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Nine talking points from NRL Round 15

Scott Pryde Roar Guru

By Scott Pryde, Scott Pryde is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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44 Have your say

    It was a week for the future in the NRL, with plenty of players announcing themselves in a big way. Despite only four games being played with no Origin stars, there was plenty of intriguing action, and we go over it all in this week’s NRL talking points.

    Melbourne vs North Queensland with no Origin players – seriously?
    Unfortunately, we are starting this week with a negative. I understand the NRL schedule is a complex beast, but whoever put the Storm and Cowboys on a State of Origin weekend has a lot of questions to answer.

    The NRL aren’t in charge of their own schedule, and I get that – but it still needs to be approved by them and all the clubs. How everyone could sit around and allow this to happen is beyond a joke.

    If anyone genuinely thought Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Michael Morgan and Cooper Cronk weren’t going to be playing Origin at the start of the year, identify yourselves in the comments. Add to that Michael Morgan, Billy Slater, Gavin Cooper and Tim Glasby – there was a heap of talent watching on from Origin camp.

    And it’s not good enough.

    The NRL take control of their schedule in 2018, and have to ensure rubbish like this doesn’t happen. Simply put, this has the potential to be a huge contest, and without those stars it’s hard to get people interested.

    Full credit to the youngsters who stood up (more on that soon) and put on an amazing game that went to Golden Point, but as a League fan, you can’t help but feel you’ve been robbed with a capital ‘R’.

    North Queensland Cowboys NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/Michael Chambers)

    And then there were 13
    It was pretty obvious to anyone paying the smallest bit of attention that the Knights and Tigers were already done heading into this round.

    Throw the Titans on that pile now after their capitulation against South Sydney on Friday. With just four wins, their finals hopes are dashed realistically – eight from ten isn’t going to happen for the unluckiest club in the league.

    As much as they have continually fought and stayed in games, they just lack the killer instinct to win that many games.

    Ashley Taylor and Kane Elgey will be great, but they aren’t consistently brilliant yet. While they won’t make the finals, a strong finish and building cohesion will be important leading into next year.

    The Rabbitohs are the next team on the shelf as we start to eliminate teams from September before we are out of June…

    Gold Coast Titans player Ashley Taylor


    Souths keep their season alive, but barely
    The Rabbitohs picked up an important win on Friday and moved two points ahead of the Titans, meaning they need seven from ten to make the finals.

    In all seriousness, that looks about as realistic as the Titans winning eight, but what the Rabbitohs do is take some momentum out of the game.

    They were rubbish early and have been inconsistent all season, but when they turned it on against the Titans with Sam Burgess watching from the sidelines they looked like a good football team again.

    More of that and they might shoot up the ladder towards the required 28 points, but it’s a long, long way away and so much as a single loss in the next month can probably resign them alongside the Knights, Tigers and Titans.

    Robbie Farah South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    Let’s get consistent using the sin bin
    Two incidents on the weekend probably warranted the sin bin, but only once was it used. First it was Ben Hampton surviving, then it was Ava Seumanafagai in his hundredth game being told to tell his story walking.

    Hampton may have a case to say he tried to avoid, but realistically, he didn’t make an effort to avoid contact. In golden point, it’s hard enough to get a penalty, let alone get someone sent to the sin bin, but when he ran through and impeded a 20-metre tap trying to get back onside, it should have been penalised at least.

    It has been a penalty all year, was one last year and the year before that. The rule is black and white – unless you’re a referee in a Golden Point scenario.

    Not even half an hour later in the next game, Seumanafagai impeded Cronulla captain Paul Gallen from taking a quick tap, following a penalty about 25 metres out.

    It too was a sin bin, and there is no doubting the ruling the officials made. But when one was let go on the same night, you have to question where the consistency is.

    It’s a bad look for the game and isn’t going to appeal to the casual fan when one game has one rule, and the next another.

    I’ve been an advocate for increased use of the sin bin, but that was poor at best. Either be consistent or don’t use it at all.

    It’s not a matter of if, but when Angus Crichton plays State of Origin
    Wow. Double wow. What a breakout game from Angus Crichton.

