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NRL Round 14 Talking Points: An unbalanced draw, tired Cowboys, Wahs fix themselves

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9th June, 2024
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State of Origin hangovers affected some teams but helped others as the regular season sputters on. Here come your talking points for NRL Round 14.

Who’s back? Who’s gone?

Well played to Cronulla, who once again took care of business when many thought they’d fail. A 22-12 away win at Brisbane might not be worth what it used to be though because the Broncos are nowhere near the club we expected so far this year.

When Kevin Walters’ team is on they’re magnificent, but more often than not this year they’re slow, ponderous and don’t react when a team starts to get the upper hand, shown in how lethargic they looked when Cronulla flipped a 12-4 half-time deficit with 18 points in eight minutes. They need to sort things out quickly, but State of Origin period is the worst time to try and get right.

So the Sharks go equal top with Melbourne (and have actually won more games, 10 to nine). It’s unfair and annoying for Sharks fans to hear because they’re back on track after two losses, but that 32-point defeat to Penrith is going to haunt them for a little while longer.

One team who seems back on their feet is New Zealand, who talked past North Queensland 42-12 for a third win on the trot. After running near the bottom of the table Andrew Webster’s team sits ninth, one point outside the finals on account of their draw with Manly.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 08: Jackson Ford of the Warriors is tackled during the round 14 NRL match between North Queensland Cowboys and New Zealand Warriors at Qld Country Bank Stadium, on June 08, 2024, in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Jackson Ford is tackled. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

The Warriors’ three single-digit losses and the draw might come back to bite but they’ve fought their way back to a respectable spot and if enough goes right they might even be in with a top-four shout. Their next challenge though? Melbourne coming across the ditch next week.

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Unbalanced byes are having an impact

North Queensland were blown out by New Zealand on their own Townsville deck and tumbled further from the finals places. They were tired, they were affected by State of Origin and they were also on wobbly legs, facing an opponent coming off a bye.

A bye would be great for the Cowboys right about now – they haven’t had theirs yet, while several teams have already had two. Todd Payten’s team get theirs in a fortnight but not before they have to travel to Canberra, who will be coming off a bye week.

On the plus side three byes to come will give the Cowboys six competition points, but they’d want to make sure they’re not so far off the pace that those free points don’t count for anything in the end.

The NRL draw has some serious issues. But the appetite to fix it in the name of fairness just doesn’t exist.

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How about we leave Wests Tigers to sort themselves out?

The Tigers are in all sorts on the field, no doubt about it. I had some early hope for the joint venture earlier in the season but their defensive application in particular has fallen off a cliff as they’ve lost nine in a row, seven of those by double digits. You can give a small, small amount of wiggle room by saying they’ve really copped it with multiple injuries to the squad, particularly in key positions.

Their massive loss to St George Illawarra was a study in this. Wests actually led 14-12 at half-time before copping seven tries to zero, completing 4/11 sets (yes, 4/11) and running for just 222 metres in the second half as the Dragons laid a casual 56 points on their hapless opponents.

The Tigers are now dead last in the standings but because of their large and passionate fan-base (and their reliable reactions to clickbait), the club still occupies acres of space in the day-to-day NRL media as grudges are upheld, easy shots are taken and highly unreasonable takes abound.

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There’s plenty of work going on to repair the clown show that was occurring for the Tigers on and off the field during the last few years. There’s going to be more and more pain as the place tries to right itself and there’s little to be gained in picking over the bones of it. Patience is what’s required, not more axe grinding.

Good games this week

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There’s still one game to go this weekend with today’s belter between Canterbury and Parramatta. The Eels are in a ‘win or we’re done’ situation pretty much every week.

Round 15 returns us to regular programming with a full slate of eight games, kicking off Thursday when Cronulla welcome the Dolphins to their construction site. The Sharks are in decent nick, the Dolphins coming off a bye.

Friday night’s pub game is the Raiders hosting the Cowboys, with both sides desperate for more wins. As mentioned earlier, Canberra are off the bye and can’t afford to blow this one due to their horrible for and against of -37.

Friday primetime is interesting, South Sydney and Brisbane. This could be an open, attacking belter of a game, or it could be a dire blowout. Let’s hope for the former.

Round 14’s random thoughts

– Yes, the Rabbitohs won a game. They flogged the Titans 46-12 and got off the bottom of the ladder. But your weekly talking points don’t waste standalone talking points on the 16th team beating the 15th. I just hope Souths fans are happy about it.
– The Dragons were ruthless in wrapping up the win over the Tigers and it was enough to bump them into eighth place. Five of their next six games are against teams in the top eight – can they pinch a few more wins?
– Said it once, might have to say it several times… When the Roosters recruited a fella who calls himself ‘Hectic Cheese’ and who’s spent his career being celebrated for loose behaviour, what did they think was going to happen?
– Newcastle gave it a good crack in Melbourne before going down by 8. Still not sure if they’ll challenge a finals spot though.
– A lifetime has passed since State of Origin game one but two things can be true: Joseph Suaalii was unlucky – but he also had to go.
– The Women’s Origin game two in Newcastle was a belter and was watched by record crowds in the stadium and the lounge rooms. Game three in Townsville on June 27 will decide the series and more than likely break even more records.

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What caught your eye this weekend, Roarers?

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