The topsy turvy nature of the NRL revealed itself in all its glory in round two, one of the reasons this competition is so exciting and so popular. The Panthers and Sharks rebounded, while the Tigers and Dragons confounded, fans worried last week’s sterling starts may have been a mirage. The Eels and the Storm flexed their muscles. The Cowboys and Broncos took us to heaven, where Knights fans spent Saturday night after breaking a 19-game losing streak. Sides sitting on duck eggs at 0 and 2 are nervously waiting to hatch a win.
The NRL is the ultimate carnival sideshow, we had gigantic Viking horns blowing in Canberra, Mitchell Moses introduced leg warmers to the Tigers merchandise tent (what happened to his socks?!?), passes flicked, thrown between legs, all featuring players with hair styles more akin to gangsta rap videos than a footy field. Rugby league is many things but never boring.
The Water Cooler – Ten Talking Points
Broncos and Cowboys turn it on again
Yet another classic delivered by these two goliaths. Sibling rivalry at its finest, the Cowboys are little brother no more. The football and theatre delivered was again of the highest order. Forget the other 14 teams, they can play in their own league. Let’s just watch these two rip and tear into each other for 26 rounds! The tabloids have been delighting in revealing all the tawdry details of Bryce Cartwright’s dramas, I don’t want to touch that stuff with a ten-foot barge pole, all I’m going to say is I’m glad Mrs Thurston had Jonathan. He is an immortal in waiting.
Hunt for redemption
Ben Hunt wound back the clock and produced his best performance since 2015 when he was a major reason the Broncos marched to the Grand Final. Sadly, he was also the major reason they lost. He’s been playing without confidence since but Friday night showed he’s back. He was magnificent and wants to depart the Broncos with the title ring that was ripped off his finger as the Cowboys took off with the prize and left them standing at the altar.
Sharks back to back
Alan Tongue blew his horn signalling the beginning of the Viking Clap bringing fans and atmosphere to a climax. The Raiders ran out all fired up, the collisions were immense. The Sharks met the challenge and responded with the Shark Slap. Cronulla’s second half was scintillating and there is no doubt they are capable of climbing league’s Everest, going back to back and retaining their title. Jack Bird was a revelation at fullback and James Maloney’s combination with Wade Graham was rhythmic and ruthless.
Brilliance of youth
The NRL keeps unveiling and unearthing, new and exciting talent each season. Last week we saw 18 years old Moses Suli play a corker on debut. Dylan Edwards, Braidon Burns, Sam Stone, the list goes on, all showing skills, toughness and maturity beyond their tender years. Most kids their age are whining about how slow their internet speed is, as their illegal download of Game of Thrones is “like taking forever” or boasting they’re fully sick at Mobile Strike using the gamer name CockLord. For me, Jayden Brailey tops the lot. What a talent this kid is, he has been a revelation at dummy half for the Sharks. He had a stormer against the Raiders, hits hard and scored a try, all he’s missing is Michael Ennis angst and cheek, that’ll come with age.
Last year’s indiscretions are fading as Corey Norman’s week in week out brilliance shines through. He has become one of the most influential playmakers in the NRL and Parramatta’s fortune rides on his back. Norman is in supreme form, enjoys the responsibility and expectation that comes with being the man. With an exciting support act, the Eels are one of the teams to beat while Norman stays in Dally M winning mode.
Every year one side seems to be cursed by injury. Last year was Manly, this year it is the Gold Coast Titans. A heavy preseason injury toll was added to on the weekend when players succumbed mid-game against the Knights. The Hayne plane has been grounded adding to the headaches Neil Henry has already been dealing with. I assume Hayne will not have treatment on his injury in Sydney, there are no big concerts this week, Adele has moved on. To their credit the Titans battled on and nearly pulled off a courageous win.
The Panthers have woken from their cat nap. They reminded everyone why they are considered one of the favourites for this year’s title. Under the pump early, their goal line defence held firm against the Tigers onslaught. The battle of the big cats turned into a Panther procession as the Tigers turned pussy. The ensuing 60 minutes showcased Panther perfection, the response Anthony Griffin and puppet master Gus Gould required after last week’s Dragons drivel.
Bunnies are back
If there was ever a highlight on how important quality halves are to a team, look no further than the Rabbitohs win over Manly. Adam Reynolds returned early and made an immediate impact. He steered the side expertly around the field and his kicking game was pinpoint. Reynolds composure freed Cody Walker to drift and do his thing – play off the cuff. Michael Maguire smiled (take a photo!), Rusty Crowe’s thumb went up.
Sides Under Pressure
We are only two rounds into a long season but we already have four teams sitting at the lowest rung of the ladder without a win to their name. The Sea Eagles, Raiders, Titans and Bulldogs all have differing reasons for being in this lowly position. They will all deny they are under pressure and will trot out the usual league clichés, sticking to processes, work in progress etc but fans and boards want one thing and one thing only – points. The best way to relieve tension is score a dirty big hard fought win any way they can. No need to panic… yet.
My grumble for this week – touch judges, sideline officials, whatever you want to call them… what do they do?!? A potential try is scored and the referee looks at them and receive back a look like a stunned mullet, let’s go upstairs then. They intervene on forward passes as often as Donald Trump admits he’s wrong. Every weekend numerous forward passes are missed including a crucial pass that led to Jordan Kahu scoring in the golden point thriller. I thought I was watching the Denver Broncos playing the Dallas Cowboys it was that far forward, how could the touchy miss it? All they seem to do is run in field when a player is tackled 5 metres from the sideline and whine “get off” then scuttle back over the chalk to safety. A department store mannequin could do better, lift your game please, while you’re at it lift your flag!
Phew that felt good to get that off my chest. Now don’t get me started on two referees, players walking off the mark, markers standing side by side, chasers being illegally taken out trying to get to a bomb, umbrella defence (that’s league code for centres offside by miles). I could go on but people might start thinking I’m an old crank. I really, must chill out. Think I’ll place myself in the downward dog position and watch my old copy of the 1973 Grand Final, that’ll relax me.