There is no doubt Penrith, New Zealand and Brisbane matter, but Parra?

Stuart Thomas Columnist

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    The Panthers host the Bulldogs. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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    The year of 1988 produced a cracking one-hit wonder in the form of Underworld’s Underneath the Radar. I believe Penrith are playing it post-match in the dressing room after each win.

    Those wins are being chalked up one after another and the Panthers find themselves level with the Dragons at the pointy end of the ladder after Thursday night’s win over the Tigers.

    As the men from the mountains continue to grow in confidence and the Dragons start to wobble with two losses from their last four, the competition lead is well within their reach; something not universally predicted by pundits leading into the year.

    As usual, preseason hype was all about clucky Roosters, terrific Storms and gun-toting Cowboys, yet the penny Panthers have made hay even though they have been well below full strength for much of the year.

    Injuries to key players Nathan Cleary, Josh Mansour, Dylan Edwards, Waqa Blake and now Peter Wallace have hardly slowed their progress. The Penrith Peugeot has navigated the speedbumps with relative ease throughout the first half of the season.

    With Cleary back and an Origin carrot dangling to spur him on, the Panthers will face the Dragons in Week 12 full of confidence and playing potentially as favourites, depending on their performance this weekend.

    Corey Harawira-Naera

    The Panthers are on fire (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    As one star ascends another plummets, and the Wests Tigers chalked up their fourth loss in five weeks as the promise of their early season results became distant.

    For the sixth time this season the joint venture scored 11 points or less, and without the big scores they clocked up against the Eagles and the Eels, their attacking record is abysmal.

    Their attitude is unquestionable yet the execution will need much work if they are to amend the slide. In a match marred and dominated by referees who seem to be getting far too much screen time over the last few weeks, things never really opened up.

    The danger of becoming a ‘goal-kickers cup’, similar to rugby union, where penalty kicks chew up far too much of the clock and deprive people of attacking and expansive football, is a real concern for the NRL.

    At ANZ Stadium on Friday night the Warriors finally convinced everyone that they do in fact possess a backbone. The enigma that they are has kept fans mystified for years.

    The 2018 Warriors have elevated the hopes of the shaky isles with a team that is finally showing the resilience and fortitude required to win the biggest prize in world club football.

    It was a close-run thing against the Eels and the game was in the balance deep into the second half, yet once again the Warriors played tough. Foolish is the clown prepared to write off this Kiwi team; with power and precision, they are very, very good on their day.

    New Zealand Warriors

    (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

    As for Parramatta, sadly they do not matter in season 2018. It was a last chance to make something of a desperate bid for respectability and improve on a 2-8 record. There were chances, moments to seize, but the blue and gold failed once again.

    I texted a friend during the game with a simple statement that I felt summed up the frustration of Parramatta fans across the country. The text referred to the decision making and the absence of football smarts by the Eels’ playmakers.

    For all their talent and skill, playing the game well requires much more in terms of poise and patience. They are attributes that the Eels appear to lack and seem quite a distance from acquiring.

    Up north on Friday, the Broncos faced the Roosters in a clash between two teams around whom everyone is struggling to get a grip.

    With both clubs sitting mid-table, the Roosters continue to promise the world yet have delivered little to this point and the Broncos have been inconsistent, to say the least.

    The interesting thing about this game is that few people outside Bondi and Brisbane care about the result. That may sound a little harsh, but as the game attempts to connect with traditional rivalries, the latte-sipping Roosters and the Brisbane Friday night specialists don’t exactly engage the broader rugby league community.

    In fact, most NRL fans wouldn’t mind seeing the two teams belt the bejeezus out of each other, softening them up for an upcoming clash with their own club.

    As it unfolded, both teams put on one hell of a show and I should be more respectful towards two of the show ponies of the competition. The Broncos eventually found a way past the visitors on the back of late tries to James Roberts and Jamayne Isaako after the Roosters looked to have built a matchwinning lead.

    As the Broncos eye a trip to Sydney next week to face the Eels on Thursday night and the Roosters host the Titans on Saturday, they will be well aware of the importance of a win to maintain momentum.

    Both showed plenty on Friday night, and the top eight seems a likely outcome for two clubs still seeking top form but doing enough to remain a threat.

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.

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    The Crowd Says (44)

    • May 19th 2018 @ 6:36am
      Aw said | May 19th 2018 @ 6:36am | ! Report

      The roosters are not a threat. They are pathetic. They will be lucky to make the eight. One of the most error ridden and overhyped teams of all time.

      • May 19th 2018 @ 10:49am
        Peter Phelps said | May 19th 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        All that is true but they have too much fire power to be written off ergo they are a threat.

