Spherical 2 is behind us, and there may be loads to debate because the season begins to take form. Listed below are my NRL speaking factors from one other cracking weekend of motion.
The indicators are there for the Dragons and Raiders, however issues have to click on in a rush
The Dragons and Raiders have each made detached begins to the brand new season, and whereas optimistic indicators are there for each side, they want issues to click on in a rush, with this more likely to be one other extremely shut season the place the highest eight is determined one or two outcomes.
As a Dragons fan, I’ll let you know first-hand premierships aren’t received in March, April or Might, but it surely certain helps to be in kind and on the proper finish of the desk.
The Dragons have began their season with some optimistic indicators. Each video games have kicked off fairly effectively, with the membership matching it up properly in opposition to the Cowboys and Rabbitohs.
Nevertheless, their second halves have been poor. In Spherical 1, they have been ruined by Jason Tuamalolo and Michael Morgan. In Spherical 2, they have been stomped on by the Souths pack and Adam Reynolds.
There are main points with the Dragons defence late in video games, though there are excuses this weekend (five-day turnaround on journey again from Townsville), but it surely’s their backbone which wants checking out.
It’s nonetheless too early to make a judgement on Gareth Widdop on the again, however the indicators there are blended, as they’re throughout the remainder of the backbone – which incorporates Matt Dufty’s inclusion on the bench.
The Raiders, however, beat up on the Titans in Spherical 1. The 21-Zero victory was one, however needed to be taken with a grain of salt, given the Titans unpredictability and damage points.
Nonetheless, Canberra might solely play what was in entrance of them and did a reasonably good job of that.
Regardless of the scoreline in opposition to the Storm this weekend, in addition to the very fact the sport appeared over within the first half, they didn’t play all that poorly.
Positive, their defence on the sting was missing, but it surely’ll get higher as new mixtures start to gel, whereas Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad has additionally been strong at each ends of the park.
The second half in opposition to Melbourne most likely advised us extra about the place the Raiders have been at, with just some points in execution costing them a real probability of getting again into the competition.
They most likely want extra from their forwards, however each the Dragons and Raiders are there and abouts early on.
Tevita Pangai Junior is an Origin certainty out of a Broncos pack who should be good
Tevita Pangai Junior most likely wasn’t all that far-off from the New South Wales Blues set-up in 2018, however after a powerful end to the season, and an equally sturdy begin to the brand new one, he should be now in one of the best 17 for Brad Fittler.
There are going to be some modifications within the forwards, most notably the seemingly want to switch Jack de Belin, whereas different forwards have query marks, and Pangai Junior is making these questions marks greater and larger with every passing week.
Whereas he got here off the bench in Spherical 1 as a result of a scarcity of match health, he was sturdy in opposition to Melbourne, then bullied the Cowboys this weekend.
There may be virtually no probability we’ll see him begin on the bench once more anytime quickly, and if he retains up his prolific work charge and hazard with the ball on the line, then he’ll begin to stamp his authority as among the finest forwards within the competitors.
And whereas Pangai Junior led the best way for Brisbane, it was an entire effort from the ahead pack, and it must be week in and week out if they’re to proceed profitable video games of footy.
Their backbone is solely not up with one of the best within the competitors, so they have to dominate possession and territory as they did on Friday to have an opportunity in opposition to the highest groups.
That’s to not say their backbone is poor, but it surely doesn’t have the consistency to bail the workforce out, ought to they get belted up the center, given there isn’t any actual organising presence.
Talking of big-name forwards within the Queensland derby, and wasn’t the damage to Jason Taumalolo a noticeable one?
The distinction between him being on and off the sector is big for the Cowboys. It impacts Michael Morgan, it impacts there exterior backs, and the overall velocity at which they play.
Blake Ferguson makes all of the distinction
Effectively, effectively, effectively, my pre-season prediction about Parramatta is trying shaky.
Whereas they solely beat up on the horrendous Bulldogs in the present day, there are two massive variations of their facet which simply weren’t accounted for correctly within the pre-season by a overwhelming majority of pundits.
The primary was delivery off high-profile gamers and getting a defensive perspective adjustment on the membership.
The opposite was bringing in Blake Ferguson. It’s uncommon a winger can have such a dramatic affect on a workforce’s efficiency, however his means to get units off to good begins, end constantly and work together with his ever-improving defence is a testomony to his high quality.
Ferguson had his second nice recreation in two makes an attempt for the Eels in opposition to the Bulldogs, working for almost 300 metres, making ten line breaks and scoring a few tries.
They’re beautiful numbers by any account of the state of affairs, and his affect is simple to see, with units usually getting off to good begins for the blue and gold on the again of the massive winger.
The Eels are two and two to start out the season, and whereas issues will get more durable than an underperforming Panthers and the Bulldogs, the indicators are optimistic, nevertheless, judgement needs to be reserved till after Spherical four, with the Roosters and Sharks subsequent up.
Was final week a false begin for the Warriors?
