NRL Week 17 Wrap

It was a round where the Grand Finalists from last season set their stalls out and fired a warning shot across the bows of the other contenders. The Melbourne Storm and the Cronulla Sharks sent shudders through the NRL with comprehensive victories against the Broncos and Roosters respectively. In the other games the Eels brought the curtain down on the Dogs season, sneaking home in gloomy golden point, the Titans continued the Dragons dismal run of despair, while the Sea Eagles outlasted the Warriors in the wet in WA. The Cowboys ran amok in the nation’s capital seriously wounding the Raiders finals aspirations. While on Sunday the Tigers clawed their way off the bottom beating the Knights and the Rabbitohs ripped the Panthers apart.

The Water Cooler – Ten Talking Points

Electrical Storm

There is still quite a way to go in this season but at present the Storm are the form side of the NRL by some way. They are playing football from a different planet. They are the sun shining, eclipsing the rest. The Storm are such an efficient, smooth running machine so easy on the eye, it makes the bottom of the competition look like they play league from Planet Pong. The Origin period has brought benefit as well as the youngsters blooded are now mixing with the big guns and the blend is irresistible. Curtis Scott was tremendous in the centres playing outside Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater. Cameron Smith, the third amigo, looked fresh as a daisy after a rest and if they can get through Origin III in good shape the Storm will set a course for the first weekend in October with wind in their sails, surging towards the title. Who can capsize them?

Magnificent Munster

Cameron Munster was brilliant against the Broncos and is a certainty to play in Origin III for the Maroons. Blake Green left sizable shoes to fill, and Munster was a bit slow to gain traction at five-eighth but he is now playing brilliant football and is a lock in the spot for years to come. He is extremely strong and tough, he can take a hit and dish one out, while with the ball he can scythe through holes, dance past a defender or deliver a sublimely timed pass for a hungry runner to post a try. Munster can do it all, he is a natural, a pure footballer. Storm fans enjoy the ride as Munster motors for the Purple Pride.

Sharp Sharks

Anyone see that coming? Roosters fans will say yes but not the manner. The Sharks are the Roosters bogey side. The Chooks haven’t beaten the men from the Shire for about four Prime Ministers. The demolition job put on the Roosters was definitive and ‘far and away’ the best performance Cronulla have given all season, way better than Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in the film of the same name. Though Kidman’s South African accent was amazing… what… it was Irish?!? Don’t remember it? Good it was as ordinary as the Roosters were, though to be fair the Sharkies were just red hot. The Sharks have been flat lately but after having their pride pricked by Manly last week at home, they bounced back and blitzed it scoring some great tries. The highlight for mine was Luke Lewis’ 90m intercept try, for the second week in a row the old fella’s legs just had enough petrol to coast to the try line. No surprise the Sharks improved as Andrew Fifita’s output increased in size and quality, good news for the Blues. Don’t write off Cronulla’s back to back chances, more of this and the Sharks will be tough to topple.

Captain Morgan

A freezing night in Canberra, a desperate home side with it all to play for, the visitors without their talisman Jonathan Thurston and a replacement, Te Maire Martin, who has been at the club shorter than Mal Meninga’s political career. Step up Michael Morgan. In JT’s absence Morgan has raised his game to another level. He has turned into the Cowboys on field leader and inspiration. Morgan was sensational against the Raiders, ripping them apart with his playmaking and strength. One try he set up for his new halves partner Martin was amazing, holding off three players before popping a beauty. Martin looked at ease alongside his new team mates and could be an extremely astute buy not only for this season but beyond, he is classy. Morgan and Martin combined beautifully in their first outing, both scoring doubles. If M&M build on this, anyone who thought the Cowboys were dead ducks after Thurston went down are plain peanuts.

Raider Rabble

They may have had some reasons for being so low on the ladder, having been on the wrong side of the ledger in countless close calls but there was no excuse for the terrible showing against the Cowboys. In a game they were expected to win, had to win to start a roll for the finals, the Raiders put in an absolute shocker. Green Machine enthusiasts will point to Josh Hodgson pulling out late and Jarrod Croker’s injury early doors but they didn’t handle the occasion and haven’t handled the expectations put upon them after last year’s brilliant charge to the GF qualifier. They left fans feeling as green as the Raiders jerseys with their sick showing. The halves yet again didn’t take control as Blake Austin went MIA while Aidan Sezer played as if he’d failed an HIA. The forwards were trampled by the Cowboys big men and basically just outplayed across the park. The tight defeats have taken their toll, the Raiders confidence looks shot and their finals chances appear the same.