    • May 19th 2018 @ 7:02am
      bazza200 said | May 19th 2018 @ 7:02am | ! Report

      Clearly you have not been watching Parramatta they made 8 errors before the warriors made one.
      They dropped the ball right into the hands of the warriors to score a try.

      • Columnist

        May 19th 2018 @ 7:51am
        Stuart Thomas said | May 19th 2018 @ 7:51am | ! Report

        Hence they don’t matter in 2018.

        • May 19th 2018 @ 11:33am
          bazza said | May 19th 2018 @ 11:33am | ! Report

          I was responding to the comment that the roosters were the worse team with ball skills. by aw

    • Roar Guru

      May 19th 2018 @ 7:32am
      eagleJack said | May 19th 2018 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      On a side note to your great analysis Stuart I wanted to touch on the Napa sin-binning. I thought it was a massive mistake by the referees to punish the Roosters by getting them to play with 12 with the game in the balance.

      However, with Napa sitting on 75 carry-over points, and people telling me how dangerous the tackle was, I can’t see Napa being available for Origin I. A careless, reckless high tackle attacking the head is atleast a Grade 2. Unless the Roosters fight it, Napa will miss 2 games atleast and therefore Origin in Melbourne.

      I wonder if Broncos fans, with their Maroons hats on, will change their tune and now say it wasn’t so bad? QLD already looks a little thin in the forwards. Napa would be a huge loss.

      • Columnist

        May 19th 2018 @ 7:50am
        Stuart Thomas said | May 19th 2018 @ 7:50am | ! Report

        It all happened late in the night when I was completing the piece and felt it may have been foolish to react in something of a knee jerk manner. Personally, I saw it as a shoulder charge with the head. No attempt to use arms and contact with the head. I guess that makes it a head charge?

        • May 19th 2018 @ 8:18am
          Gray-Hand said | May 19th 2018 @ 8:18am | ! Report

          That’s what I thought watching it too. If he had’nt collected him with his head and instead got his shoulder to him, it would have been a shoulder charge anyway. His arms were never going to get around the ball carrier, and they didn’t.

          • May 19th 2018 @ 9:05am
            3 recalcitrant monkeys said | May 19th 2018 @ 9:05am | ! Report

            Just looks like a grade 1 reckless high tackle to me ,he legally shoulder charged him and struck the melon .1 – 2 weeks with the carry over.

            • Roar Guru

              May 19th 2018 @ 12:53pm
              eagleJack said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

              The MRC just released that no charge has been laid against Napa.

              As I thought, the refs got it wrong with a massive overreaction. How the sin bin was called into play is one of life’s mysteries.

              • May 19th 2018 @ 1:13pm
                3 recalcitrant monkeys said | May 19th 2018 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

                Yep mountain out of a mole hill but he still struck his head so maybe just deserts in the end .

              • May 19th 2018 @ 1:35pm
                3 recalcitrant monkeys said | May 19th 2018 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

                1 more thing Klein should have been marked permanent touch judge after “did Billy Slater drop kick the ball ” that just came up in the auto spellchecker didn’t even have to try.

      • May 19th 2018 @ 8:56am
        Jara W said | May 19th 2018 @ 8:56am | ! Report

        At the time I thought a penalty try was warranted. But after sleeping on it I realised it was just an unfortunate accident.

        Seriously though the more I look at it the less sense it makes. It hardly resembles an attempted tackle. And I’m not sure I can believe it was simply because he was wrong footed. What are the odds of him making it to NRL/SOO level with such a hopeless technique and ability.

    • Roar Guru

      May 19th 2018 @ 8:06am
      BigJ said | May 19th 2018 @ 8:06am | ! Report

      Hi Stuart, nice article. 2018 is certainly a year of surprises. Six months ago if your were to say that the Dragons, Penrith and the Warriors would be at the top of the ladder, you would of been laughed at. This season is one of the most wide open seasons I have seen in a while. Last year it was all the Storm, this year it could be anybodys season. I think that the Dragons will start to fade though

    • May 19th 2018 @ 8:14am
      Paul said | May 19th 2018 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      I agree Penrith have slipped under the radar but lets put that into perspective. They’ve played 7 games against the bottom 4 sides and lost two of those. They’ve played top 8 sides three times and lost another. Their real test will come in the second half of the season when they play more games against the “big boys”.

    • Roar Guru

      May 19th 2018 @ 8:43am
      Con Scortis said | May 19th 2018 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      I love slick attacking play, lots of ball movement, genuine ball skills and the like. But nothing gets your rear-end off the couch like lethal speed does. That Roberts try was a ripper!

      • May 19th 2018 @ 9:04am
        kk said | May 19th 2018 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        Agreed Con.

        It’s great to see James has turned it around. That try was his ticket to the MCG.
        Imagine him in concert with Latrell, or is that not possible?

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