Is the NRL destined for another Penrith and Melbourne grand final?
Because after nine rounds of the NRL, last year’s combatants are again easily the form teams of the competition.
There are still other contenders, though.
Parramatta have dropped just one game all year, and did enough to upset the Storm back in round two.
South Sydney were under-strength in their shellacking at the hands of the Storm on Friday night, but have shown they can compete when they turn it on.
And the Sydney Roosters continue to be gutsy despite being without almost half of what they would have considered their best 17 at the start of the season.
But unbeaten Penrith and Melbourne just continue to look on another level.
The two teams won by a combined score of 98-0 in the opening two rounds of this weekend, while Penrith’s for-and-against of +200 after nine rounds is the best in 25 years.
Meanwhile, Melbourne’s is the second best in that period at +184, even while dropping two games to the Panthers and Eels.
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary predictably shied away from the suggestion that a grand final rematch is now the expected result on Friday night.
“It’s round nine. There’s a long way to go. A long way to go,” Cleary said.
“No-one remembers the first half of the year, still have to go through Origin and all that.”
But he does know his squad still see Melbourne as the benchmark, and admits they may have been out to make a statement of their own after the Storm’s big win over Souths.
“Maybe. You’d like to think the boys always watch footy, certainly a game like that,” he said.
“Melbourne have clearly been a benchmark for 15 years. I don’t think any other team has held that period.
“There have been plenty of teams who have had periods of it – Roosters, Manly and Brisbane – but the Storm have been around all the way through.
“We’re just starting our journey.”
Caretaker Cronulla coach Josh Hannay is arguably the man best placed to judge both the Storm and Panthers’ gap on the field, after watching his side being flogged by both in the past fortnight.
The defending premiers put a 40-14 scoreline on them last week, before the Panthers’ 48-0 demolition job on Friday night.
“I think you saw (Thursday) night’s game. Melbourne were awesome last night and Penrith were awesome here,” Hannay said.
“Like Souths, we are down on troops a little but. And when you play against sides that are healthy and humming, it certainly makes the challenge more difficult.”