins, especially in 2020 and 2021. Their nine losses in 2022 was their worst result since 2015 when they lost 10.

It’s no surprise that South Sydney came in third after winning 20 regular season matches in 2021 on the way to scoring 775 points – a record for the Rabbitohs in the NRL era.

Rounding out the top four is the Parramatta Eels who have been knocking on the door of a premiership in the past four years. However, they have gradually conceded more points each year (288 in 2020, 457 in 2021 and 489 in 2022), but have nullified this by improving their attack (392 in 2020, 566 in 2021 and 606 in 2022). But as the Panthers have shown, defence is key to winning the title.

With all the injuries and retirements, the Sydney Roosters are a creditable fifth even though they won back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019. However, over the last three seasons they have dropped from third to sixth. Is it a sign that the six again rule has hurt them more than other sides? The Roosters side were well versed in giving away consecutive penalties on their line, with the ability to defend for long periods.

The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – thanks to their 2022 record – are in sixth spot. They have improved their defence under Craig Fitzgibbon, going from conceding 1,036 points in the first two years, to just 364 in 2022. This correction is promising for the Shire boys with a likely premiership win incoming.

In seventh is the Canberra Raiders despite being equal on points with the Sharks. They haven’t been able to capitalise on their 2019 Grand Final appearance despite running fifth in 2020. Of the top eight clubs, they are the lowest scoring side over the past three years.

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The final spot in the top eight goes to the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles who have experienced the yo-yo effect with a stellar 2021 masking poor efforts in 2020 and 2022. They have conceded the most points of any of the top eight so far. Could things have been different if Tommy Turbo was available?

Just outside the eight is surprisingly the Newcastle Knights after finishing seventh in two consecutive years; a poor home record in 2022 saw the club slide and concede the most points in a year since 2016 when they conceded their NRL-era high 800 points in finishing last. Are they in danger of sliding further down the ladder?

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After an excellent 2022, the North Queensland Cowboys are in 10th spot with last year being their most productive in scoring their most points and conceding their least since 2014. It’s incredible to see the defence improve by 50% on 2021 which makes them, along with the Sharks, likely to win a premiership very soon.

In 11th is the St George-Illawarra Dragons with three consistent years of finishing in the third quartile of the competition. That’s including a period from barbeque-gate to the end of 2021 where they couldn’t manage any success on-field.

The Gold Coast Titans have bragging rights over their big brothers the Broncos in 12th. Their strong finish to last year saved them from being further down the ladder. To move up the ladder they must address their defence having conceded 660 points in 2022. It’s astonishing to think only three times in their history the Titans have had a positive differential at the end of the year.

The Brisbane Broncos blew a chance to finish in the top eight in 2022 after hitting rock bottom in 2020 – running last. They have improved their attack from a side who only managed 268 points in 2020, to scoring 514 in 2022 thanks to more direction from Adam Reynolds. However, like the Titans, their defence is stopping them from being a top eight contender.

Having few opportunities to play at Mount Smart Stadium, the Warriors are in 14th with instability in the club: Nathan Brown opting to leave and several players moving on. Any miracles for a turnaround may need to be put on ice with rookie coach Andrew Webster looking towards his former club the Panthers to inspire a new era at the club.

Second-last spot belongs to the Wests Tigers who surely improve with their 2023 signings including Api Koroisau and John Bateman. They have the worst defence of all clubs over the last three years and have a bit of work to do under new coach Tim Sheens to improve that part of their game.

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Coming in last is no surprise, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. However, unlike the Tigers counterparts, they improved to win seven matches in 2022 after only winning six in the two years prior. Their attack is still by far the worst of the 16 clubs even with the introduction of Matt Burton and Josh Addo-Carr in 2022. Cameron Ciraldo will be hopeful they can move into a position where they are playing finals footy reguarly, if only the fans will give him a chance.

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