    The young South Sydney backrower has been among their best all season, but he turned on the fireworks against the Titans.

    Three tries were just the headline stat for a brilliant night of work. He also had 200 metres from 16 runs, 27 tackles and four linebreaks. That’s a superb game by anyone’s standards and for the youngster, State of Origin beckons in his future.

    He hasn’t got the wraps he should have so far this season playing in an inconsistent (to be kind) Sydney Rabbitohs outfit. Crichton has constantly been a headache for opposition defensive lines and while there are still elements of his game that must develop, he is technically sound, reads the game well and keeps up with the pace of first grade easily.

    The Blues would be foolish not to have him in their future plans, even at this early stage.

    The Dragons need to remember what worked and play direct
    It’s worrying for fans of the Red V, but they have lost five of their last seven. Sure there have been injuries – and key ones at that – but their level of play hasn’t been good enough.

    In that losing streak was the Anzac Day game and a match hosting Melbourne, but it’s the last two weeks that will concern them the most.

    While their defence was good last week against Canterbury, it wasn’t so against Parramatta this week, and a running theme has been the Dragons showing levels of impatience.

    What worked for them early in the season was playing direct – allowing their ridiculously good forward pack featuring Paul Vaughan, Russell Packer, Tyson Frizell, Jack De Belin and Tariq Sims off the bench to run it through the middle, and then having Cameron McInnes and Gareth Widdop go to work.

    That hasn’t been happening for the last fortnight though. They have gone wide early in the tackle count and then tried to work out why they can’t clear their own end and find themselves on the back foot.

    The Dragons must get back to what was working for them – what made them arguably the most offensively dangerous team in the competition.

    The Dragons play Newcastle next week and almost must run up a cricket score to get some form and confidence back in their attack – and it starts with the forwards.

    Tyson Frizell St George Illawarra Dragons NRL Rugby League 2016

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    How do the Sharks continue to win?
    Five Origin players missing and two tries in the final seven minutes after making a slew of errors early in the game. How on Earth do Cronulla keep doing it?

    Granted, the Tigers aren’t a great opposition, but they came to play on Saturday against the Sharks, and it was a fight to the death.

    In the end, it took the Sharks producing some brilliant attack at the back end to get it done.

    They have been slow out of the gates all season and are yet to play a good 80 minutes of football, but have somehow found a way to be in the top four.

    I feel like a broken record talking about the Sharks, because what else do you say? They are playing poor footy, mixed with some bright moments and winning more games than most sides. It doesn’t add up. It isn’t supposed to be this easy to come from behind week after week after week.

    Chad Townsend has a big part to play in most of the Sharks victories this year, but more than anything it’s experienced in the forwards. Even without Andrew Fifita, it’s a veteran pack led by Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Chris Heighington and Matt Prior.

    The later two aren’t household names, but they are players every club has to have. Blokes who turn up and do a job week in and week out, and they are a big reason the Sharks keep winning.

    Corey Norman’s kicking game is the key for Parramatta
    While we have already mentioned the Dragons woes in this article, it’s worth having a chat about Parramatta and in particular Corey Norman.

    The Eels were really good against the Dragons, controlling the game from the outset despite being unable to buy a penalty and having less than half of the possession throughout the game.

    They still managed to get on top behind some brilliant defence at times when the Red V looked like creating something, and with Norman picking the perfect option nearly all the time and receiving good support from Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson, their attacking options were fantastic all game.

    Norman is the key though. He was in complete control, setting plays up and putting the Dragons under pressure for the full 80 minutes.

    After a tough return from injury last week in Darwin, fans of the blue and gold will be happy to see Norman return to form.

    Corey Norman Parramatta Eels NRL 2016

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    The Storm have found their future leaders
    Mark the names Cameron Munster, Curtis Scott, Brodie Croft and Brandon Smith in your notebook. They are the four men who are going to carry the Melbourne Storm into the future.

    With Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater all away on Origin duty this week, the quartet stood up and delivered for Melbourne, with Croft stealing the show.

    His poise in golden points was sensational. Most halves with ten times his experience would have gone for a field goal on the first play, but you can tell he is learning from Cronk.

