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NRL Round 12 Talking Points: Penrith remind us who’s boss, points everywhere and Madge’s brand new Blues

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26th May, 2024
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Another good round of rugby league is in the bank, with upsets, comebacks and an ominous performance by the champs. Here come your talking points for the weekend’s games.

Obligatory State of Origin talking point

There’s more than enough Origin analysis going around on The Roar while New South Wales and Queensland announce their squads for game one so this will be quick – it’s all about who’s not selected for some teams.

James Tedesco has been in vintage form this season but misses out – the Roosters will be more than happy to have him around during this period. So too will the Tigers, who keep Api Koroisau with them.

The Tigers won’t be so happy about the non-selection of forward Stefano Utoikamanu, because apparently he has a clause in his Tigers contract that means he can opt out for 2025 if he doesn’t play two Origin games for the Blues.

At time of writing the Queensland team hadn’t been released but if rumours of David Fifita missing out are confirmed, that’s just bizarre. All season he’s been busting the ‘lazy’ stereotype even lazier analysts slapped on him.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 30: David Fifita of the Titans looks on during the round four NRL match between Gold Coast Titans and Dolphins at Cbus Super Stadium, on March 30, 2024, in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

David Fifita. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

New South Wales coach Michael Maguire was on a hiding to nothing – stick with the same crew and cop it for not having the courage to change, or change things and cop it for not keeping players who ‘know Origin’. The squad he’s settled on is an interesting one.

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Penrith send a message: we’re still around

42-0. If that’s not an emphatic reminder of Penrith’s power and class then I don’t know what is. We’ve rightly spent the last few weeks giving Cronulla their credit for tough wins against quality opposition but fair or not, their premiership credentials were set alight by the title holders.

Penrith give all their opponents a thorough audit of their entire game, from attack and defence to your team’s tactual nous, fitness and will. You need to have almost the perfect outing to beat them when they’re in a mood and boy, were they in a mood on Saturday night. Jarome Luai was again magnificent, another tick in a year where he’s jamming the ‘passenger’ claims from the doubters right back down their throats.

It’s not really panic stations for the Sharks, they’re still top and are a top-four favourite. But fairly or unfairly, those flat track bully allegations still won’t go away. Penrith might have done the Sharks a favour – because Craig Fitzgibbon’s men now know how far they have to go to get to the pinnacle.

Some fun wins

Fun being entertaining, fun being impactful, fun being consequential for positions on the ladder. Let’s take a look at the key victories.

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Manly really needed that 26-20 over the Storm, whether or not the visitors were banged up. It was a vital two points before the Sea Eagles lose their best to Origin.

I will agree though with Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy’s comments post-game that the NRL need to get rid of the five-day turnaround between games. It’s an easy thing to fix.

I was in the capital as the Roosters walked past the Raiders 44-16, and what stood out was not that Trent Robinson’s men were doing anything particularly spectacular or mesmerising, they were just really, really good at what they did. They attack with speed, they run a million lines which baffles the opposition and their defence did all it needed to. The win took the Chooks from 11th to fifth and they’ve scored 212 points in their last five games.

Sunday’s games were both fantastic, with the Titans running down the Broncos (more on that later) and the Warriors regaining more of their balance with a stirring, understrength win over the Dolphins who led early but fought them all the way. Andrew Webster’s men are still behind the crowd for a finals spot, but they’re finally getting reward for their effort.

Canterbury weren’t in a great spot at half-time on Thursday night after a bludging first 40 against the Dragons. Errors, bombed tries and poor defence had some thinking they were going to blow it again in a game they should win, but their second half righted all wrongs with a 38-0 half for a 44-12 final.

Some apologies

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Occasionally, very rarely, your humble talking points may get their angles wrong. But unlike other weekly outings around the NRL media, errors or misplaced opinions here of a Monday will always be acknowledged. Let’s begin…

Firstly, to Des Hasler. After a few weeks of the season I was wondering out loud if he was the right appointment for the Titans as they flapped and flailed around the field. But while the Gold Coast are still just three wins from 11 games, they’ve been highly competitive for the last month, capped by a great 36-32 win over Brisbane on Sunday.

Gold Coast’s last seven games (for a 3-4 record) have had a combined final margin of 18 points, an incredible stat. Their biggest loss since Round 6 is four points and they’ve scored at least 20 points in every game since Round 5. Penrith haven’t done that, neither have the Storm. So, well played, Des, and we’ll see if his methods and plan continue to take root.

Next, Selwyn Cobbo. I had some questions about a move to the Broncos’ centres even though he’d played the position ‘back in the day’, but Cobbo has been good for Brisbane busting tackles, putting his teammates into space and covering in defence, too.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 12: Selwyn Cobbo of the Broncos dives over to score a try during the round six NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and Dolphins at Suncorp Stadium, on April 12, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Good games this week

State of Origin squads are announced, which means many teams are into their depth selections and seven clubs are on a bye. WIll impact the regular season? Even though we’ve only got five games coming this week, I reckon we’ll still get some entertainment.

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Things get going Thursday with Parramatta hosting Cronulla. The Eels were dismantled by South Sydney and it’s hard to see them getting right quickly against a beaten yet still very good Sharks team.

Friday night heads to Newcastle for the Knights and Bulldogs, which could be a sneaky good matchup.

Saturday has two games, the Panthers and Dragons followed by the Dolphins in Redcliffe against the Raiders. The first game should give Penrith top-four security, the second game is a good old ‘four-pointer’ for two clubs aiming at a finals spot.

One game on Sunday and it’s the in form Roosters welcoming the Cowboys to Moore Park.

Round 12’s random thoughts

– Yes, there was even more hip drop lotto this week. The rule was known but not applied, or was interpreted differently across the round with sin-bin/suspension/fine/no punishment on the table for every tackle. As previously stated though, your weekly talking points are not the place where we want to rehash the same refereeing issues over and over again. Where’s the variety in that?
– Accor Stadium had a crowd of 15,443 on Thursday for the Bulldogs and Dragons, a bigger crowd than a few other games. But it was a soulless, lifeless affair which sounded through the TV as if it was being played in silence. I know they won’t stop playing there, but surely the broadcasters can get the crowd mics in better spots.
– Titans winger Tony Francis scoring a try on debut with a bung shoulder was one thing, but him making the effort to move the ball closer for an easier conversion instead of just falling over the line out wide shouldn’t go unnoticed.
– Two penalty tries awarded this weekend against Gold Coast’s Beau Fermor and Canberra’s Morgan Smithies. The Smithies one was interesting, because he was adjudged to have impeded Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary from scoring even though Keary had gotten to the ball without incident and was the only player near it, but had knocked on trying to ground it.
– Worth noting this weekend more than a few players who stayed down after a tackle to try and force a bunker check went unrewarded and were made to get up and play the ball. I support this refereeing approach very much…
– Parramatta announced the return of James Hardie as a major sponsor during the week, which was met with a wave of ’80s nostalgia but also a few reminders of why Hardie wasn’t on the jersey for a long time.
– Both State of Origin teams were leaked by the press before the official announcement. It’s good journalism, sure, but not really fun for the fan, is it?

What’s caught your eye this weekend, Roarers?

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