The Beanie for Brain Cancer Round was brilliantly supported by the rugby league community as only it can. It was also a huge round as it was the last chance for Origin hopefuls to throw their hat in the ring for selection and for teams to grab a precious pair of points before the NRL gets thrown into glorious ratings breaking chaos. The Sharks sunk the Cowboys, the Dragons demolished the dire Warriors, and the Broncos broke the timid Tigers. Saturday saw the Sea Eagles take down the Titans and the Raiders edge the Eels. Super Sunday began with the Panthers scampering away from the Knights, the Roosters hung on to beat the Bulldogs and the ladder leading Storm won in the wet in Perth over the Rabbitohs.
The Water Cooler – Ten Talking Points
The premiers could not be better placed coming into the Origin period. Top two and with their best football still in front of them, the Sharks are circling. The second half comeback to rein in the Cowboys was impressive, they went up a notch when they needed and took their chances. The backs looked slick when they pressed the go button, they also have another few gears to go up and if they get the timing right the Shire could be singing ‘Up Up Cronulla’ all Summer again. Purchase ear plugs if they win, it gets stuck in your head like ‘Gangnam Style’ and terrorises your senses for weeks.
Andrew Fifita is monstering the opposition and just makes his reaction to the double snubbing of the Clive Churchill Medal and Kangaroo selection all the more impressive. His metre munching marches the Sharks up field and his offloads open up opportunities. He is a genuine game breaker, Chad Townshend benefitted on Thursday following Fifita like a drover’s dog. The Sharks and Fifita are reaping the reward of the response as will the Blues hopefully. Fifita is letting his football do the talking not his wristband, the only headlines he’s creating are through stats and effort.
Dragons Back Firing
No Widdop, no Dugan, no worries. St George travelled across the ditch with hope despite a couple of recent losses and put the Warriors to the sword. Mary McGregor has the Saints playing good footy and playing for each other, the forwards are quality and trampled over the top of their disappointing opponents. Off the back of the excellent work of the Origin standard pack, the Dragons backs flayed the confidence lacking Kiwis with Kurt Mann looking more impressing each outing at five-eighth.
Warriors Worries Widen
The Warriors were woeful and have not recovered from last week’s capitulation. They were dreadful against the Dragons and Origin couldn’t have arrived at a better time as this is usually where the Warriors rise as the NRL’s top team’s talent is taken away by the game’s golden goose. Another promising season, on paper, is in danger of dissolving like Stephen Kearney’s game plan left out in a deluge. Kearney thinks the players are agreeing with his plans during tactics sessions but they’re not nodding they’re nodding off, either that or Kearney has handwriting like a doctor’s prescription, the players can’t understand it.
Shaun Johnson is not following any script and is fast turning into a Benji Marshall doppelganger. A brilliant start to his career before melting into mediocrity. His last tackle options are about as organised as a raffle run by a bunch of ice addicted headless chooks. Call me crazy but I see Johnson’s best position as fullback where he can inject himself into proceedings without the pressure of number 7 organising the show. He’s playing like he’s run out of ideas, a bit like the writing team at Police Academy who ran out of ideas midway through the first film.
Ivan Cleary welcome to the basket case that is the Wests Tigers you’ve inherited a mighty mess. The Tigers were appalling against an admittedly red hot Broncos, the Tigers attack was as pointless as the scoreboard alongside their name. Without Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses they were always going to struggle with the ball but without it the Tigers forwards bellies were exposed for what they are, soft and fluffy. They rolled over and let the Broncos stampede over them. Cleary knows the magnitude of the task confronting him. The Cleary bus is dusty and needs a good scrub and polish, if you’re a promising youngster at the Tigers, be prepared because the rest of 2017 is going to hand you opportunities to shine.
The Sea Eagles flew north without their star Tom Trbojevic, grasped the Titans with their talons and tore them to pieces. On the road, the Eagles are unbeatable this season as Trent Barrett’s pregame camps are creating a winning culture. Barrett’s boys are bonding! The much-maligned Daly Cherry-Evans, apparently on the nose with QLD Origin selectors and senior players, was sensational steering the side around with style and pulled all his amazing array of arrows out of his bag of tricks and aimed them directly at Titans hearts and possibly a few Cane Toads. The mighty Maroons have many options in the halves and on the bench but DCE would not look out of place, if not this year than in the future.
You have to admire the courage and commitment of Raiders custodian Jack Wighton. His rocks or diamonds displays mirror that of his team mates, when he’s on he’s brilliant, when he’s off he smells like that container of yoghurt that’s been hiding at the back of the fridge for the past six years creating a culture that could kill humanity. He dropped more balls than a lotto draw, but with the game on the line Wighton stood up. His beautiful quick hands released Jarrod Croker for Blake Austin’s game levelling try. Wighton then came up with two massive plays in the final two minutes, a brilliant lunging catch of a kick then a smashing tackle on a rampant try bound Tepai Moeroa secured the vital win for the Raiders. Jack is a gem, the good outweighs the bad.
The Doggies may have gone down to the Roosters but the fight shown to take the Chooks to the wire highlighted how tough the Bulldogs are. Has there ever been a more resilient club? They just never give in. They were pumped in the first stanza attacking with the fluency of an arthritic riddled octogenarian but you just knew the Bulldogs were going to bite back, and they did, almost getting away with the win. A massive call against them with a few minutes to go was crucial and the wrong call, Tony Archer has already released his now routine post-round apology statement. That won’t appease the passionate Dogs fans in the Kennel. You must respect the Bulldogs, they are like a dog with a bone, get their teeth into the grind and just cling on for dear life. You want that bone you better be ready for a scrap because the Dogs don’t give it to you easily.
The English Super League is always innovative and the Magic Weekend celebrated in Newcastle in the north is a brilliant marketing ploy that I’d love the NRL to either imitate or manipulate. The fans love it, the teams seem to revel in the party atmosphere and I’m sure the local tourist board benefits greatly from the hordes of enthusiastic league lovers who invade every year. The recent Suncorp double header was a near sell out, why not raise the bar, and have say a QLD tripleheader featuring all three QLD sides at Suncorp? It would sell out easily. Crowds are dropping especially in Sydney, let’s have a Magic Weekend at the Olympic Stadium or failing that a Dream Day and play three or four games on the same day. I reckon it’s worth a shot, it’d be great to see the stadium full of fans instead of empty blue seats.
What can I say I’m an ideas man, or a heavy borrower of someone else’s? Look it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other… at best I’m just a dreamer who loves league, at worst a league tragic who enjoys thrusting his opinion on others. Maybe Old Jock should be a shock jock?