Leilua Loses Plot

As the Raiders season appeared to be flushing away, the frustration got the better of Joey Leilua. A ridiculous forearm in the dying stages bought him an early shower and if I was Ricky Stuart I’d have made sure it was a cold one. Leilua’s performances of late have been symptomatic of the Raiders season, frustrated at not being able to replicate the razzle dazzle of last year, Leilua has been guilty of throwing poor passes, ill-discipline giving away a multitude of penalties piggy backing teams up field into scoring position and poor defensive reads costing points as he rushes up in a panic. On the verge of a Blues Origin jersey last year, Leilua may struggle to hold his spot for the Raiders next match! Stuart’s men are facing a desperate situation that may require drastic measures.

Api Campers

The Sea Eagles are smiling after a fantastic come from behind win against the Warriors. Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic will grab the headlines but for me the bloke who led the way was dummy half Api Koroisau. He split the Warriors up the middle on many occasions and his forays put Manly on the front foot allowing for the magic men DCE, Blake Green, Dylan Walker and Tommy Turbo to shake their money makers and finish off Koroisau’s excellent work. DCE is in rare form and has the ball singing whatever tune he plays. Trent Barrett has the Sea Eagles not only soaring but enjoying the flight into the Top 4. The team are having fun, playing an entertaining brand of footy and will fancy their chances of featuring heavily in the finals.

Tigers Triumph

It was billed as the Battle for the Wooden Spoon but Spoon Bowl turned out to be a Knightmare for Newcastle as the Tigers knifed the Knights. Luke Brooks had a day out as he played a blinder and broke Knights hearts. This was the Brooks that Tigers fans hope to see regularly, the promise and potential being fulfilled. Brooks did everything, the whole kit and caboodle was on display. Tui Lolohea had his best game in a Tigers jersey and no doubt Ivan Cleary has been working hard on his halves as they looked far more comfortable in their skin. For the Knights it was a huge occasion, a GF for the young side and they just didn’t handle the pressure. The Knights miner’s jerseys were apt as the Tigers buried them. The spoon looks to be placed in Newcastle’s second drawer down again at season’s end with the only bright light in a dim year the young rough gems Nathan Brown has unearthed that hopefully with a bit of spit and polish will shine in the future.

Rabbitoh Rampage

Don’t write off the Rabbitohs was the message from the destruction on display. The Bunnies were boiling as they came out firing and by oranges had blown the Panthers off the park. Slammin’ Sam Burgess was at his belligerent best, in everything, including a stint in the sin bin. Big Sam scored a try, set up tries with barnstorming runs, offloaded at will and just smashed anyone and anything in his path. The Rabbitohs utilised Alex Johnston’s remarkable pace and the winger was irresistible scoring 5 tries and had a 6th disallowed! Adam Reynolds had the ball on a string playing his best game for some time. Angus Crichton continued his brilliant rookie year and is following Sam Burgess’s lead. Errors were minimal, effort was maximal and the end result was exceptional. They were doing the Boogie in the Burrow, Russell Crowe was giving the thumbs up to the gladiators and Michael Maguire even managed to smile. The Bunnies are back in the race and whilst ever Sam Burgess is fit and firing they’ll give the finals a fling.

Dogs Gone                 

Add the Bulldogs to the growing list of sides bowing out of finals contention. They were gallant as usual and their attitude was brilliant, they just don’t know when to give in but the style was dire. The Bulldogs have made winning ugly a brand in season’s past, no one liked playing the Dogs of War, but it was apparent many weeks ago just getting into the grind was not going to cut the mustard this season and they have failed to adapt. The defence was good against Parramatta, in your face and tough but the attack was as clunky as ever and Des Hasler’s hair would go grey if he wasn’t using product in it with what he’s witnessed. The Bulldogs did well to scramble into golden point but the loss has surely put the curtain around their season, load the shot gun and start preparations for 2018.

The Last Word

The NRL as well as heading into a split round next weekend with Origin III looming also has split into two packs. The Eels golden point win and the Panthers loss means the gap between 8th and 9th is now 4 points, which means teams 9th and below have to get their speed skates on and pray for a Stephen Bradbury miracle hoping the teams above fall over to play finals footy. In their favour is the Dragons are sinking which may open up a spot unless Mary McGregor finds a plug and the Eels are inconsistent so have the potential to slip up and slide out.

The NRL moves into the final disruptive section of the season as the Origin series heads for an record breaking climax that will send fans on both sides of the border, ex-players, social media keyboard kooks and TV executives into an orgasmic crescendo as the ratings explode. Andrew Johns is in danger of blowing a gasket live in 100 countries if the Blues bring home the bacon, and self-combusting in glorious HD if they don’t.

Its moment like these you’re glad 3D TV didn’t take off!

Cheers,

Jock

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