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The Roar


NRL Round 1 talking points: That was great, let’s try it again!

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3rd March, 2024
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We return! Season 2024 is upon us and not before time. A fantastic start to things over in the US of A and plenty to dive into.

Get ready, here come your first Monday NRL talking points for the year!

A fantastic rugby league advertisement

First, the good. What an event the NRL turned on in Las Vegas. No half-arseing around, a proper build-up during the week and Allegiant Stadium looked sensational. The announced attendance was 40,746, they all seemed to enjoy themselves and right now it doesn’t really matter there was probably only about 13 actual Americans there.

I’ve been all over the pages of this site for years pushing for the NRL to have a crack at the USA sporting market (and to bring players back here, too). Rugby league is a great game for that market.

Yes, I know this is 100 per cent a push to get Americans betting on rugby league, but hopefully there can be some interest growing in the game as well. It’s a long, long shot but hey, at least the ball is rolling.

It was all going so well…


We can’t avoid the accusation from Brisbane’s Ezra Mam that Roosters recruit Spencer Leniu racially abused him. Leniu tried to shake it post-game speaking to Triple M, saying, “Nah, nothing, it’s just all fun and games when we’re on the field,” but the instant reaction and continued aggro from the Broncos shows they thought there was something in it.

History shows us without audio of the alleged words it’s incredibly difficult for these issues to be satisfactorily resolved – there’s plenty more to come. A bad mark on an otherwise fantastic event.

First impressions from the games

Round 1 is not the time to predict the future. Let’s just take some thoughts from what we saw.

Manly worked through phases – they were ok, bad, ok, good then great. The Sea Eagles moved the ball well and you couldn’t have known the field was narrower than usual. Their early defence was good, their sense of the game and when to stomp on South Sydney’s hopes even better.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 02: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs and Tom Trbojevic of the Sea Eagles compete for the ball from a kick during the round one NRL match between Manly Sea Eagles and South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allegiant Stadium, on March 02, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs and Tom Trbojevic compete for the ball. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Bunnies looked to have busted it open early in the second half when they took a 20-12 lead, only to cop 24 unanswered as their legs ran out and their attack stagnated. There were a few worrying signs but it’s Round 1, it’s on neutral turf and there are 26 rounds to go. Let’s take it easy on the death sentences.


The Roosters were good, they defended like the old days and took their chances to win. The Chooks’ attack was very Joesph Manu-heavy… and how couldn’t it be? James Tedesco looked good but still faces a few questions about his status. Their opponent Brisbane also defended quite well, scrambling enough to stay in the game and still being a genuine chance to take the win in the last 20.

Remember, good teams pace themselves

Your talking points will be stressing for the first month of the year that teams with premiership designs often look scrubby and disjointed early in the year.

Don’t panic about it – these teams don’t care about blowing teams away or going on early win streaks. They’re in it to finish in the top four and that’s the plan. So relax, Broncos fans, you don’t need to call for Kevin Walters’ head just yet.

Pete’s fluffing the numbers again

ARLC Chair Peter V’landys was instrumental in getting the American games going and fair play to him – it has been a great week celebrating the game of rugby league and putting on a bit of a show in a place where you have to be the loudest to even get the barest of attention.


But V’landys might want to do a bit more research about the reach the NRL is capable of over in the USA.

“We’ve started with these two games, if they’re successful to an audience of over 100 million people, hopefully then Fox will say let’s put one on each week,” he said in the pre-game.

Sounds great, although Fox Sports 1 (FS1), the channel the games were broadcast on, averages 310,000 viewers during prime time. The Super Bowl, held at the same venue a fortnight ago and by far and away America’s No.1 sporting event, was watched by 123.1 million people.

Maybe Pete’s just got his numbers confused again, like his 200,000 North Sydney members all ready to turn financial when the Bears return.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 10: Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter Vlandys speaks to the media during a NRL media opportunity at Rugby League Central on August 10, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Good games this week

Las Vegas is done and dusted and we return to the rest of Round 1 starting Thursday in Newcastle.


And it’ll be a sneaky good one at McDonald Jones Stadium, too. The Knights welcome Canberra with both teams needing to show they’re proper finals types for 2024. Newcastle extended coach Adam O’Brien until the end of 2026 a couple of weeks ago and it was well earned. Hopefully that keeps some lunkheads off his back for at least a fortnight once the season starts.

Friday has a couple of belters on paper, with New Zealand hosting Cronulla, then the premier Panthers heading to Melbourne.

The Warriors had a great year last year and have been completely overlooked by many in their season previews. They start hot favourites with the sportsbooks against a Sharks team that’s still learning under coach Craig Fitzgibbon, and to be honest is still learning how it can match it with the game’s true contenders.

Melbourne are perennial title threats but their ‘untouchable’ aura is slowly fading. The weren’t close to Brisbane or Penrith in last year’s finals and it’s a huge ask to go back to the well once again. For the record I’m not stupid enough to write them off – I just think they’re eeeever so closer to the wheelbarrow going over the top of the hill.

Saturday has rugby league games in it, let’s leave it at that. We’ve got Parramatta hosting Canterbury in the early game, then the Gold Coast welcome St George Illawarra. Let’s move on.

One game on Sunday with the Dolphins hosting the Cowboys, a really interesting season ahead for North Queensland. Are they the premiership challenger we all thought they were, or was 11th place last year more realistic?

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 15: Jason Taumalolo of the Cowboys charges forward during the round seven NRL match between New Zealand Warriors and North Queensland Cowboys at Mt Smart Stadium on April 15, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Andy Jackson/Getty Images)

Jason Taumalolo. (Photo by Andy Jackson/Getty Images)


The Dolphins are still playing with house money but Wayne Bennett says he has a supremely fit squad who will be ready to show a bit. Their results probably don’t matter again this year, but you sure don’t want your team to lose to them.

Wests Tigers have to wait another week before they get to launch into their Benji Marshall era – they’ve got the bye.

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Week 1 random thoughts

– Worth pointing out the FS1 feed didn’t cut to the NRL until about 15 minutes into Souths-Manly after a delay to finish college basketball… the basketball should add a nice bump to the ratings.

– A friend of a friend paid A$28 for a beer (plus tip) at Allegiant Stadium, a reminder how brutal the exchange rate continues to be for Aussies around the world…


– Disgraceful scenes out of NRL HQ on Saturday, posting across their socials a video asking players who they would love to ‘verse in Vegas’. This is rugby league, not a poetry slam. ‘Verse’ is not the right word. It’s never the correct word in this context. The correct word is versus, which is not a verb. Use ‘play’, ‘oppose’, ‘battle’… anything but ‘verse’. Yes, this is the hill I will kill and die on.

What’s got you talking after our weekend in Vegas, Roarers?