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Opinion

NRL Week 17 preview talking points: Keep smiling in the face of defeat

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20th June, 2023
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Remember, with State of Origin two this Wednesday, many team’s fortunes for Round 17 are dependent on the number of representative players who will be able to back up a few days later.

Here come your NRL preview talking points.

The old school and the modern ways

After Parramatta ploughed through Manly to the tune of 34-4, the focus wasn’t on the Eels temporarily leaping from tenth to fourth or on Manly dropping further away from finals thinking.

No, it’s that time when folks complain that the vanquished Sea Eagles players were smiling and laughing as the teams talked on the field postgame.

It’s the sort of ‘you’re not hurting enough’ garbage we see from time to time from dinosaur thinking types, as if the team took it easy on their mates for the previous 80 minutes.

Personally, I could care less if my team are getting social with the team who just belted them up. Losing teams will almost always go over to their fans too, to thank them for coming, take photos and talk to kids. Is this also ‘not a good look’?

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Good coaching shows out

Origin time tests clubs in a variety of ways. Your best players are out, your combinations and familiarity out the window as your reserve players take the reins. It’s a great ‘audit’ of where your team structure is at, how well your coaching crew have embedded the plans you worked on so much over preseason.

Melbourne and Penrith still show their systems and structures hold up under this stress. Melbourne took their chances against the Tigers, Penrith pushed the Cowboys to golden point while missing basically half of their first choice lineup.

The flip side of this is being able to take advantage of a weakened team like North Queensland did, and Newcastle really blew their chance to bank a critical two points against the Roosters.

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Good games this week

We might be stretching the use of the word ‘good’ here, but there’s still enough to be enthused about in another Origin impacted round.

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It begins Friday with St George-Illawarra hosting New Zealand, both fresh from a week off and with plenty to play for. The Warriors are still in reaching distance of the top for but need wins to ensure finals, at any rate.

The Dragons are showing a bit of grit under caretaker coach Ryan Carr but let’s be honest, it hasn’t been a great week for the club. Star player Ben Hunt is in open warfare with the club agitating for a move and the Dragons also formalised disgraced former Cronulla coach and appalling special comments broadcaster Shane Flanagan as coach from 2024.

Saturday’s triple header begins with Parramatta looking to consolidate a good run of form in Redcliffe against the Dolphins. Their for and against of +104 means any Eel win will see them leap a few spots on the standings, but Wayne Bennett’s men have made it a point of pride to make life difficult for their opposition this year.

The Dolphins aren’t out of the finals scene either, but with injury starting to really bite, the back end of the season might be rough on the new crew.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Connelly Lemuelu

Connelly Lemuelu. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Penrith welcome Newcastle for the Saturday twilight game and depending on who backs up from Wednesday, the Knights could have more problems on their hands after blowing a huge opportunity last week in a 18-16 loss to a very undermanned Roosters team.

Saturday wraps in Melbourne with Manly facing up to the Storm. Manly were diabolical last week, Melbourne were clinical getting the job done against Wests Tigers with their Origin players out.

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Sea Eagles fans are already starting to get stuck into coach Anthony Seibold for the up and down ride they’re having this year, but it’s worth remembering what he took on – Manly were hardly a prize pig when he took the job.

Sunday’s fixtures are infinitely more interesting. Brisbane and the Gold Coast will play in the early game, with the Broncos keen to keep a game’s lead on top of the table (till their next bye, anyway) and the Titans off a bye and needing consistent wins to keep in touch with the top eight.

The ‘resurgent’ North Queensland has a great matchup against the wobbling South Sydney, who have dropped three of their last five but still hand in fourth spot on the back of their big wins earlier in the season.

North Queensland haven’t beaten the Bunnies in the regular season since 2017, if you can believe it.

Week 17 wraps at the Sydney Football Stadium when the Roosters tackle the Raiders. This game could be anything, including a nil-all draw cos both these teams are utterly abominable in attack.

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Both teams desperately need the win here too, with deplorable points differentials meaning they just cannot afford to drop 50/50 games or it’s season over. The Roosters have an injury cloud over Luke Keary, the Raiders named an unchanged squad from the one that disappointed their fans so badly in the loss to New Zealand before the bye.

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Canterbury, Cronulla and Wests Tigers have the bye, the second bye for these three clubs in five weeks. Is that scheduling good for continuity and stability? Who cares – Origin is on!

Week 17 random observations

– There really are some shocking jerseys going around this year. Melbourne’s away strip is a particular monstrosity.

– Clint Gutherson cops a lot of stick from rugby league fans, but I guarantee you want him on your team.

– Brisbane are 7-1 away from Lang Park this year. The Cowboys are 1-6.

– Penrith’s points differential is +167. That’s only nine points less than the total amount of points their defence has conceded (176).

What’s got you talking ahead of round 17, Roarers?

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