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The Roar



Half-time tackles, offensive wristbands and speedy fullbacks: NRL Round 18 talking points

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18th July, 2021
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The NRL’s second Queensland-based round for the year saw a few predictable results, but there were some interesting moments that caught the eye too.

Here are your talking points for NRL Round 18.

WTF, Lachlan Lewis?
I’ve got absolutely no idea what was said between Bulldogs five-eighth Lachlan Lewis and South Sydney’s Cody Walker at halftime, but Lewis’ decision to tackle Walker to the ground as they exited the field was beyond baffling.

It really stung his team too. With him in the sin bin for the first ten minutes after the half the Rabbitohs scored eight points and turned a 10-12 halftime deficit into an 18-12 lead. The Dogs fought to the line, but a more idiotic on-field act you’ll be struggling to find in 2021.

Canterbury have enough problems without acts like that stuffing them around. Add on the possible reports of Dylan Napa and Jack Hetherington again hanging a lazy arm in a tackle, and you get a fair idea of why the Doggies are where they are.

Newcastle’s attack is anaemic against good teams
Sure, Newcastle aren’t the first team to get their soul taken by the Melbourne Storm. But the Knights’ 48-4 capitulation was a debacle.


This is a team who are supposed to be on the upwards trajectory after years in the mire. Right now, they’re tenth with a points differential of -137.

This differential is the responsibility of the Knights attack. They’ve scored fewer points than North Queensland, Wests and New Zealand. They’ve actually only scored one more point than the Broncos, who are regarded as a total laughing stock.

They’re 2-6 against teams currently in the top eight, averaging 10.6 points for and 28.5 against. The gameplan of ‘give it to Kalyn’ isn’t working.

The Knights’ next three are the Roosters, Raiders and Broncos. They’ll need at least two of these to stay in touch with the bottom spots of the finals.

Kalyn Ponga runs the ball for the Knights.

Kalyn Ponga. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Adam Doueihi should never play centre again
Many an eyebrow shot skywards when Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire moved his best player from five-eighth to centre to give Moses Mbye a shot in the number six jersey. A lot of bad things have happened for the Tigers in 2021, but almost 100 per cent of anything good could be attributed to something Doueihi had done.

At the time, Maguire said “We’ve tinkered with how we’re going to play and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all transpires on the field. That’s the key.”

Well, now we know. Doueihi put on a masterclass against Brisbane. A staggering five try assists, four line break assists and 147 running metres of his own as his team hung a big number on the Broncos. His class helped the Tigers pull away when Brisbane were up for the fight.


There’s your answer, Madge.

How will Penrith cope away from home?
The Panthers did what they needed to do against New Zealand, controlling the majority of the contest to keep their opponent at arms length. Their 1fifth win solidified Penrith in the top two and most importantly gave Tyrone May and Matt Burton more game time experience in the halves.

Before packing up and heading north Penrith were 9-0 at Bluebet Stadium. Last year much was made of Penrith’s luck of the draw keeping them from doing the travel load a lot of their opposition faced in the COVID-19 impacted season. Will being away from home comforts have an impact or will class shine through in the end?

Personally, I don’t buy into any thinking Penrith will battle in Queensland. They’re too good. But there’s a lot of difference between playing in front of an adoring home crowd and playing in front of a couple of thousand interested spectators.

Xavier Savage is just what Canberra needed
The Raiders have been poor this year, their output much lower than what most expected them. They’ve been slow, unfit and pretty fragile when a team puts consecutive scores on them. So the last two weeks have been encouraging, with strong wins over Manly and Cronulla.

It has been especially good to see 19-year old fullback Xavier Savage get a shot, after Canberra lost their custodian Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad early in the season, gave Caleb Aekins a shot which didn’t work out, then winger Bailey Simonsson looked good at fullback until he hurt himself.

Savage destroyed Cronulla in his second NRL match, racking up 246 run metres, a massive nine tackle breaks and a charity try from teammate Seb Kris to boot. Savage is a player the Raiders have been excited about for a while. His speed and nose for an offload was a spark that got his team moving.

It’s not just Canberra’s wins that were notable, but the way Ricky Stuart is using his bench and speedy players like Tom Starling is keeping opposition off balance and making Canberra’s attack much more interesting. It seems the men in green are finally working out how to play V’landysball, but it’s surely too little, too late.

Ricky Stuart

(Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Kane Evans is easily inspired
Athletes across the world like to put motivational words or phrases they like on wrist tape, inside their caps, on their jersey or somewhere else where they can have a look and remind themselves to dig deeper.

Sometimes it’s ‘faith’, sometimes ‘courage’, sometimes ‘believe’, sometimes ‘focus’. A number of players including Canberra’s Sia Soliola often put the name of a sick child on their wrist tape to inspire them when things are tough.

Well, now thanks to New Zealand prop Kane Evans, we can add ‘fold some c**t’ to the list of inspirational quotes, shown to all and sundry on live television as the Warriors’ Warriors’ 18th man sat on the bench.

Seriously, does no one notice these things as a player prepares for a game? Maybe because Evans was ‘just’ the concussion substitute, no Warriors folks thought it was a big deal. Evans never took the field, and was only shown on camera because New Zealand had a big injury toll.

But it takes a special kind of moron to think you can write that word on your wrist tape without consequence. Maybe he learned it from his new teammate Matt Lodge, who copped a two-game ban in 2014 for writing the word in question on his wrist tape during an under-20s Origin game.

Sometimes all you can do is just shake your head.

What did you make of Round 18? What were the interesting things that caught your eye? What motivational phrases adorn your wrist tape?