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NRL: Which big names may miss out on the top eight?

The 2023 NRL campaign may only be 10 weeks old but already one or two big names look to be in danger of missing out on the top eight.

For some clubs making the top eight and playing finals at the end of the season is the number one goal, but for others it is the least they expect. 

Heading into this season there were question marks over one or two of the big guns, who had seen big roster changes over the off-season. Melbourne Storm and Parramatta Eels in particular. Would they slide out of the eight? 

There are always a couple of teams that climb the ladder and jump into the eight. And that means someone has to drop out. The Dolphins are one such team as the NRL new boys sit fifth on the ladder. 

The Broncos, who sit top, also did not make the eight last season. There is a long way to go before the regular season is done but one or two clubs have a big job on their hands to ensure they make the eight and play finals.

North Queensland Cowboys

The Cowboys have suffered the biggest fall from grace in the 2023 season. Todd Payten’s men were one of the stars of 2022 and finished third on the ladder. 

They were expected to kick on this season, but it has been quite the opposite. In 2022 they picked up 17 wins and lost just seven games. 

This season they have already lost six games and are way off the pace to make the top eight. It is hard to put a finger on why things have gone so wrong. 

Payten has the same squad so maybe a bit of complacency crept in heading into the new season. Defence has certainly been an issue for them. Making the eight is still possible but there will have to be a huge turnaround for them to do so.

Parramatta Eels 

The Eels made the 2022 grand final before losing to the Penrith Panthers. That game also signalled the departure of a number of top players. 

Reed Mahoney, Isaiah Papali’i and Ray Stone were among the players to move on and some suggested the Eels would struggle. 

That has turned out to be the case as they sit outside of the eight with a lot of work needed to get back in there. 

Parramatta still have plenty of quality in their squad with the likes of Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown, and there is time to turn things around. However making the eight is far from clear-cut.

Melbourne Storm 

Like the Eels, Melbourne Storm saw a number of key players leave in the off-season. Hooker Brandon Smith left to join the Roosters, while the Bromwich brothers and Felise Kaufusi also moved on. 

It has definitely had a big impact as the Storm have lost four of their opening nine games of the season. The Rabbitohs thrashed them by 16 points in Magic Round on Saturday night. 

The Storm should still have more than enough to make the top eight this season. With Cameron Munster and co in the team they could still make top four if they click. But for now you could not blame them for taking an anxious look over their shoulder.

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Sydney Roosters 

The Roosters missing out would be the biggest surprise of all. At the start of the season they were tipped as the side to challenge the Panthers for the Premiership. 

They still could as they have one of the strongest rosters in the NRL, but they will need to get their act together. 

Trent Robinson’s men would not have been expecting to lose three games this early, and if that trend was to continue then they may get a little anxious. The Bondi outfit are highly unlikely to miss out on the eight, but their start has not been great.

Canberra Raiders 

The Raiders squeezed into the eight in 2022 and will be hoping to do so again this year. But it is likely to go right to the wire once again. 

2023 will be Jack Wighton’s last season with the club before he heads to South Sydney and they will be determined to go out on a high. But they are likely to be one of a number of teams battling for that final spot. 

Manly Sea Eagles, Gold Coast Titans and New Zealand Warriors will be pushing them hard, along with the Eels.

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