NRL Round 8 Talking Points & Team of the Week
Wayne's world party time excellent, Sharks bite the Storm again, the Latrell era is here, there's no place like home for Parra.
WAYNE’S WORLD PARTY TIME EXCELLENT
Wayne Bennett is a master at playing mind games – whether on the media, his opposition, even his own team. But there was nothing left open for interpretation as the Souths coach kicked back and enjoyed his side steamroll over a broken Brisbane 38-6. While his former Broncos side look fragile and directionless, Souths played in ruthless fashion and leapfrogged Melbourne in doing so.
The NSW selection hype has focused on Luke Keary but the man who replaced him in the Souths number six jersey showed he’s worthy of such attention too. Cody Walker was a star, standing out in a blistering attacking display – not the first time Walker’s done this either in 2019. Walker’s always had the talent dating back to his days in Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup but under Bennett’s tutelage he appears to now be adding genuine consistency to his game.
Tom Burgess doesn’t get the headlines often but he was the Bunnies’ best in a dominant pack, a fair effort considering brother Sam had another impressive hitout against Broncos forwards who had no answer to Souths’ momentum. It wasn’t a perfect performance from the Bunnies – handling errors throughout the night kept the score becoming a cricket one – but Bennett has to be delighted at his side’s progress heading into rep season.
Up next – Magic Round sees the Bunnies ($1.40 – Sportsbet) play the final game of the week against North Queensland ($2.96 – Sportsbet) at Suncorp.
SHARKS BITE THE STORM AGAIN
Cronulla’s 20-18 victory against Melbourne will be one of the Shire club’s all-time most savoured wins. These sides always play with extra feeling given there’s a genuine rivalry between them – highlighted by Cronulla’s 2016 Grand Final win – but given how threadbare the Sharks side were entering the match, that emotion added to an incredible upset.
Coach John Morris had earlier joked about needing to find a jersey to make a comeback given their injury crisis sidelining no less than Wade Graham, Shaun Johnson, Matt Moylan and Aaron Woods, but although the 300-gamer was safe in the coaches box, his young side played their hearts out along with Andrew Fifita dictating the game with a powerhouse performance.
Six of the Sharks side had each played fewer than 10 NRL games but they never looked intimidated against the Storm. They had a clear gameplan to respect possession and maximise their effort – and in completing an astounding 20 from 20 second half sets, they never let the Storm play a short field or generate momentum. Even with they’ve suffered losses (like their 29-6 defeat to Brisbane), Cronulla have always played with desire under coach Morris and are reinforcing their reputation as a side you know will be up for the fight no matter the circumstances.
Up next – The Sharks ($1.77 – Sportsbet) kickoff Magic Round against the Titans ($2.06 – Sportsbet) at Suncorp.
THE LATRELL ERA IS HERE
Wests Tigers punters got to witness something special on Saturday – it was just unfortunate they were on the receiving end and powerless to stop it. Latrell Mitchell’s performance in the Roosters’ 42-12 win felt like rugby league’s next evolution. 48 hours after South Sydney farewelled the legend Greg Inglis into retirement, the man who has been compared to “GI” before making his NRL debut demonstrated the show will always go on with perhaps his best career performance.
His 60m breakaway for the first of his three tries was frightening – although perhaps not as frightening as Tigers fullback Moses Mbye staring down the 102kg in full flight and being expected to somehow stop him. Mitchell is making a habit of long-range tries out of nothing and while his 26 points on the night will get the attention, his effort plays like hustling to bat a ball dead in the final minutes or playful frustration Boyd Cordner beat him to a try in the final minute will be the most endearing to his coach Trent Robinson. It’s that intensity and competitiveness which will take him in the sport as far as Inglis went – and maybe even further.
Up next – The marquee Magic Round match sees the first placed Roosters ($1.45 – Sportsbet) play the third-placed Raiders ($2.79 – Sportsbet).
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME FOR PARRA
If we’ve learned anything from the Eels’ last three matches, it’s they’re a different beast at their new Bankwest Stadium home. Their 32-18 defeat of the Dragons went a long way in putting their terrible loss to Newcastle last week to bed, and considering their only other match at Bankwest was their incredible 51-6 demolition of Wests, Parra are clearly enjoying home comforts.
The Eels had to do it the hard way, giving St George Illawarra a 14 point head start before they found their mojo and upped the intensity to a level the fading Dragons couldn’t match. Reed Mahoney has been spoken as a bolter for Queensland and the young hooker added to his growing reputation with a try and all-round impressive game. Blake Ferguson is quickly becoming Parra’s barometer, a limited performance last start was reflected in the side’s loss but in the second half the hulking winger came alive and fed off the home crowd, his post-try backflips becoming a trademark.
The win leaves Parramatta in fifth position and is a reminder of the attacking firepower they possess. The Eels are still yet to re-sign the likes of Clint Gutherson, Mitch Moses and Coach Brad Arthur for 2020 and beyond – if their home form remains as is, the Parra masses might be demanding this sooner rather.
Up next – The Eels are outsiders ($3 – Sportsbet) against the Melbourne Storm ($1.38 – Sportsbet) but given the Storm’s recent performances, the Eels will fancy themselves of causing a boil over.
ODDSCHECKER TEAM OF THE WEEK
1- Kalyn Ponga (Knights)
2- Reuben Garrick (Sea Eagles)
3- Latrell Mitchell © (Roosters)
4- Josh Morris (Sharks)
5- Blake Ferguson (Eels)
6- Cody Walker (Rabbitohs)
7- Mitchell Pearce (Knights)
8- Tom Burgess (Rabbitohs)
9- Reed Mahoney (Eels)
10- Andrew Fifita (Sharks)
11- Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs)
12- Boyd Cordner (Roosters)
13- Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys)
ODDSCHECKER PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Latrell Mitchell is a freak. Never mind being the best centre in the game, the 21 year old is making an argument of being the best player. His performance against the Tigers was ridiculously impressive – three tries, 197 running metres, two try assists and 6/7 off his boot equalled a lazy 26 individual points – and poor Esan Marsters and Moses Mbye will be having nightmares over the way Mitchell repeatedly brushed them aside.
Perhaps the scariest part of Mitchell’s performance was all this destruction came from just 15 possessions. To put this into context – opposite centre Mitch Aubusson had 16 possessions. Mitchell is peaking into Origin form and Queensland will be dreading what the young superstar is capable of doing to them soon.