One-third of the way through the season and it's a good time to assess the competition, the teams, both good and bad, and the players who have impressed.

There are no surprises at the Melbourne Storm. They have again impressed with their methodical approach to the season, deservedly occupying top spot and favouritism for the title.

The Broncos have barely noticed Darren Lockyer's retirement and the way the players have overcome his absence has been impressive, especially Peter Wallace.

In my first article this year, I said he was the player who needed to do the most to compensate for Lockyer's departure and he has done so without fanfare. Corey Norman balanced Wallace's structure, with creativity and some occasional flare.


My dark horse for the competition was Cronulla and they haven't disappointed so far. The most experienced forward pack in the NRL, has been bolstered by excellent recruitment and with Todd Carney firing, this team was always going to turn heads.

The Dragons are treading water and not using their strengths, but they're not rolling over either. They should hold on to a top eight spot but need to be careful.

Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen hold the Cowboys together and without either the team struggles; with both absent they go nowhere. They're lucky Bowen is not considered an Origin player, which allows him to play through the rep season and keep the Cowboys' hopes alive; but I see them as only a mid-table team.

The Bulldogs, however, are a team yet to blossom under coach Des Hasler and inconsistency is their biggest flaw. We saw their Warriors' demolition as a sign of what is to come and the game against Melbourne is still my highlight match of the season.

Only the Storm's great defensive qualities held off the brutality and creativeness of a Bulldogs outfit that would easily have overcome lesser opposition; they will be a threat come play-off time.

The Knights, Sea Eagles and Rabbitohs are teams coming to terms with new coaches and their inconsistency will thwart them this year; their best will be in 2013 and beyond.

The Roosters are holding on by their claws and will be a threat to most sides this year, with their youth and lack of fearunderpinning their performances. Mitchell Pearce, Braith Anasta and Anthony Minichiello will be the key to any success but they will finish higher than 2011.

The disappointment for most people has been the Wests Tigers but I was not convinced they deserved any pre-season favouritism for the premiership. Highly over-rated and not playing with the conviction that embodies the togetherness of 2010 and 2011, they will continue to struggle unless their are personnel changes.

The Warriors are on a knife edge and are adjusting to Brian McClennan and his philosophy. Still raw-boned in some areas and refining the product, they are a work in progress. The rest - Raiders, Panthers, Titans and Eels - are of little consequence at this stage and miracles would be needed for fortunes to change.

A tip to Warriors management - maybe a word in the right ear and subtle negotiations could capture the like of a certain Michael Jennings, who needs to get away from his distractions in Penrith and resolve a positional issue you have ... !