The first of the Origin induced split rounds went as most do, ravaged teams fell by the wayside after clunky yet brave efforts, while those least affected brought home the bacon. The Eels found form holding off the Rabbitohs, the Warriors blitzed the Broncos, the Sharks rallied late to muzzle the Bulldogs and the Raiders survived the Roosters belated burst. In honour of the split round, old half a job Jock is delivering half a wrap!
The Water Cooler – Five Talking Points
He’s been branded selfish and a grub among other unsavoury things over the years. Whichever side of the fence you sit, when it comes to Paul Gallen and the Sharks, loyalty, leader and warrior are qualities that spring to my mind. With key players missing you just knew this giant of the Shire was going to stand up and get the job done. Through sheer determination and will to win, Gallen dragged his men over the line. Big Gal came up with two match defining moments that got the Sharks the prized points. He firstly anticipated a kick into the in goal and forced his way back into the field of play, then in the final moments, it was his humongous charge when all else were exhausted that laid the platform for the game winning field goal. I forgot one more quality of Gallen – inspirational.
Flat Track Bullies
The Warriors busted the Broncos through the middle, zipped the ball around like a hot potato, scored some wonderful tries and walloped their opposition. Are they back? Nope, nada, not on your nelly! This was a split round classic, a virtually full strength side playing against a severely weakened opposition. Origin is wonderful for the unaffected. It gives their fans something to cheer and delivers the players an unreal sense of well-being. The Warriors are league’s flat track bullies, place inferior opposition against them and the razzle dazzle appears. Send them into bat on a green top against a class side full of hardened pro’s and they turn from Warriors into wimps. Origin gives the Warriors an inflated opinion of themselves, beating the Broncos was like shooting fish in a barrel. Unlike recent efforts, is this the year they go on with it and march to the finals?
This was the Shaun Johnson we all love to see in action. Running and stepping into space at high velocity, putting players through gaps and over the try line with beautifully timed passes. Johnson also scored a magnificent solo try showcasing all his immense talents. His last play kicks were still ordinary at times but this was a vast improvement and confidence builder of a man who, at his best, is world class and a pure joy to watch. Johnson must use this Origin period to get his game on point ready for when the elite return to the NRL arena for the run home. If Johnson’s magic is shown post-Origin then we’ll be impressed and know he is back.
The Raiders met a depleted Roosters side and duly won but boy they made hard work of it. Jordan Rapana was at his elusive best, scoring two tries in the first half that only he could have. How he manages to wriggle and evade defenders is just amazing. After the break though things went astray, instead of running away with an easy win, they lost their way and ended up scraping a narrow victory. The Green Machine is not running smoothly. Ricky Stuart impressed post-match that everyone is unfairly contrasting their brilliant play of last season to this 2017 version. A sign of frustration maybe but if the Raiders want to travel further than they did last year they must improve a lot. They are relying too heavily on the Joshes, Papalii absent through Origin, and Hodgson who was excellent again out of dummy half. Blake Austin is down on form, he and Aidan Sezer need to raise their games to lift the Raiders up the ladder.
The Rabbitohs are in free fall. They needed a big performance against the Eels with their season rapidly declining and gave a tepid first half that left Michael Maguire quite rightly seething. The Bunnies were asleep in their burrow, when they finally awoke, the Eels had slipped away and the rabbits could not run them down. Once again Sam Burgess threw everything into his effort, he’s rallying his soldiers but the Bunnies just haven’t got the troops to get the job done. Maguire wants and needs more from his men but must adjust his tactics to get the campaign back from the brink, which is where it’s at now. Cody Walker returning to five-eighth, Alex Johnston to fullback and more game time for Damian Cook would be a good starting point. Operation Rising Rabbit needs to begin ASAP or the only thing rising will be steam out of the burrow as Maguire’s temperature reaches boiling point.
The main event of the rugby league season, State of Origin, begins this week. Get ready for the media to work itself into a lather working up to the climax of kick off on Wednesday. I don’t like the split rounds Origin forces the NRL into scheduling and despise how rep duty decimates sides that play in games they’re destined to lose. It rips off viewers, the paying public and fans. I’d rather see a stand-alone Origin weekend but not sure the TV Gods will look fondly at that. Origin has worked in this TV slot for years, blowing the roof off ratings and until that wanes nothing will change too much. League Central works on the: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ theory, unless it’s the Bunker. They work on the ‘bury your head in the sand’ theory for that.