    The chip kick that forced the drop out couldn’t have been executed any better. He then calmly slotted the field goal early in the set – something teams can learn from instead of waiting for five plays.

    While it was Croft who stole the show, Brendon Smith was brilliant off the bench against his old club, while Munster ran for almost 200 metres.

    Scott was in the centres, but is a versatile backline player and has earned big wraps through juniors and reserve grade.

    Melbourne are building for the future, and it looks ominous for the rest of the competition, especially when you remember they will continue to learn from some of the best players rugby league has to offer.

    Roarers, what did you make of Round 15? Drop a comment below and let us know.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1,800 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.

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    The Crowd Says (44)

    • June 18th 2017 @ 6:25pm
      Johnybulldog said | June 18th 2017 @ 6:25pm | ! Report

      Look forward to this read every Sunday Scotty,thanks mate…gots me a perfect round woo hoo!

      • Roar Guru

        June 18th 2017 @ 6:44pm
        Scott Pryde said | June 18th 2017 @ 6:44pm | ! Report

        Cheers JB,

        Glad you’re enjoying them.

        I got 2… That’s rubbish. Really should have gone Eels and Bunnies. I tipped Dragons because, heart before head and all that, but I don’t understand what compelled me to tip the Titans.

        • June 18th 2017 @ 8:26pm
          TigerMike said | June 18th 2017 @ 8:26pm | ! Report

          20-20 hindsight
          That’s OK
          I had Tiges + 10 so I won
          They embarrassed not only me but themselves

    • June 18th 2017 @ 7:49pm
      Bellamorey said | June 18th 2017 @ 7:49pm | ! Report

      17000 at aami park would suggest that storm fans didn’t mind the absences. Maybe the timing of games has more sway on crowd interest.

      • Roar Guru

        June 19th 2017 @ 10:28am
        Epiquin said | June 19th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        Agreed. I think the affect of Origin on the NRL season is over-played. 17k at AAMI Park for Storm v Cows and a full house for Sharks and Bulldogs before Origin 1. It’s a great opportunity to see future stars and Saturday was a cracker of a game.

        • June 19th 2017 @ 12:21pm
          Albo said | June 19th 2017 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

          Spot on Epiquin ! If a club can’t survive without their stars for a couple of games each year, they aren’t recruiting properly ! Origin time is the perfect time for Clubs to show just how well they are managing their operations and their rosters. The Storm demonstrated again just how far in front they are of most other Clubs in their recruitment & development processes with Saturday nights showcase of emerging talent, which we wouldn’t have seen without the SOO taking out a the stars for a couple of games.

          • Roar Guru

            June 19th 2017 @ 1:12pm
            Epiquin said | June 19th 2017 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

            Exactly. If a team misses the 8 because they had 1 game without their stars, they don’t deserve to be there.

            “But it hurts the product…”

            Well I saw some pretty good games over the weekend. And I’ve seen some real stinkers in other times of the year….

    • June 18th 2017 @ 8:25pm
      Duncan Smith said | June 18th 2017 @ 8:25pm | ! Report

      You’re right about the Storm rookies. All those four young guys had great games. In hindsight, I’m almost glad the rep players were out, because watching that game was like a preview of what the Storm will look like in 2020.

      Credit to the Cowboys also – they really stepped up without their origin reps. They’re a tough and skillful side.

      • June 19th 2017 @ 10:46am
        bbt said | June 19th 2017 @ 10:46am | ! Report

        Agree as well. Rather then see the future stars dribbled out one at a time, they were there in numbers at AAMI Park. Great atmosphere and a great game – what’s the complaint again?

      • June 19th 2017 @ 11:29am
        Big mick said | June 19th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

        Could easily have been a GF Preview – Storm should comfortably finish the regular season 38 points plus which will secure a top 2 birth thus 2 home semi’s.
        It will be Storm V either Sharks Roosters or Cowboys in the big one.

