We started the round with four teams still looking for that elusive first victory. Once again the NRL’s unpredictability came to the fore as, against the odds, all four registered wins, it was upset city! From Townsville to Dunedin the duck eggs were broken. Everyone is off the mark and taken the first steps towards the finals.
Speaking of finals, Jason Taylor just coached his final game, he is officially gone! Sacked by the Wests Tigers three games in!!! The English Premier League gives managers longer than that, Australia even gives their Prime Ministers more time than that! When did the NRL become the EPL?!?
For some coaches the pressure eased, but players continue to bewilder coaches and fans alike, some stars are shining, some are fading. Consistency is a rare commodity only the elite hold as a virtue. We have only played three rounds, strap yourself in this is going to be a wild ride!
The Water Cooler – Ten Talking Points
Brisbane may have gone down to a lucky late try to the Storm but all signs are pointing to a successful season. They were under the pump for the whole 80 minutes but kept charging off their line with incredible intensity like it was the Grand Final – it’s round 3!! The Storm pounded away on the Broncos line, but they were repelled time and time again. The Broncos may have only won once but have played 3 of the NRL’s best. In a beaten and bruised side, Matt Gillett was a standout.
On a Friday night that saw both the Titans and Bulldogs score their first wins of the season, it was the Titans victory that stood out. Yet again they fought a severe injury toll and the scoreboard to triumph over the Eels and adversity. Down 12-0 in a flash, players dropping like flies, a thrashing was staring them in the face. Neil Henry must accept the plaudits for continually getting the best out of his team and his players should take a bow, for buying into the culture, and showing such resilience. The Titans never gave up, played attractive footy and deserved the win. I’m not sure who’s fit to back up next week, Neil Henry himself, might have to dust off the boots and start stretching the hammies.
Brad Arthur must be staring at the screen, as he tortures himself reviewing the loss to the Titans, wondering what happened. What happened was Corey Norman didn’t play! Norman has become one of the NRLs supreme play makers and his absence was influential in the result. The Eels lost their way after a flying start and then inexplicably lost the plot, Parramatta were all over the shop like a drunk stumbling through Church Street Mall at midnight. No Norman, no direction, no win. Are the Eels a one-man team? Expect Norman to run onto the field next week with a harmonica in his mouth, drum strapped on his back and cymbals between his knees!
Super Saturday turned up some quality fare, none better than the Panthers Roosters clash. It was a cracking contest between two sides destined for finals footy. Unfortunately for the Panthers the match was decided by poor officiating. The Roosters match winner was a brilliant try to the impressive Michael Gordon but left a sour taste in the mouth as it was clear to all bar the touch judge that the pass from Latrell Mitchell to Daniel Tupou, that set the Roosters away, was forward. The touchy was two feet away and in line with it! He had also missed an obvious foot on the line by Tupou earlier in the game. The NRL is an all-inclusive game and it’s great to see them employ an official who has sight problems, maybe if the ball had a bell inside it would help him locate it better? What was more amazing was referees boss Tony Archer actually admitted it was the wrong call! There’s a first time for everything…
I love watching this bloke play! The Peach has had a brilliant start to the season and yet again played a blinder. Pound for pound he would be the strongest player in the competition and exhibited this with the power he displayed to ward off much bigger men to score in the corner against the Roosters. So elusive as well, with the final play of a pulsating game, he dodged, weaved and stepped past at least 3 or 4 players and was only stopped from scoring the match winner by a coat hanger, a borderline high tackle that could have ended with the Panthers being awarded a match tying penalty. Peachey is a pure natural footballer, always smiling playing as if he’s down the park with his mates. He can also play multiple positions and would not look out of place coming off the bench for NSW in this year’s Origin series. If given the chance, I know one thing he wouldn’t let the Blues down.
