The NRL season is starting to heat up and after three weeks of competition, we are down to just two undefeated teams with the Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters hanging at the top. It was another big weekend of action, with a pair of sin-bins and some upsets headlining proceedings.
Use the sin bin consistently, or get rid of it all together
It’s hard to know what to make of the Knights and Rabbitohs game, and not just the result. The sin bin was wheeled out twice, with George Burgess sent away to think about his elbowing actions, before Trent Hodkinson was handed the same fate for backchat late in the game.
Let’s deal with the Hodkinson one first. Newcastle, needing to score urgently lost a scrum against the feed and Hodkinson had no problems telling referee David Munro exactly what he thought with the one-liner “you just cost us the game”.
Calling a referee something bordering on a cheat without actually using the word is never acceptable but it’s hard to remember many instances of a player being sent off the park for backchat.
It took some serious thinking to work out the last time a player was sent, and that came during the Good Friday clash in 2015 between the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs, but even then James Graham should have also been in the bin but was allowed to stay.
Sending Hodkinson on Saturday sets a worrying precedent that is unlikely to be held over the course of the season, and again you have to wonder where the consistency is.
As for Burgess, it was a lot more clear cut that he should have been sin-binned, with many advocating he should have been sent for an early shower. What Burgess did was completely unacceptable, but then, so was what Sam Thaiday did on Thursday against Melbourne.
Thaiday was allowed to keep his spot on the field, although since has been fined by the NRL. Burgess though, was sent packing.
If the sin bin is going to be used, then for the love of footy make it a consistent process.
Local derby on Sunday at 6:30pm? No, no, no, no, no
I try to keep my gripes with officials and scheduling out of my articles, but it looks like we are going to kill two birds with one stone.
What genius decided a Cronulla Sharks versus St George Illawarra Dragons local derby should be played at 6:30pm on a Sunday night?
Seriously, it doesn’t require much explanation, does it? Even a Saturday night timeslot would have better suited a game like this.
While we are at it, don’t get me started on the Friday Round 10 clash at 6pm.
Billy’s back, but the pressure starts next week
Billy Slater might have made his return in a winning effort on Thursday night, but the pressure for one of the best fullbacks the game has ever produced will really ramp up next week.
The Storm came out of the win over the Broncos with a few key injuries, including Cameron Munster. That’s a major set back for the club, and will put the pressure on Slater to step up and perform from next week, as well as handing a fulltime role to Ryley Jacks – at least until Munster is fit and ready to go again.
Jacks has been solid, but playing in a fill-in role is different to becoming a focal part of the side for the next month.
As for Slater, his return was solid but far from spectacular. He made a couple of errors, and did some things that hurt the Storm’s chances against the Broncos.
He had some good touches as well, and it’s hard to expect anything more from someone who has been rubbed out of the game for the last 12 months.
The problem with Munster being out though, is that Slater is now required to play the full 80 minutes and do it well if the Storm are to keep their undefeated start to the season going.
Why can’t the Warriors just be good at playing footy?
I would hate to be a Warriors supporter. Anyone who does follow the Auckland-based club must have been ripping their hair out on Friday as they crashed and burned at the hands of the Bulldogs.
Their attack was completely incompetent. Scratch that, it was only marginally better than the Dragons of 2016, and we all know how dreadful that was.
No matter what they tried – and let’s be honest – it wasn’t a whole lot – they didn’t look like cracking the Bulldogs line and quite rightly lost the game in a canter.
Shaun Johnson had a few bright spots, but didn’t get involved in the game nearly enough, while the loss of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck clearly hurt the club. Ata Hingano, to this point looks out of his depth and the forwards have been dominated in the last two rounds.
Simply put, if the Warriors are going to make any sort of run they have a lot to work on.
Are the Titans better off without Hayne?
There is no questioning just how brilliant Jarryd Hayne can be. Unfortunately for him and the Titans, ‘can’ is a very key word in that sentence.
It’s been a much-maligned start to the season for Hayne who has been reportedly dumped from the leadership group and had issues committing to training.
Things didn’t get any better last week when he injured his ankle and will now miss anywhere from four to six weeks.
It could carry a silver lining for the Titans though. They looked like a different side without Hayne on the field against the Eels and came away with a win.
They had to fight hard, but they did it with class and picked up a crucial win.
The question has to be asked. If they go on a winning streak – say four in a row – does Hayne get his spot back, given the reported off-field issues?
The answer, for the short term is going to be yes. You don’t have your highest paid player sitting on the sidelines when he is fit, but if the Titans were to start losing when Hayne comes back – well, just watch this space.
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The Eels will struggle if Corey Norman cops a long-term injury
This one’s probably me shooting myself in the foot a little bit, because all you Eels fans are going to go ‘well, don’t you remember 2016?’
But no, it’s a serious issue for Parramatta and they proved that against the Titans on Friday.
Their attack lacked spark and creativity and while their defence can be a whole lot better, their attack didn’t scream top four or even top eight.
It wasn’t the Eels team we saw in the first two weeks or last year on either side of the park – the one with all the fight and determination in the world – but if Corey Norman is out, it’s hard to see them picking up wins against the best teams or making a deep run in September.
If Ricky’s mob can get consistent, the Raiders will be premiership favourites
The Raiders demolished – scratch that – destroyed the Tigers in Canberra on Saturday arfternoon and really looked to hit their stride in attack.
Jarrod Croker being back on the park certainly had something to do with it, but their attack generally flowed better. Josh Hodgson, along with halves Aiden Sezer and Blake Austin were fantastic while Jordan Rapana had a double on the Raiders lethal right side.
While the Tigers were shocking and looked lost in defence, the Raiders forwards dominated the game from the half-hour point as the Raiders ran up 40 points in the final 45 minutes of the game.
Even though they won’t score like that against the best defensive sides, their attack has enough in it for them to get over the line, with a defence that seems to be improving week to week.
Roarers, what did you make of Round 3? Drop a comment below and let us know.