Former NRL stalwart Steve Turner breaks down the weekend’s NRL action.
IT was another cracking weekend of NRL action, with plenty of scintilating tries, big hits, and standout performances from the game’s rising stars.
We’ve got all that and more in our NRL round two edition of Highs, Lows and Big Blows.
Bouncing back from last weekend’s loss the West Tigers show they’re a quality side with an away win over the Titans
Tigers glimpse future
Statues have defended better than the Titans did on a steamy Sunday afternoon on the Gold Coast. That’s the caveat. But still, it was wonderful to see the young talent of the Tigers grow in confidence as Mick Potter’s young charges put on a show. There’s been plenty of hype about teenage halfback Luke Brooks, and he started to justify some of it with some excellent touches. Clearly he’s got good footwork, a creative kicking game and the ability to bust a tackle. James Tedesco, too, gave a scintilating performance for the second straight week. The game’s highlight came when these two combined – Brooks chipping through a surprise short kick for Tedesco, the fullback gathering and putting on a kick of his own as Brooks chased through to ground the ball for an incredible try. No doubt there’s plenty more where that came from!
Richards the super boot
Wests Tigers premiership winner Pat Richards has made a sensational return to the NRL and he can now boast one of the few highlights reels that contains a line drop-out. We’ve seen a few massive re-starts in the last year or so, but they’ve often been wind assisted. On Sunday, Richards flushed a drop kick that went 72 metres on the fly, and there was barely a breath of wind to speak of. Simply stunning.
How good’s this kid?
As every week passes Anthony Milford just gets better and better. In a game that redefined the cliche ‘see-saw battle’, Milford was the difference as the Raiders got on top of the Knights in the closing stages. Every time he picked up the ball, Milford looked dangerous – twice splitting Newcastle’s defensive line for telling breaks before linking up with Jarrod Croker down the left. If you didn’t understand why the Raiders have offered the 19-year-old a contract worth about $1 million-a-season to keep him from joining the Broncos, Sunday’s game should clear things up for you. He’s a match winner and will be for the next decade or more.
Nothing beats pure speed
As an NRL fan, there’s so many different aspects of the game to sit back and enjoy. But not much gets you on the edge of your seat like a hundred metre foot race after an unexpected line-break. And when it’s Brett Morris who splits the defence, it’s shut the gate time. After picking up a kick from the Warriors in his own in-goal, Morris got through some slipshod defence and pinned his ears back. What an athlete. What a try!
Most think that 2014 will be Anthony Minichiello’s swansong and after an ordinary start to the season in round one, there were some critics who were quick to say the flying fullback had gone on for one season too many. But a week’s a long time in football, and you should never write off a champion. On Saturday night the Roosters were back, and so was their captain, winding the clock back to score a superb hat-trick. Long may it continue.
Melbourne Storm has scored a dramatic one-point win over Penrith after Panthers halfback Peter Wallace missed a penalty goal after the siren.
Fitting milestone men
There’s not much more that can be said about Cam Smith and Billy Slater and on Saturday night they wrote another chapter in their incredible careers by playing key parts in a clutch win in milestone games. Smith broke the record for most appearances – 263 – for the Storm, and Slater notched his 250th first grade appearance. What better way to celebrate than on the right side of a cliffhanger – the other member of the Big Three slotting the winning field-goal for the Storm against Penrith.
No Stewarts, no worries
Plenty of people were willing to write Manly off against the Rabbitohs on Friday night and for good reason. No Stewarts, no Taufua, front-row depth tested. For the Sea Eagles though, it was just another challenge. Just another chance to prove their toughness. And that’s what they did. Has there ever been a team to thrive so much in adversity?
Broncos, Dragons dump on doomsday predictions
Two weeks ago the Broncos were viewed as prime candidates for the wooden spoon, and Steve Price and Anthony Griffin led the market as coaches most likely to face the axe. Now, both are two from two and have shown plenty of signs to suggest that they’re capable of making the finals this season. How quickly things change.
