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One burning question for every NRL club (part two)

Shaun Johnson of the Warriors is hit high by Ben Lowe of the Rabbitohs on day two of the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines rugby league tournament at Eden Park in Auckland on 16 February 2014. Photo: www.photosport.co.nz
Expert
18th March, 2014
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2099 Reads

Despite being just two rounds into the 2014 NRL season, it’s never too early to put clubs under the microscope.

Yesterday we posed a burning question for eight clubs in the NRL. Today, we finish with the other eight teams.

North Queensland Cowboys – Is Johnathan Thurston the best player in the game?
Before I’m abused by Roarers for going overboard after just two rounds of football, it’s only fair to point out that this question has been asked well before this season.

Based on JT’s performances so far, we may be about to witness the electric superstar’s best season. Which, considering his body of work, would be an impressive feat.

His attacking instincts are without peer in the NRL, and it’s not unreasonable to anoint him the very best player in the competition, such is his influence over a game.

Parramatta Eels – What was that noise?
That thud you heard on Saturday night was Parramatta landing back to earth. After an impressive display against the Warriors in Round 1, the Eels were handed a reality check at the hands of the Sydney Roosters.

Though Parra played relatively well in the first half – and had a try go begging just before halftime – they were put to the sword by the defending premiers in the second half, losing 56-4. One loss is nothing to panic about, but the plaudits for Brad Arthur’s defensive schemes should be a little quieter this week.

Penrith Panthers – Should the club have sacked James Roberts?
While I completely understand the need to discipline players and uphold standards within a football club, part of me believes that clubs have a greater responsibility than just the reputation of their ‘brand’.

As a repeat offender, Roberts clearly has a problem with alcohol, but at just 21 years of age, perhaps the club should attempt to help him, rather than cut him loose. Of course, the flip side is that the club actually has tried to help him, and at some point Roberts needs to take responsibility for his own actions.

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Tricky question, and I don’t really know what the answer is.

South Sydney Rabbitohs – We good?
Manly quite rightly received a lot of kudos for their gutsy win on Friday night, but I don’t think anyone came away from that game thinking the Bunnies’ bubble had burst. Souths were never going to win every game this season, and even in a loss, showed just how good of a football team they are.

I still believe they are the team to beat this year, and I think they showed more potential in their loss than they did in their very impressive win over the Roosters. Go figure.

St George Illawarra Dragons – Is Gareth Widdop eligible for NSW?
Fair question to ask, and many people have posed it to me after the Dragons five-eighth’s impressive start to the season. Sadly he’s English, fellas, but nice try anyway.

After being overshadowed by the Storm’s big name players while down in Melbourne, Widdop is now showing what he is capable of with extra responsibility and the ball in his hands more often.

Seriously, though, what are the adoption rules like in New South Wales?

Sydney Roosters – Were reports of their death exaggerated?
Granted, it was only the Parramatta Eels, but the Roosters put their disappointing opening to the season against the Bunnies behind them by completely decimating their opposition on the weekend.

After a relatively tight first 40 minutes, the Chooks turned on the afterburners immediately after the break, rushing in three tries before I’d even finished my half-time snack. And they did it without their best player.

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Let’s not write off their back-to-back premiership hopes just yet, okay?

New Zealand Warriors – Does the team think defence is ‘da thing around da oval’?
The Warriors started 2013 very slowly, and despite making a spirited run towards the end of the season they’d given up too much ground to ever fully recover.

There was plenty of noise around the club this year that they couldn’t afford another slow start, yet unfortunately after two rounds that’s exactly where they find themselves.

It’s not necessarily the fact the team has lost its first two games, it’s the manner in which they’ve been beaten. Put bluntly, they have not looked good, giving up over 30 points to two teams not exactly expected to run up big scores in 2014.

Wests Tigers – Could James Tedesco be a future Origin player?
It’s probably too big of an ask for the Tigers fullback to earn a call-up for Blues this season, but I don’t think it’s crazy to suggest that he could be a future Origin player, or perhaps even be asked into camp this year.

Tedesco has brilliant pace, good size, and fantastic attacking skills. His defensive positioning is still a work in progress, but one simply cannot deny his attacking instincts and ability to sniff out a try.

A player for defences, and selectors alike, to keep an eye on.