One of many causes I refused to speak up the probabilities of the Warriors final week on this column was they’d crushed the Bulldogs at residence, slightly than membership, or anybody away from residence.
Through the years, now we have seen the Auckland-based outfit wrestle on the highway, and whereas it’s early days within the new season, their loss to the Tigers signifies the identical factor would possibly occur this time round.
After all, their assault was crisp in opposition to the Bulldogs, and younger half Adam Keirghan regarded like a world beater, however at this time limit, he’s no Shaun Johnson, and their ahead pack appears to be down a tick on the place it was final yr.
It’s not a disastrous state of affairs but, however the Warriors are a workforce who play on their momentum, so too many losses the place they play poorly for 80 minutes and lose their attacking construction may very well be disastrous transferring ahead.
What’s already clear, notably with much less expertise on the park, is that the Warriors should take care of their residence floor on every alternative.
The Bulldogs are shaping up for a protracted winter
The Bulldogs have been, let’s be sincere, not nice in opposition to the Eels. Sadly for them, that’s two in a row to launch the brand new season after being hammered by the Warriors final week.
Whereas expectations have been by no means on the Bulldogs to make the highest eight this season, they have been presupposed to be ready to maneuver ahead from their embarrassing 2018.
With plenty of younger expertise on the membership, they wanted to start out 2019 with a few confidence-boosting performances.
As a substitute although, they’ve just about been on the reverse finish of the spectrum, with defensive efforts trying sloppy, and their assault not gelling in any respect.
Once more, there have been strikes within the low season, and so issues might take some time to click on, however for a membership presupposed to be on an upward development with a really perfect of qualifying for the finals in 2020, they give the impression of being a great distance off the cash in the meanwhile.
Questions should even be requested of Dean Pay. Why Rhyse Martin is enjoying (very effectively, it should be added), in reserve grade, is anybody’s guess. The forwards haven’t been setting the world on fireplace, and Martin was one among their finest final yr.
The attacking construction doesn’t fairly appear to go well with Lachlan Lewis in the meanwhile both, whereas Nick Meaney watching on from the sidelines whereas Will Hopoate and co play in an unsure again line additionally doesn’t make a lot sense.
The Storm and Roosters are going to be on the prime finish of city once more
Melbourne and the Roosters performed out the 2018 grand remaining, and it will hardly shock to see them again on the largest stage this season.
Whereas I absolutely count on groups just like the strong-starting Rabbitohs to put the strain on them, the Storm definitely are again someplace close to their finest to kick issues off in 2019.
They don’t seem like at full health fairly but, with performances tailing off within the second half in opposition to each the Broncos and Raiders, however the best way they’ve began each of their video games so far recommend there are few groups who’re going to have the ability to sustain with them when the whips are cracking later within the marketing campaign.
There have been loads of questions across the Storm this yr, and rightly so, however Jahrome Hughes has been glorious alongside Cameron Munster and Brodie Croft, with their right-hand facet firing on all cylinders. In the meantime, Suliasi Vunivalu had his finest efficiency in 12 months in opposition to the Raiders, and their forwards haven’t given the opposition an opportunity to breathe.
Whereas the Storm are more likely to be within the prime 4 once more, defending premiers the Roosters aren’t going to be far-off both, even when they solely have performed one good half of footy out of 4.
That one good half is sufficient to present they haven’t misplaced the expertise they’d final yr although, with the membership nonetheless placing defence forward of the remainder and letting their assault do the speaking.
They clocked within the second half in opposition to Manly in hostile climate at Brookvale, however they have been within the hunt in opposition to Souths final week, and it’s fairly clear the World Membership Problem has left a mark on the membership.
That World Membership Problem and the additional depth in opposition to them every week would possibly cease them going the space, however to see them miss the highest 4 at this level can be a shock.
Maguire’s Tigers look the products
Just like the Eels, it’s somewhat tough to get a learn on the Tigers to this point, however they give the impression of being higher than final yr, at any charge.
The Tigers have been somewhat gradual to start out each of their video games to this point, however as soon as the assault has clicked, it has regarded crisp, with veterans Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah main the cost.
One of many key criticisms of the Tigers final yr was their assault was terrible throughout the first half of the yr, regardless of some massive wins over key premiership contenders.
They went on to overlook the highest eight, and it was hardly a shock. You may’t base your recreation solely on defence for 25 weeks, do a mountain of additional work, and hope to have any gasoline left for the ultimate stretch for the finals as the massive contenders hit peak kind.
Whereas they’ve solely performed the Sea Eagles and Tigers within the first two weeks, their assault appears to have extra construction and risk to it, with Maguire’s health regime additionally seemingly working a deal with.
They have been sturdy in hostile situations in opposition to a weakened Manly facet earlier than placing them away, after which got here good in opposition to the Warriors to do related.
Being up for the struggle within the remaining 20 minutes of the sport is half the battle for the Tigers this yr, however with veterans in key positions, they give the impression of being higher than final yr, and have two wins to indicate for it.
Roarers, what did you make of Spherical 2? Drop a remark and tell us.
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