Big names keep falling
It’s been a torrid start to the season on the injury front and there were more big-name casualties in round two. Last week it was Paul Gallen, Brett Stewart and Darius Boyd who hit early season snags, and in round two they were joined on the sidelines by Josh Papalii (ankle), Chris Lawrence (hamstring) and Greg Bird (shoulder). Let’s hope the carnage slows a little in the next couple of weeks.
Eels, Titans, Warriors woeful
For Parramatta supporters a convincing round one victory is already looking like a false dawn after the Eels were fairly thumped by last season’s premiers. But if things again look bleak in Parramatta, the Warriors are on life support. They’ve started with a soft draw and have still had more than 30 points put on them in both rounds – by the Eels and the Dragons, two teams that were predicted to be bottom-four by many before the season started. If things don’t turn quickly, Matt Elliott could well be in the Centrelink queue before the end of March. As for the Titans, well the less said about their limp performance against the Tigers in front of a home crowd, the better.
Manly erased the shadows of last week’s disappointing defeat to Melbourne, sealing a narrow two point win over South Sydney in Gosford on Friday night.
How did he miss?
The post-script has been all about Manly’s resilience, but the storyline could have been very different had Adam Reynolds done what he would normally do 100 times out of 100 and kick a simple conversion from next to the posts. Somehow, Reynolds – a very reliable kicker – managed to miscue and it could hardly have been more costly. The losing margin? Two points. If Reynolds kicks the goal, the Rabbitohs may just have had a different result.
Why all the empty seats?
The NRL copped plenty of heat after round one due to worrying crowd figures and there was more to be concerned about in round two. While Sydney was the focus last weekend, this time it was Gosford and the Gold Coast responsible for some fairly average crowds. The fans can be forgiven for staying away on Sunday when extreme temperatures made sitting in the grandstand for the Titans-Tigers match fairly unpalatable – a crowd of 12,000 the result. But given the Central Coast has been pushing to have its own NRL team, they’ve got to do better than 15,000 when two of the best teams in the competition come to town.
Memo to the NRL – Queensland’s hot
As Todd Greenberg told us last week, putting together the NRL draw is an exercise of vast complexity. There’s a lot to think about and stakeholders all over the place pulling in different directions. But let’s cut to the chase: there’s no excuse for scheduling a game in Queensland in the middle of the day at the end of summer. At the end of the day it’s the product and the fans that suffer – the Titans’ flat performance on Sunday afternoon proved that. It’s this simple; schedule night games in Queensland for the first four to six rounds and the heat becomes a non-factor.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson has slammed Eels forward Darcy Lussick for a reckless shot on Jared Waerea-Hargreaves on Saturday night and has also taken aim at referees who failed to send him off.
Lussick brain explosion
It wouldn’t be news to any NRL fan who remembers the Battle of Brookvale that Darcy Lussick can be a bit of a hot head, but there was no excuses for his unsavoury hit on Jared Waerea-Hargreaves on Saturday night. Apparently the two props are mates off the field, so you’ve got to wonder why the Parramatta enforcer was lining JWH up from 10 metres away. Lussick will serve a lengthy suspension, and so he should. As Trent Robinson said after the game, the hit was a send-off, and it should have been dealt with that way by the referee.
No need for it, Choc
Speaking of hot heads, Anthony Watmough used to be the NRL’s poster boy for this tag. In recent seasons his image has changed to a certain extent as he’s tried to remodel himself as a family man, but it won’t take long for that worm to turn again if Watmough keeps dishing out cheap shots like he did on Friday night. With play just about stopped following a knock-on, Rabbitohs forward Joe Picker dived on the ball, before copping one on the chops for his troubles as Watmough dived on top of him late and smacked him in the face with an open palm. It threatened to cause tensions to boil over, and Watmough may yet cop a suspension as a result.
Sad day for the game
After two years spent in and out of hospitals and rehab rooms in an attempt to re-start his NRL career after a shocking injury, Jharal Yow Yeh finally decided to hang the boots up on Monday. The 24-year-old was one of the game’s best young players when he suffered a shocking compound fracture injury to his ankle playing for the Broncos against South Sydney over in Perth. At the time, Yow Yeh was an incumbent on a wing for Queensland and Australia. His road to recovery has been long and torturous and it’s sad to see it come to an end.