It was apt that on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend that her grandson Prince Harry was in town. It was wet and wild, the weather in Sydney that is, not the late-night shenanigans by the pool at Harry’s hotel. I wonder if the Prince slipped in any games of bare bottom billiards? The round started with the Storm sneaking past the Sharks, while on Friday the Sea Eagles paddled past the Knights in torrential rain and the Broncos beat the brave Bunnies. Super Saturday saw the Warriors put a nail in the Titans coffin, the Panthers come from the clouds to rip out the Raiders hearts and the Cowboys destroy the Eels in Darwin. As expected the Roosters trashed the Tigers, while in the late game on Monday the Bulldogs milked the bounce back factor as the Dogs of War defeated a disappointing Dragons.
The Water Cooler – Ten talking Points
Return of the King
Watch out NSW, Origin II will have a totally different dynamic. Jonathan Thurston made a triumphant comeback from injury against the Eels, showing he has lost none of his magic. His artistry and influence on a game was on full display as JT set up try after try, then split the Eels and scored one himself with a trademark show and go baby! His shoulder got a decent workout with Parramatta politely offering free physio checks as their hard hit men took every opportunity to slam the great man into the hard TIO Stadium turf. In typical JT toughness, he just got up dusted himself off and went about his business. Add Thurston, Slater, and a couple of other tweaks – ok complete revamp! – and the Maroons are back in business with the best in the business back on the game’s biggest stage. It’s a business-fest and Maroon loyalty-free zone!
Slater Slaughters Sharks
Billy Slater confirmed his return to the Origin arena with some old magic to snatch victory in the top of the table clash against their current foes the Sharks. James Maloney looked to have snapped the two points with a late field goal, enter Billy the Kid. Hitting the ball at full pelt, it was all too fast for the tiring Cronulla defence and with immaculate timing slipped a brilliant ball to Felise Kaufusi who stormed through a gaping hole to harpoon the Sharks at the death. The brilliance that Slater can produce from out of nowhere will frighten any overconfidence out of the Blues and give Laurie Daley Maroon nightmares.
No Cronk, no worries. The Melbourne Storm proved what a resilient and brilliantly prepared team they are by knocking off their arch rivals in enemy territory. Without their champion playmaker steering them around the park, it was expected the Storm would struggle. Excuses aren’t in the Storm’s makeup. Craig Bellamy is the master of diligence and he had his men planned to shock and awe the Sharks. Two tries in ten minutes had the Sharks chasing the game from the get go. Never giving up is another vital ingredient to the Storm’s DNA and they came up with the killer play when it was most needed. After the Grand Final and this match, the Sharks won’t need reminding to beat Melbourne you must ride out the Storm for the full 80 minutes.
Rise of the Roosters
From second last to second on the table, it’s been quite a transformation from the Roosters since the end of 2016. While, their thrashing of the Tigers was not surprising, to do so without Boyd Cordner, Daniel Tupou and losing Jake Friend after three minutes displayed the depth the Chooks have at their disposal. Mitchell Pearce and Luke Keary ran rings around the Tigers defence that has about as much bite to it as a pensioner who’s misplaced their dentures. Connor Watson, deputising for Friend, fired off the back of the feathered feeding frenzy. The Roosters appear to be flying back to the finals unless injuries pierce the Chook pen but Trent Robinson won’t count his chickens yet as there are many twists and turns to come in this intriguing season.
Casino Royale Cock Up
Here’s a great idea, let’s place an elite rugby league team inside a casino for a week and a half as preparation for the most important Origin match in NSW recent history. Which genius at Blues HQ came up with this?!? You may as well stick a fox in a hen house, leave a kid alone in a lolly store or parachute a porn addict into Amsterdam’s Red Light district. I know they’re adults but there’s this thing called temptation, and when you place a bunch of blokes together with time on their hands, well, things happen. Anyone remember the film The Hangover, it may be fiction but anyone that’s had a boy’s weekend knows things can get pear shaped quicker than Donald Trump can tweet. Maybe this is all part of the Blues cunning plan to instil unsurpassed discipline levels? I wish them well in their quest to quell casino captivation.
