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Opinion

NRL Round 1 Talking Points: A full week is done and dusted - let’s all overreact together

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Expert
10th March, 2024
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Some teams looked great, others were trash, others enigmatic… Let’s take a moment and look back on the NRL’s first completed round for season 2024.

Massive weekend overreactions are here!

The Cowboys are back! Their flogging of the hapless Dolphins shows they’ve learned their lessons from last year’s horrible start.

The Dolphins are ignoring Wayne Bennett, he’s washed up!

Penrith don’t scare anyone any more! They’re too defensive!

The Eels are back! They showed how ready they were to attack the year.

The Knights are shot! Adam O’Brien can’t coach! The Knights were fools to extend him!

Cronulla have broken through and can now beat anyone and New Zealand are frauds, we all knew it!

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Yes, these are all genuine takes I’ve seen from the weekend.

It’s time for your weekly reminder – teams are pacing themselves and it’s way too early to fire up about one thing or another because week two will prove you wrong.

Let’s not set our takes in concrete until we get past round four.

Deathriding the Panthers for their doughnut in Melbourne is moronic. Same for other losing sides Newcastle and New Zealand. There’s a long, long way to go here. Remember – Penrith were 1-2 after a month last season. The Dolphins started 3-0. Canterbury were 2-1.

More overreaction and lots o’hubbub about North Queensland’s Zac Laybutt being awarded a penalty try after being taken off the ball by a Dolphins defender. I can see it both ways, which to me means the call is fair enough.

As with all these things though, the reaction was well out of proportion to the actual decision as fans and pundits alike lost their minds.

Wonder if a big driver of that outrage was because Kasey Badger in the bunker made the call?

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Storm and the Panthers was the worst best game of the round

Friday night in Melbourne was a fascinating study in rugby league. It was hot and humid in Melbourne, which made handling rough and sapped players’ energy quickly. For me, that made the defensive effort from both teams just remarkable.

Penrith only missed 22 tackles to Melbourne’s 32 (both great numbers, to be fair). Penrith completed sets at a better clip than the Storm, ran for many more metres, had 14 more offloads, more line breaks but still, after all that, couldn’t break through.

But the teams combined for 28 errors and 15 penalties. Normally error and penalty counts like that result in a bludger of a game but I was enthralled.

So many moments: The Storm defending like maniacs for what felt like 15 minutes midway through the second half. Penrith missing a try for an obstruction call I thought was iffy, but was in the rules and helped by an all-time sales job by Jahrome Hughes. The desperation from both clubs in what could have been a round one throwaway game – but it clearly meant plenty more.

One of the best one-try games we’ll see in a very long time.

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Melbourne Storm beat Penrith Panthers

Reimis Smith of the Storm celebrates with teammates after scoring a try against Penrith Panthers. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Good games this week

Round two has a few intriguing matchups and we get right into it in Brisbane on Thursday when South look to amend their Vegas shocker against the Broncos, who are also looking to amend their Vegas shocker. The loser goes 0-2… Is that a big deal?

Cronulla host Canterbury in Friday’s early game fresh off a great win across the ditch, while according to their coach, the Doggies come off a fantastic second half against the Eels (which they lost 6-12). Whose form are you gonna believe?

Penrith look for their first score of the year against Parramatta in their home surrounds primetime Friday. The premiers defended pretty well against Melbourne but just couldn’t turn half-chances into points, while Parra looked reasonably good in a first-up win.

Saturday afternoon it’s Canberra hosting Wests Tigers, who had the bye last week. It’s an interesting time for Tigers fans, who genuinely don’t know what to expect as their new on and off-field setups get the gameday test.

Life doesn’t get much easier for Newcastle, who need to shake off their first up horror show in Townsville against the keen Cowboys.

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Melbourne will see if they can replicate that defensive effort when the Warriors come to town. New Zealand were the disappointment of round one – let’s see how they react.

Sunday’s games are Manly and the Roosters at Brookvale in what might well be the game of the round, and then things wrap up with the Dragons a genuine chance to go 2-0 at Redcliffe.

The Titans have a week off to dwell on their horrible first-up effort against St George Illawarra.

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Round 1 random thoughts

– Canberra prop Emre Guler was incredibly lucky to get away with a fine for a sticker of a hip drop tackle on Newcastle’s Dylan Lucas. I thought these were the types of tackles we were trying to get rid of. Guler was a centimetre from ending Lucas’ season.

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– On pure body language it was interesting to see how Des Hasler and Shane Flanagan took to their first games back from the wilderness. Hasler looked like he’d rather be anywhere else, Flanagan’s Dragons did what they needed to do.

– Andrew Johns and Paul Gallen had a bit to say on the weekend about the Spencer Leniu/Ezra Mam racism accusation. If there are any two people in Rugby League I’m less interested in hearing from about racism, it’s those two. You can do a search for yourself as to why.

What else caught your eye this weekend, Roarers?

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