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NRL Round 4 Talking Points: A month is done - let’s make some hard calls

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31st March, 2024
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We’ve reached the end* of round four which as you know, means we’ve seen enough to be able to look at teams and feel a little more confident with more long term predictions about how they might be tracking. Let’s have a look at your weekly NRL talking points.

Weekly ref sooking

If you want to complain and argue about soft obstruction calls costing tries, hip drops, late knees on try scorers, loose carries being called strips, tries awarded but not properly grounded and so on… Do it in the comments. I’m not doing yet another talking point about the refs this week.

What I do have this week is a message to the NRL’s Head of football elite competitions, Graham Annesley.

Graham Annesley speaks during the 2019 Origin launch

Graham Annesley. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Hey Graham – stop talking. End the weekly public referee hanging you perform every Monday, or immediately after games when Buzz Rothfield texts you for a reply.

Stop talking and back your refs. Wear the heat for them, and deal with the inevitable errors behind closed doors. Let the media and the rest of us fans argue amongst ourselves over here – you stay out of it. Burning your refereeing crew publicly to get a bunch of media sooks off your back is weak and if you can’t stop this, get someone who can.

I’ve been saying for years on The Roar that rugby league almost stands alone in world sport with its ingrained culture of disrespect for its match officials. It has to get better. We all do.

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The mighty

It’s Penrith. A round one loss in Melbourne being held to zero, then three strong wins over fellow finals aspirants without looking bothered at all. Their win over the Roosters showed the Panthers remain head and shoulders above the field.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 28: Mavrik Geyer of the Panthers celebrates winning the round four NRL match between Sydney Roosters and Penrith Panthers at Allianz Stadium on March 28, 2024, in Sydney, Australia.

Penrith debutant Mavrik Geyer. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The field

New Zealand may be one of the only non-Penrith teams who exude ‘finals energy’ when they play. Their start to the year has been one of a team doing all they need and nothing more. Good teams pace themselves, and the Warriors are doing exactly that.

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Brisbane finally opened the throttle against the Cowboys and they needed to. Every game the Broncos has played has been a double-figure margin one way or the other. They need to find some balance because they either score heaps of points or bugger all, and they either concede heaps of points or bugger all. Is Selwyn Cobbo in the centres a good idea?

Melbourne had the bye this week and their 2-1 record is not based on overly convincing play, let’s be honest. They haven’t been helped by injuries and the non-appearance of Cam Munster. I’m not dumb enough to write them off though. They should make the finals.

Did Cronulla need that over Canberra. Trailing 0-18 before reeling off 32 unanswered to win 36-22 in a domination. It pushed their points differential into the positive and they sit fourth. Sure, it won’t get ‘they can’t beat the good teams’ off their back but it’s one of the wins they can bank for a top four run.

North Queensland had plenty of suitors ahead of their game with Brisbane. They’d won their first 3 against not great opposition and the Broncos introduced a huge reality check to the tune of 38-12. They’ve got work to do to win us back.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 29: Billy Walters of the Broncos celebrates a try during the round four NRL match between Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium, on March 29, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Billy Walters celebrates scoring Brisbane’s first try. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Parramatta sit in the ‘good not great’ bag. But they’ve got a reasonable defence to build a solid foundation for finals play later in the year. No Mitch Moses for a while s going to sting.

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The Roosters were exciting, then blah. They shredded the bunnies last week but weren’t in the same class as Penrith in a game they only lost by 6, but were never a chance to win. They’re barely hanging on to the cliff face.

The rest

South Sydney won a game, but if Canterbury were half serious the Bulldogs should have done much better than the 20-16 final. Jack Wighton’s double was important but the bunnies have dug themselves such a big hole they might not be able to get out.

The Dolphins are top of the pops! 2-1, a points differential of +29. Who did they beat though? Cellar dwellers St George Illawarra and the Gold Coast Titans.

Newcastle and Manly find themselves in the same boat – great on paper, mid on grass. The Knights have just been unthreatening, the Sea Eagles maddening.

Canberra were utterly deplorable against Cronulla. The Raiders don’t carry many expectations this year but limp, uninterested defence won’t make for pretty watching.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 31: Jesse Ramien of the Sharks is tackled during the round four NRL match between Cronulla Sharks and Canberra Raiders at PointsBet Stadium, on March 31, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Cronulla’s Jesse Ramien is tackled. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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Canterbury and Wests Tigers are on a study year so no hardcore predictions will fit for them. The Bulldogs have certainly improved, despite the media bashing they cop. The Tigers will fight against the good teams and have a chance against the bad.

St George Illawarra are in a similar boat. There’s enough talent to pinch a win like they did against Manly on Saturday, and it’s not outrageous to suggest the Dragons might fight their way to the fringes of the 8-11 positions.

The Titans have started horribly. There’s no visible playing style being attempted and it’s unclear what new coach Des Hasler wants his team to do. His appointment left many scratching their heads and the Titans have shown us nothing to prove us wrong.

Good games this week

*Don’t forget – there’s still one game left for Easter with Parramatta and Wests Tigers at Parra Stadium. It’s a chance to be a decent contest but that hangs on the Tigers showing up with intent and the pan to get through the Eels defence.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 09: Bryce Cartwright of the Eels celebrates celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round one NRL match between Parramatta Eels and Canterbury Bulldogs at CommBank Stadium, on March 09, 2024, in Sydney, Australia.

Parramatta celebrate s try. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

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Round five starts Thursday though, and it’s a beaut as Brisbane head to Melbourne to take on the Storm. Worth the watch.

Friday’s early game may also be worth a watch with the Bulldogs taking on the Roosters and it better be good, cos the late game looks like a bludger with Newcastle hosting St George Illawarra.

Saturday has three pretty fun looking games – in the arvo, New Zealand play the ‘resurgent’ South Sydney at Homebush, the twilight game is Manly and Penrith before the nightcap of The Dolphins and Wests Tigers.

Two games on Sunday, with the Cowboys hosting the Titans before the night game in Canberra as the Raiders host Parramatta.. and hooley dooley will the green machine need to pull up their shorts after having them well and truly pulled down in round four.

Cronulla have the bye.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 30: Kieran Foran of the Titans is tackled during the round four NRL match between Gold Coast Titans and Dolphins at Cbus Super Stadium, on March 30, 2024, in Gold Coast, Australia.

The Gold Coast’s Kieran Foran gets run down. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Round 4’s random thoughts

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  • Maybe it’s my old man eyes but can we make more headgear in club colours? White headgear bouncing around in a tackle always makes me think the ball has come loose.
  • Jarome Luai was great against the Roosters. He’s won 16 of the 18 games (with 1 loss, 1 draw) when his halves partner Nathan Cleary hasn’t played… That’s interesting.
  • Halves and wingers keep dropping like flies. Josh Addo-Carr and Alex Johnson both got hurt this week, and New Zealand’s five-eighth Luke Metcalf is going to miss a while after hurting his ankle.
  • Four games over the weekend were decided by single digits but to be realistic, late tries made these scores look much closer than the games actually were.
  • Tip of the (giant) hat to Reece Walsh. What a sartorial figure the injured Bronco cut on Saturday as his teammates dismantled North Queensland. Where can I get one?

What’s caught your eye this weekend, Roarers?

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