Busted bunkers, cross-eyed referees and unlucky eye gougers. We’ve heard it all and had a sook.
But with an Origin decider on the doorstep there’s still plenty to smile about. So here’s some action that has kept my chin up in times of doubt.
Freddie’s rampant enforcers
Has an Origin pack ever been run over more than the Maroons’ in Perth? James Tedesco and Tom Trbojevic stole the headlines, but the series-levelling 38-6 blowout owed itself to the convoy of carnage through centre field.
To a man, the Blues forwards out-monstered their opposites with five cruising for at least 100 metres compared to Queensland’s best of 93 from Josh McGuire. At the chequered flag, the Brad Fittler machine had almost clocked two kilometres, nearly double that of their battle-scarred opponent.
And with a heavy track expected at ANZ for the decider, plugging the middle has taken on another dimension for Kevin Walters with the return of David Klemmer, the Blues’ chief metre eater in Game 1.
So regardless your beanie’s colour, with a distinct midfield advantage, you’d have to say it’s NSW’s series to lose.
Byron Bay has one, the Hunter Valley has plenty, now the NRL has one…a festival!
The City of Brisbane may be long shots to host a grand final but it deserves to host Magic Round for the foreseeable future. The four-day footy bash drew fans from far and wide giving Round 9 fresh legs and a welcome injection to the local economy.
A one-team town, smiling faces and a bevy of team colours – perhaps the message to Todd Greenberg has wider ramifications.
Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium offered NRL fans the chance to catch eight games of rugby league in one location across four days. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
The only thing easier to bash than an unprotected half is the NRL itself. And Peter Beattie is its easiest target, at times the Chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission wouldn’t be out of place fronting the cameras in a Goofy suit.
But like the gutsy half who keeps rising to his feet, I love him.
Not the gaffes, but his lack of self preservation in plotting the game’s future.
Jack de Belin fans will disagree but without the ‘no-fault’ policy, talk of expansion and mega media deals would be just that.
The glitzy Tina Turner era of the 80s and 90s would never have eventuated without the prior appointment of Jim Comans to rid the game of on-field thuggery.
Now Beattie has taken it upon himself to right player behaviour beyond the fence. His appointment and subsequent mandate has the game on target for an era of renewed prosperity.
Including Origin 2, Tom Trbojevic has only played six games this year, featuring among the best in as many victories. If not for his gammy-hammy, Manly would probably be secure among the top-four.
Metre-smashing stats are only part of his story. He might not explode out of a cannon like Brett Stewart or posses the mesmerising step of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, but his only challenger for competitive intent is brother Jake.
His dismantling of the Dragons last month was something else. It was all there, the power to create and nous to position others. On his day, which it often is, he’s a juggernaut not to be missed.
Tom Trbojevic (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Ryan Papenhuyzen and Michael Chee Kam
NRL surprise packets are a welcome addition every season. They usually come in all shapes and sizes but for Wests Tigers fans this season’s conundrum may never be deciphered.
With the blistering pace of teammate Josh Addo-Carr, it’s clear why defenders have struggled to lay a hand on Storm rookie Ryan Papenhuyzen. But how the Wests junior managed to escape the Tigers’ grasp should never escape the walls of Concord.
But if that’s the bad then who saw Michael Chee Kam flying the cape embroidered ‘good’?
Not all fruit fruit ripens simultaneously, but after floating for five seasons and then feeling the burden of an off-field indiscretion, Chee Kam had all but rotted.
To recover and sink the Broncos at Suncorp with a 50 metre solo buzzer beater in Round 5 was one thing but to do it again ten weeks later to sink the Rabbitohs will probably define his career.
Steam-rolling decent stadiums shouldn’t be the norm but there’s no doubting the new Parramatta construction is the best rectangular facility in the state.
What it means for the long term future of old school grounds is yet to be seen but there’s little doubt, modernism will eventually win the race.
Roarers, what’s been the highlight of your season so far?
Been saying it for years. Years! Yet more than a decade after he called time on his illustrious career – a career which saw him play all 249 of his NRL matches for the Newcastle Knights – there is still no statue of Andrew Johns at McDonald Jones Stadium.