Akuila Uate could convince the world Donald Trump doesn’t wear fake tan. Uate, the snake oil salesman supreme, sold Ashley Klein a dynamic dummy with his try celebration that pushed the Eagles that bridge too far for the plucky and unlucky Knights. Replays show the touch judge not passing the try line post and pointing upstairs, “Go to the Bunker Sir” in touchy speak. Yet downstairs the man that matters most, ignored his assistant, placed the whistle in his mouth and blew with all his might. Slo-mo shows Uate dropping the pill, an easy decision had they gone upstairs. Why do we have touch judges if they’re going to be treated as invisible? You may as well put a flag in Lord Buckethead’s hands or better still, hand him the whistle, he’d see better then Ashley Klein. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t go to the Bunker, it’s a tough gig for referees but Mr Klein I do profess that was a shocker.
As the Rabbitohs bravely fell to what is most likely a season ending loss, I felt nothing but sadness for Sam Burgess. Slammin’ Sam once again gave absolute everything but unfortunately walked off the field on the wrong side of the scoreboard but could hold his head high after his proud powerhouse performance. Burgess is a great leader of men. Pregame he rallied his troops, trying to rouse a Rabbitoh renaissance to save their season. Burgess as he does each week, threw himself into the battle, tackled himself to a standstill, scored one try, nearly another. Michael Maguire may have berated his Bunnies last week but Burgess is one man who should never have the muzzle of Maguire’s gun turned towards him. If cloning was kosher and allowed under the salary cap, I know which Rabbitoh I’d be replicating.
School of Hard Knocks
The Canberra Raiders heartbreaking loss to the Panthers in Bathurst has sent their season into a swirl. Seemingly having the game in the bag, two tries in the final three minutes, has left the Raiders needing to get on a rapid roll to reach the finals. Their defence had been fantastic then disintegrated with disastrous consequences. The inability to close out and win tight games is wrecking the Raiders season. Three golden point losses, a one point loss to the Broncos and now this deflating loss is the difference between Ricky Stuart’s men being outside the 8 and not on the cusp of the Top 4. The talent is there and while this loss is not fatal, until the Raiders learn how to win these cliff hangers they’ll continue to frustrate their faithful. The Green Machine has skidded off the road and is teetering on the edge of the abyss.
Set on Six
Matt Moylan’s magic manufactured the Panthers miraculous victory in Bathurst. In the shadows of Mount Panorama race track, the Panthers motored home to snatch a win that propelled them into the Top 8. Matt Moylan was magnificent again engineering the moments that has maintained the mountain men’s momentum and stalled the Green Machine. I hope Moylan loves being on the ball, because his move to five-eighth has been a masterstroke and a position he has made his own. He is a natural and in my mind the long-term NSW number 6 once James Maloney passes on the baton. Moylan has the skillset a quality half needs in his kit bag and showcased them all in a match winning performance. With Moylan behind the wheel, the Panthers are right in the race to the first weekend in October.
Kiwis Take Flight
This is the Warriors we all watch with wonder. The swagger, the swift ball movement that led to the tries that had the scoreboard ticking over like litres on a petrol bowser. The Warriors continued their remarkable record against the Gold Coast on the Glitter Strip. They own the Titans and toyed with them led by the usual suspects, Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Ryan Hoffman had a deserved day out in game 300, scoring their first try and landing the final conversion straight over the black dot. Maybe the Kiwis love the Coast of Gold as they love escaping the cold of home. Can you blame them? Auckland in the depths of winter is frightened turtle time in trouser territory. The only down side to the victory was an injury to key playmaker Kieran Foran, lose him for any length of time and the resurrection the Warriors require to reach the finals will fizzle out fast.
The Last Word
The NRL season now stalls again as Origin II triggers more dreaded split rounds. Jock looks forward to split rounds with as much excitement as an article about the love spats between John Grant and Club land. Seriously just sort it out and let’s get on with governing our great game with intelligence, professionalism, and unselfishness… I won’t hold my breath. The NRL needs a great leader.
How about we get Prince Harry on board? Make him the patron of the game! Imagine the headlines, the fun, the post-season parties?!? Harry would make a club’s Mad Monday look like an American Temperance Society Convention.
Or put Donald Trump in charge? “Let’s Make Rugby League Great Again” caps would roll off the factory floor as fast as Ashley Klein blows his whistle.
In a final act of desperation, throw open League Central’s leadership candidacy British election style. We’ll tally the votes and read them out onstage live on national TV, imagine John Grant and Todd Greenberg on stage alongside Lord Buckethead, the Monster Raving Loony Cowboy, a man in an Elmo costume and a bloke dressed as a fish finger. ‘Elmo’ received three votes in the UK election result. You’d imagine Club land would rejoice if John Grant (UKIP – United Knee-Jerk Independent Party) received that many.