We’re getting to the business end of the NRL season as the contenders fight for top two, and the pretenders fight to be the best of the rest. Here are your talking points for NRL Round 19.
Two wrongs make a right for Canberra
Thursday night’s Eels-Raiders stoush was interesting for a number of reasons – Parra stumbled and again raised questions of where they stand in the 2021 NRL hierarchy, Canberra showed what might’ve been if they’d applied themselves earlier and Henry Perenara’s Bunker antics reminded us all that there’s what you saw with your own eyes, and what he saw with his eyes.
Supporters of both clubs had legitimate grievances in the closing stages of the game, with Raiders fans screaming Dylan Brown was offside for Jake Arthur’s kick which resulted in a 76th minute try to Maika Sivo.
Brown actually made the offload that created the try after the ball was contested, so god knows how it was let through.
Eels fans had their turn to fire up on what was basically the final play of the game when Canberra fullback Jordan Rapana cannonballed into Sivo to knock him out of play and save the 12-10 win for the green machine.
Should it have been a penalty try? There was no effort to use his arms.
Should it have been a shoulder charge? His shoulder never made contact. So, I guess we just call it a collision and move on?
Even though they had only 38 per cent possession, it would have been harsh for Canberra to go down after a heroic defensive effort missing key players Jack Wighton and Elliot Whitehead.
$10 million for ten years is unders for Payne Haas
On Saturday night when Penrith got away after halftime, Payne Haas was colossal to drag the Broncos nearer. 213 metres, 43 tackles and an incredible 14 busted tackles in 72 minutes on the field, his longest stint for the year.
Haas is a phenomenal player. You can see every week why Brisbane ponied up almost $600,000 a year for him as an 18-year-old in 2018. He’s on the Broncos’ books until 2024 but that’s not stopping half the competition from having a crack at getting him across.
The reports are he’s going to get offered a decade at over a million a year to re-up at Red Hill.
Speaking after Saturday’s game, Haas played down all the talk and deferred to his agent like all good valuable commodities should.
If Brisbane can get him at that deal, they’ve got a bargain. I’d pay him at least double.
Is four years for Dale Finucane a good deal for Cronulla?
The Sharks hopped back into the top eight with a tough win over Canterbury, but the big news of Sunday was the announcement Cronulla had secured the services of Melbourne’s Dale Finucane for four years at a reported total of $2.5 million.
Finucane heads to the Shire alongside premiership teammate Nicho Hynes and gets more cash in his pocket after 146 games with the Storm.
It’s a great deal for Finucane, but is it a great deal for the Sharks?
He’ll be 30 when he gets to Cronulla and has had his injury worries over the last few years as calf troubles hit him hard, including about a month off after injuring himself filming drills for a sponsor.
Five clubs were reportedly in the chase for the New South Wales lock, which shows the esteem he’s held in.
There’s no doubt if his body holds up he’ll do the job for the Sharks, but four years a lifetime in rugby league.
Melbourne and Penrith played with one eye on next Saturday
The Storm fell across the line in Townsville, while Penrith had their troubles with Brisbane. But make no mistake, these grand final favourites were playing with one eye firmly on this Saturday’s top-of-the-table match-up.
I’ve written before about top four teams cruising when they’ve got enough points in the bank and these games were probably the best example.
The Cowboys and Broncos gave it everything they had, and while the Panthers and Storm weren’t disrespectful to their opponent, they just did what they had to do and nothing more. Great teams have that ability.
This week, we’re unlikely to see the same amount of errors, sloppy attack and relaxed defence. Penrith missed 69 tackles, if you can believe that. And still kept Brisbane to 12 points.
I’m keyed up for a belter on Saturday.
It’s a bigger test for the Storm, who have laid waste to all in their path but notably battled in grinders against Penrith and Parramatta early in the year.
James Fisher-Harris for the Dally M?
When Dally M voting went behind closed doors after Round 12, the Panthers prop was in third place, five votes behind teammate Nathan Cleary and two behind Warriors fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
He has maintained his form and was great again on Saturday night, helping the Panthers squeak past Brisbane.
Fisher-Harris punched out 193 metres on 19 runs, made 48 tackles, if you don’t mind, and was a general nuisance around the try line keeping defenders guessing.
Fisher-Harris has the most run metres and post-contact metres of any forward in the competition, and his impact bending the line is more than helpful for Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Matt Burton to go about their work.
I know, it’s a long shot to think he’ll take the Dally M. No front rower has ever won the award. But I love the big boppers and Fisher-Harris would be a more-than-worthy winner.
Canterbury’s roster looks great… in 2022
Since the infamous 0-66 trouncing by Manly, Canterbury have given a decent account of themselves over the last three weeks. Even though the final score of 44-24 against Cronulla looked bad, I don’t think it was a real reflection of how much of a crack the Dogs had.
The Bulldogs have done a lot of shopping this year as they look to dig themselves out of a long, long malaise.
They’ve got speed with Matt Dufty and Josh Addo-Carr, rugby league nous and flexibility with Matt Burton from Penrith, another decent centre from the Panthers in Brent Naden and now some grunt in the forwards with this week’s announcement of Tevita Pangai Jr for three years from next season.
There’s also an expectation multiple COVID-19 protocol breacher Paul Vaughan will head to Belmore once the Dogs sort out the technicalities of his eight-game suspension and negotiate a whopping reduction on his former $800,000-ish salary.
Add these recruits to the existing talent like Jake Averillo, Jeremy Marshall-King, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Nick Cotric, Luke Thompson and Josh Jackson, and you’ve got yourself the bones of a pretty good NRL roster right there.
Also in the door is rugby league provocateur/sage/clown/genius Phil Gould, purportedly to help the club sort itself out from its bootlaces to its player development pathways.
So, Barrett is getting the players he wants, he’s getting the support he wants. There will be high expectations next year.
Can he manage these personalities?
Defence is already a critical issue, and there’s not many noted hard hitters on the way in…
At least two of these recruits were unwanted at their current club for a variety of reasons, on and off the field. Is Barrett the man to put the necessary discipline and coordination into his renewed roster?
The Dragons are slain
Remember when the Dragons were 4-1 after five games in 2021, including towelling up Manly, Newcastle and Parramatta?
No, me either.
The Dragons are in serious trouble, beaten up by the Titans and now hanging around the bottom of the eight by the strength of their fingernails.
The coronavirus barbecue has no doubt had an impact. St George Illawarra now have a players’ apology page on their website, including the iconic rugby league line, “Any further apologies will appear in this article in due course.”
But the long and short of it is that like their contemporaries at Wests, Newcastle and Canberra, the Dragons just ain’t good enough in 2021 and there are big questions over where they go from here.
What stood out for you in Round 19, Roarers? Hopefully you’re still getting your league watching in around all this Olympics stuff!