Sea Eagles Soar
Typical Manly, under fire from all sides and within, the Sea Eagles ventured north and produced a massive upset, whooping the weary and wounded Cowboys. Two golden point encounters in a row took their toll and once the Sea Eagles had flown the Cowboys tried valiantly to respond but the gas tank was empty. Embattled Manly coach Trent Barrett would be so proud of the spirit shown and football produced. Daly Cherry-Evans sizzled and Tom Trbojevic dazzled, add his name to the NSW Origin chances, now numbering about 54, after the past ten years of Maroon dominance it still may not be enough. The paper-thin Eagles defence of last week was replaced with a brick wall, there was no way the Cowboys were breaching this level of commitment. The wolves surrounding Sea Eagles HQ have been kept at bay for another week but Barrett will be hoping the house is not made of straw.
Is it too early to write the Cowboys off as premiership winners? Tired and down on troops due to injuries, they just didn’t have the spark or quality to match Manly. Players will return, add Jason Taumalolo and Lachlan Coote to any side and they’ll improve, but the major worry is the season ending knee injury to Matt Scott. Much of the Cowboys momentum come off his and Taumalolo’s massive hit ups. Scott also comes up with big plays when the side needs it and his experience will leave a gaping hole come September. Add Jonathan Thurston dragging his ageing body through another draining representative season and it makes things hard for the North Queenslanders. Look to players like Coen Hess and Michael Morgan to step up, take more responsibility and exert more influence on proceedings as the long season progresses.
My eyes misted over after George Burgess launched his elbow into the face of Mitch Barnett as the Knights Bunnies clash turned momentarily feral. I time travelled back as fond memories of league outlaws Bob Cooper, Mark Geyer and the most infamous of all Les Boyd washed over me like the magic sponge from the 1980s. It was another era where you walked onto the field looking like your Scanlan’s footy card and walked off with your face resembling a Picasso painting. “What do you need to do to get sent off?” howled the keyboard warriors! Apparently, Burgess needed to disconnect the head from the neck. Harden up millennials, it was just a glancing blow, Tommy Raudonikis used to slap Dallas Donnelly harder in the change rooms at Lidcombe Oval warming up! In Burgess’s defence, he had just had an unauthorised inspection of his hairy bean bags and on being asked what his pain level was, instead of using words decided to use sign language – elbow meaning “about 9”. Which is about the number of weeks Big George would have got if he’d caught the elbow flush.
What is it about the nation’s capital that disagrees so much with the Wests Tigers? The combined score from the past two seasons playing in Canberra stands at 106-12 to the Raiders. What must be troubling Tigers fans is the lack of fight shown the past fort night. Once the dam wall breaks, the Tigers can’t even be bothered filling sand bags. A blistering start to the season is coming undone and the halves Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses need to stand up and deliver. The rest of the side just need to tackle! They cannot just blame Jason Taylor. Troubling times in Tiger town.
Dragons Smash Up Derby
Talking upsets, this was one of the biggest of the round. The Dragons came out fired up and blew out of the blocks and basically blasted the Sharks out of the contest by the orange break. Derbies in any sport, in any part of the world are special. Form guides are thrown out the window, emotions take over and whoever desires it most usually salutes at full time. The Dragons are now 2 from 3 and yet again confounding tipsters, experts and their passionate fans. Bottle the effort and performances from rounds 1 and 3 and they’re a big finals chance. The problem with the Dragons is they are just as likely to perform next week like a one-armed violinist, produce a performance that will have your neighbour’s dog howling all night.
Each match the NRL gladiators are released from the bowels under the stadium and unleash hell on each other for 80 minutes. Bodies put on the line without fear of consequence, the collisions like car crashes! How can they keep this up for 26 rounds? Is it any wonder we are seeing such a large injury toll already? Players bash and belt each other, then in true league fashion, after the final whistle have an on-field cuddle and a chat about US foreign policy in the Middle East, while the faithful form a circle, kneel and pray, blessed their bodies are still in one piece! The physios will earn their money as the players need more rubbing and manipulating than takes place at the Happy Camper exotic massage parlour.