        The young hooker and halfback are future stars for sure but Brandon Smith well and truly first grade ready now in my opinion. Somewhat similar to Isaac Luke ( but without the errors! )

        Both will afford Bellamy the luxury / option of resting Cam Smith and Cooper Cronk for the business end of the season . Be interesting to see if Brandon Smith makes the interchange bench in the Storm side selected for the finals – he certainly is an X factor and adds another dimension when he come’s on with his speed and direct running and his linking up with Cronk / Slater/Munster against tiring forwards would be another advantage for the Storm in my opinion.

        • June 19th 2017 @ 11:44am
          Pomski said | June 19th 2017 @ 11:44am | ! Report

          Storm have been making sure that Smith’s played lock at QCup and he’s excelled at that too.

        • Roar Rookie

          June 19th 2017 @ 12:41pm
          Joe said | June 19th 2017 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

          Yes, Brandon Smith really changed the game when he came on. Just went straight through the middle under a couple of tackles and made the break that started the Storms comeback. Then scored the try from close range, his second try from close range in two games. That had the Cowboys forwards (Fensom) watching him closely near the line which allowed Kaufusi a one-on-one with Ray Thompson for the Storms last try. I thought he had as big an influence on the game that Croft and Scott had.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 18th 2017 @ 8:44pm
      Joe said | June 18th 2017 @ 8:44pm | ! Report

      There is a reason I’ve been saying the Sharks should be favorites for the double and that not only their starting squad but their depth. While they have been as affected as Melbourne look at the players they brought in as replacements. Capewell, Lee, Mortimer, Latimore and Paulo all would be playing first grade for other clubs and are experienced first graders. Brown has played at international level. Not forgetting Segeyaro who is injured. They have serious depth across the park should any of their frontline go down. Compare to what the Storm had to call up, three 19 year olds and a first timer in Dean Britt. Young Tonumaipaia wouldn’t get a first grade gig anywhere else, even the Knights wouldn’t find a place for him in their backline. They are going to be great in the future but you wouldn’t want them playing a finals series against seasoned campaigners. The only other club with that kind of depth are the Roosters who with the attacking firepower they have can beat any team on their day.

      • June 18th 2017 @ 10:09pm
        Alex L said | June 18th 2017 @ 10:09pm | ! Report

        Sharks also have pretty much no injuries, which sure is helping their cause. Plus enough personnel changes to force an alteration in their style of play year to year meaning they aren’t just trying to repeat their 2016 tactics.

        • Roar Guru

          June 19th 2017 @ 7:15am
          The Barry said | June 19th 2017 @ 7:15am | ! Report

          That’s a really interesting point about the player turnover.

          Who would have thought losing two of the teams key spine players would benefit the team in the long run? But yeah it stops them resting on their laurels.

          If they can get it together and play 80 minutes instead of starting at the 25 minute mark they will be very tough to beat.

          • June 20th 2017 @ 8:48am
            mushi said | June 20th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

            They have a touch of the 14-15 roosters to them. good enough to win games they play badly but they’d want to start playing well to repeat.

      • Roar Guru

        June 18th 2017 @ 11:50pm
        Mr X said | June 18th 2017 @ 11:50pm | ! Report

        Penrith certainly also have great depth, particularly in their back line but of course they have had to sacrifice that this week letting go of Hiku and TMM.

    • June 18th 2017 @ 10:07pm
      Alex L said | June 18th 2017 @ 10:07pm | ! Report

      I don’t agree the lack of directness is the Dragons problem so much as their lack of support for their ball carriers; they’re going not just one out, but obviously so with no extra men pushing up beside the man with the footy — the number of times their runners got picked out and whacked by the Eels was indicative of the Eels knowing the ball wasn’t going anywhere.

    • June 19th 2017 @ 5:49am
      Nico said | June 19th 2017 @ 5:49am | ! Report

      Agreed, Storm/Cowboys should be one of the season’s blockbusters, not to mention a potentially final contest between two of the game’s greats in Cronk and Thurston, whoever put it on origin weekend needs their head checked

      • June 19th 2017 @ 8:02am
        The eye said | June 19th 2017 @ 8:02am | ! Report

        yeah,but from a clubs perspective if I were a cows or storm fan I’d rather play a side equally handicapped in what would have been a real 50/50 result game anyway…than lose the gift 2 points against Newcastle,Warriors or Titans..

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