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The Time for an 18th Man Has Arrived

The NRL has been accused of being wildly reactive in recent years but in the interests of fairness the game must introduce an 18th man to account for players being ruled out with HIA. The game was hit with a spate of injuries over the weekend with both Canberra and Cronula being put in an extremely dangerous position of having to play significant minutes with either one or zero players available on the bench.

There is no question the game has done an excellent job around concussions and ensuring players who suffer them cannot go back on. They are putting not only teams at a disadvantage but other players at serious risk of injury if an extra player is not allowed to come in if a player or number of players are ruled out under the HIA protocols. Cronulla stood no chance against Parramatta despite their incredible resilience. With the game expecting so much from clubs and getting so much money from both TV and wagering, the NRL must seriously look at introducing this rule as soon as is feasible.

Two Tackles for the Ages

Villiame Kikau and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck are directly responsible for both the Panthers and Warriors claiming the two points on the weekend. They both also added a chapter in Penrith and New Zealand legend with two tackles for the ages. Kikau came from being knocked over to get his hand under Justin Olam’s attempt to score the matchwinner for Melbourne. RTS went fully stretched to force Jordan Rapana to knock on over the line as he dove for the winner. Some seasons you would not see one tackle of such quality in such a key moment. We got two on the one weekend. 

The Sattler Pantheon

Ben Hunt playing on for the Dragons and guiding them to victory with a broken leg was truly heroic and showed how far he has come since Paul McGregor departed the Saints. Hunt has been the Dragons’ best and among the best in the competition in the first three weeks. His ability to play on with a fractured leg will go down in legend. Hunt was masterful guiding the Dragons home against Manly. His toughness will never be questioned after that heroic display. 

Sad End for Premiership Hero

Michael Morgan was the unlikely hero who delivered the Cowboys their first premiership. When Johnathan Thurston went down hurt in 2017, he elevated his game to become almost the best player in the game, guiding the Cowboys to a Grand Final they had no right being in. The years since have not been kind though as Morgan has never been able to recapture that form and the Cowboys have been terribly disappointing since they became his team. Injuries have cruelled three of his last four seasons and he is now set to hang up his boots. It is a sad and disappointing end to a career that reached such highs and is so ingrained in Rugby League lore yet never had either consistency or a lot of luck. Let’s hope the diagnosis is better than first anticipated. 

Hayne Shame But Dally Ms Must Stay

Jarryd Hayne is seemingly on his way to prison after being found guilty of a vile sexual assault. Incarceration is imminent according to the judge. He is now, rightly, a pariah of the game, a former player who acted in a manner that goes against all the game stands for and aspires to be. His banishment from the game though should not result in him being stripped of his two Dally M Medals, just as Craig Gower should not be awarded the 2003 Dally M Medal 18 years later. The Dally M Medal is an annual award that recognises the best player in a given year. It is not a moral adjudicator or a bastion to dish out further punishment outside the criminal justice system. Hayne should be completely ostracised by the game going forward but it should not be rewriting the history books. 

How To Butcher a Game in a Single Moment

Justin Olam has become arguably the most destructive centre in the competition. His decision not to pass to an open Josh Addo-Carr with the game on the line and the full time siren imminent on Thursday. Addo-Carr is one of the great tryscorers. It was an act of utter selfishness. 

Henry The Octopus Strikes Again

No referee is more prone to a nonsensical howler that defies common sense more than Henry Perenara. His decision not to call a forward pass on a critical Raiders try was not only wrong but was seemingly against his instinct to call a forward pass when he stopped at the point. This is not the first time a team has suffered from a Henry howler and while he keeps getting games, the Raiders won’t be the last. 

One Job

Touch judges essentially have one job: to see when either the ball or a player goes out and raise their flag. There are some small complexities around this, one being that a player needs to reestablish themselves in the field of play when regathering a ball if it is determined to be in-play. Belinda Sharpe, in a single play, allowed a 40-20 kick to go out without raising her flag and then allow Daine Laurie to jump from metres outside the field of play to collect the ball. It was a humiliating stuff-up. 

2021 Field Goal Update – 3

George Williams kicked the third field goal of the season and remarkably the second first half field goal of the season. Williams’ one-pointer was also the first to come from a losing team.

Fun Fact #1

Canterbury have been held scoreless for consecutive games for the first time in their 85-year history. 

Fun Fact #2

The most popular christian name to play first grade in 2021 is Josh with 12 having played so far through three rounds. In 1921 it was Jack, with nine. 

Fun Fact #3

Mitchell Pearce has become just the fifth player to play 300 games and not represent his country.

Betting Market of the Week

What Ricky Stuart wishes he could have said in the press conference following the Raiders being Octopused on Saturday:

$501: Henry really is an excellent referee and on the balance of probabilities he may have erred
$501: Gosh darn, we really didn’t get the rub of the green today
$501: That’s Rugby League
$1.01: That referee has a long history of impossible-to-fathom rulings and we got completely stitched-up by one of the most incompetent non-calls I can ever recall

Rumour Mill

There is speculation that Wayne Bennett has been in contact with Broncos powerbrokers about a third stint at the club and it is expected Adam Reynolds would follow him after Souths are refusing to offer him a long-term deal. There is expected to be a notable moving of prop forwards soon with Martin Taupau linked to Cronulla and Andrew Fifita expected to shift to the Dragons. Jaydn Su’A is being targeted by Manly. Kotoni Staggs is expected to announce a move to the Titans soon. 

The Coaching Crosshairs

Trent Barrett’s second stint as an NRL coach will be short and will end in acrimony if what the Bulldogs have shown through three weeks is anything to go by. There is no question the Bulldogs have a massive talent deficiency. They are a club in a rebuild. The lack of both energy and anything resembling a sophisticated gameplan were alarming. They also confirmed the concerns of those critical of Barrett’s hiring after his disastrous stint at Manly. The Bulldogs have very few winnable games this year. The Broncos were one. Brisbane are a horrid defensive team who lack fitness, conceding five tries last week in the middle of the field. The Bulldogs played side-to-side with zero speed, never attempting to isolate poor defenders or weak links. That is to say nothing of the lack of fundamentals. Barrett can preach patience all he wants but times does not make an ordinary coach better. Recycled coaches have a very ordinary record and Barrett does not look like being an exception to that rule. 

Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week

Ricky Stuart pulled an extremely odd move on Saturday when he opted to play three hookers, starting Josh Hodgson and playing both Silivia Havili and Tom Starling on the bench. Hodgson and Havilii can both play as running forwards but it limited the Raiders bench on a day they desperately needed talent when they lost so many to injury. 

Jersey Watch

The Warriors have any number of jerseys but the best they ever look is in their primary white jersey with a blue and green v. It is a testament to their debut season and looks far superior to any black or grey effort they roll out. 

Watch It

One of the great flyers in premiership history, Larry Corowa to this day is revered for his brilliance on the football field. Richard Koch, Rugby League tragic, sent this short video of him through and said even this did not do his magic justice. See The Black Flash absolutely carve up. Watch it here