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Opinion

The Vegas Hangover: All four travelling teams mired in a malaise since returning from arduous US trip

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Expert
8th April, 2024
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Somebody call Mr Chow, there’s a fourth version of The Hangover playing out. 

All four teams who took part in the NRL’s Las Vegas extravaganza to kick off the season have been below their best since returning to home soil. 

The Rabbitohs have been downright dreadful, the Roosters and Broncos are also out of the top eight while Manly have been hot and cold at best, splitting their four matches in Australia to be the best placed of the Hangover quartet in seventh. 

Clubs are currently jockeying for positions to be the four teams who will kick off the 2025 season in Vegas. They should be careful what they wish for. 

The Vegas gamble may not be worth it. 

Penrith were also flat when they started their third straight premiership defence in Melbourne after they also flew to the other side of the planet for their World Club Championship final against Wigan. A long way to go to be denied by a dodgy refereeing decision. 

South Sydney’s decline has been rapid since they were run down by Manly in the second half at Allegiant Stadium. 

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Injuries, lacklustre form by everyone not named Cameron Murray and now the suspension to Latrell Mitchell have contributed to their swift spiral into last place.

Perhaps this drop-off was always on the cards but nobody saw it coming when it was time to put in pre-season predictions. 

The signs aren’t good for Jason Demetriou who could end up the Zach Galifianakis in this Vegas plotline. 

With the Bunnies having the bye after this Saturday night’s clash with Cronulla, the outbreak of reporting that suggests Demetriou’s time could be up is not coincidental.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 02: Joseph Manu of the Roosters runs the ballduring the round one NRL match between Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos at Allegiant Stadium, on March 02, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Joseph Manu runs the ball at Allegiant Stadium. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The silence has been deafening from South Sydney’s top brass amid talk that Demetriou could get the punt – that usually happens when executives at a club don’t want to look like hypocrites by giving a beleaguered coach “the full support of the board” before the inevitable occurs.

Brisbane have gone 2-2 after losing first up to the Roosters and injuries have again been a contributor to their modest returns so the Vegas venture can’t definitively be blamed for the slide to 11th spot for last year’s runners-up.

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They might get Reece Walsh back from his facial fracture this Friday against the Dolphins and they should be fine in the long run unless Payne Haas and Adam Reynolds continue to be dogged by injuries. 

So there’s no real cause for concern in BrisVegas just yet.

Manly have also been hot and cold since returning to this side of the Pacific Ocean. 

They redeemed their reputation last week by putting the Panthers away but their losses to Parramatta and particularly St George Illawarra could prove costly later in the year when the playoff seedings are determined. 

Of the teams who are in the chasing bunch behind Penrith, they are probably the hardest to get a gauge on. When they have Tom Trbojevic firing on the back of Daly Cherry-Evans’ creativity, they look like world beaters but the following week they look like also-rans.

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If all goes to plan they could challenge for the minor premiership but you could also see them missing the playoffs altogether if they can’t at least establish some semblance of dependability.

Like their 1908 rivals in red and green, the Roosters have also been in a malaise for the most part since their Stateside sojourn. 

They were impressive in getting the better of Brisbane in the US but have since lost to Manly, a Panthers side without Nathan Cleary and the lowly Bulldogs. 

They racked up a thumping win over the Rabbitohs in Round 3 but that formline doesn’t hold much water in light of South Sydney’s ongoing woes. 

There has been plenty said about the Roosters’ culture of success in recent years and how they have high standards that everyone in the club on and off the field has to maintain. The Roosters’ Way, in title case, if you believe the PR spin.

It’s all well and good to say those things but the guidelines appear somewhat rubbery. 

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 in Vegas. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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When the forward pack needs a boost, someone with the background of Matt Lodge can be brought in. And then punted when it all turns sour.

If there’s a bunch of injuries in the outside backs, Michael Jennings is welcomed back with open arms despite the convicted performance-enhancing drugs user being ordered to pay a civil settlement to his former wife for multiple allegations of sexual and emotional abuse during their relationship. 

The NRL has made the right call by cancelling any form of celebration for Jennings for his 300th match when the Roosters take on the Knights in Newcastle on Thursday night. 

If the Roosters’ culture was all that it is made out to be, there wouldn’t have been a decision to make because he wouldn’t have been allowed back to a club with real standards. 

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