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The NRL off-season halves shuffle

Walter Penninger Roar Guru

By Walter Penninger, Walter Penninger is a Roar Guru

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    Normally at this time of year I pick candidates for the wooden spoon, but this year I found that too difficult, as was reflected in the Round 1 results.

    My potential candidates for the wooden spoon included the Knights, Tigers, Warriors and the Titans, but all four got wins.

    It would appear that the salary cap and the off-season’s halfback shuffle has resulted in a more level playing field, whereby any team will be able to beat any other team on their day.

    In the first game of the round, between Dragons and Broncos, St George Illawarra’s win was largely attributed to the efforts of half Ben Hunt against his former team.

    After losing halfbacks Benji Marshall and Hunt, Brisbane may regret having avoided the halfback shuffle, instead relying on Kodi Nikorima and Anthony Milford – who lack game management skills – to guide them through 2018.

    The Knights were obvious beneficiaries of the shuffle, with the Roosters releasing Mitchell Pearce after acquiring Storm halfback Cooper Cronk. Pearce played strongly and iced the game in sudden death with a field-goal.

    The Roosters were a bit disjointed with Cronk at the helm, losing 10-8 to the Wests Tigers. The Tigers lost new recruit Joss Reynolds prior to the match with a hamstring injury, but could still call on Marshall to fill the gap.

    The Storm also avoided the shuffle, despite losing Cronk, and it looks like homegrown half Brodie Croft still has a lot to learn.

    Meanwhile, the Bulldogs’ new recruit Kieran Foran clearly boosted their performance.

    The Sharks picked up former Panthers half Matt Moylan and were also somewhat disjointed, unable to deliver adequate ball to their other off-season signing, Josh Dugan, in the centres. Moylan did however play positively and may be a good fit.

    For those of you in tipping competitions this level playing field is not good news, but tight games and a close competition will keep the fans coming through the turnstiles and no doubt boost television ratings.

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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • March 13th 2018 @ 4:28am
      Watcher said | March 13th 2018 @ 4:28am | ! Report

      You forgot Blake Green for the Warriors. Great debut and just what that team needs.

      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2018 @ 6:59am
        Walter Penninger said | March 13th 2018 @ 6:59am | ! Report

        Sorry about that, wonder how Ma’afoaeata Hingano will go if he can break into the current 3 halves playing at the Raiders?

    • March 13th 2018 @ 8:47am
      BA Sports said | March 13th 2018 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      If this is when you usually aim to predict who will win the spoon, I don’t know why the weekend results for Rd 1 2018 would make it any more of an easy/difficult task than last year?

      If you thought the Titans, Raiders, Tigers, Souths or Warriors where the likely candidates – did the weekend really do anything to change your mind? Sure the Warriors were good and the Tigers won – but both teams won in Rd1 last year and they managed to stink for the remainder.

      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2018 @ 9:38am
        Walter Penninger said | March 13th 2018 @ 9:38am | ! Report

        The potential candidates included Tigers who have shown enough against Rooster to indicate that they are not wooden spooners and coach Cleary and some offseason acquisitions have helped in this regard. There is a lot to like about their forwards and backline and coach Cleary worked them hard in the offseason.

        The Roosters chose to buy Cronk and Tedesco in the off-season and have neglected the forwards, which is where they lost against the Tigers. If it had not been for a fantastic performance from Ferguson the Roosters would have faced a very embarrassing scoreline. The Roosters are weak in the forwards and lack the depth which will be challenged in the event of injuries.

        Warriors and Titans are more of an enigma and it’s a matter of whether they can maintain consistency throughout the season, but they are certainly not easy beats.

        The wooden spoon, is more likely to come from a surprise candidate such as the Broncoswho like the Roosters are weak in the forwards and lacked depth, but if I said anything like that in the article I would have had the Broncos fans screaming.

        • March 13th 2018 @ 12:19pm
          BA Sports said | March 13th 2018 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

          You certainly would have got plenty of ‘hits’ if you threw up the Broncos as a Spoon favourite – and if they play the same way for another month, it could become a story line.

          I don’t understand what people saw from the Tigers on the weekend that said they are definitely much better.
          They played a Roosters team who played poorly. Everyone says the Roosters forwards were dominated, but they made more metres and averaged the same metres per run as the Tigers pack in the game. So the Roosters forwards were not out played by the Tigers pack.

          They completion rate was almost 20% higher than the Roosters, and they won the penalty count and yet the Tigers didn’t look like scoring a try the entire game. The only way they did score was from a mis-directed pass which hit a player in the head, and ricochet to the winger to dive over in the corner. Considering this, why would anyone take away from that performance that the Tigers are better?

    • Roar Rookie

      March 13th 2018 @ 9:59am
      Joe said | March 13th 2018 @ 9:59am | ! Report

      I’ve said before the battle for the spoon this year will be tighter than the battle for the eight because a lot of the bottom placed teams have improved. The new halves performances also is a great storyline to follow and I’d say from that opening round the most impressive was the Hunt/Widdop and Green/Johnson combos. Foran also made a very good debut for the Dogs and will improve that side immensely. Disappointments were Milford/Nikorima although they aren’t a new combo and I thought Croft and Maloney had pretty poor games which were papered over by the wins. The other combos I thought were a pass mark but not outstanding.

    • March 13th 2018 @ 6:32pm
      watcher said | March 13th 2018 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

      I think the Spoon will be decided by injuries. One club will get a bad run losing key personnel.

    • March 13th 2018 @ 8:11pm
      Mitch said | March 13th 2018 @ 8:11pm | ! Report

      NRL isnt my biggest sport of choice but i do enjoy and only really watched it to see Milford amd Hunt for the Broncos now Hunt is gone i dont really have that same ambition for them.

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