NRL Rd 17 Talking Points & Team of the Week

Bye Bye Brennan, Newcastle in trouble, Cowboys keep hopes alive & the first draw in 3 years.

James Baxter
Sun, 14 Jul, 7:00 PM


Gold Coast hit rock bottom this weekend – a limp 24-2 loss to Penrith combined with the Bulldogs’ upset over Newcastle means the Titans are outright last and now without a head coach. The rumours surrounding Garth Brennan’s future have grown increasingly louder and with Mal Meninga tasked with doing an extensive internal review, the Titans claimed Brennan’s spot was considered untenable. It’s perhaps a reflection though on Titans management as much as it is on Brennan. It feels like Brennan’s future has been under speculation for months even with the Titans extending his contract in the off-season. They’ve also made the call on Brennan even if officially Meninga’s review was yet to be signed off upon.  If you saw the effort dished out by the Titans on Friday then it was clear something had to change. It was error-strewn and Penrith in first gear was easily enough to win on the night. Bryce Cartwright seemed to epitomise the Titans malaise with a dreadful showing and with Maroons coach Kevin Walters immediately ruling himself out of contention, it’ll take a brave man to turn the Titans ship around with management at a loss and NSW coach Brad Fittler calling for the Titans to be relocated to Brisbane. For a club 13 seasons into its existence, do we really know what the Titans’ identity is? For Brennan, he departs his first head coaching role less than two seasons in. With plenty of runs on the board in Penrith’s lower grades he’ll be in demand from Sydney clubs as an assistant but with only 12 wins from 40 starts, the Titans are once again back at square one.

Up next – life doesn’t get any easier for the Titans ($3.70* - Unibet) when they host the seemingly unstoppable Storm ($1.36* - BetEasy).



Throughout the lengthy rebuild in the post-Tinkler and Bennett era, representative season hardly raised a concern for Newcastle. Yet with their impressive revamped roster suddenly the Knights have had to balance retaining their full-strength squad with a range of Origin callups, and against the lowly Bulldogs their growing pains continued. An 8-0 lead into the second half suddenly became a 20-8 deficit as Canterbury’s notoriously sluggish attack burst into life. The Knights hardly helped themselves, James Gavet earning a sin bin for a late shot on Chris Smith, Sione Mata’utia committed the cardinal sin of kicking off out on the full and their pack couldn’t match it with the Dogs – who lost Aiden Tolman and Sauaso Sue to injuries mid-game. Newcastle have now lost three of their last four and resemble the gun-shy side who were dropping matches at season’s start instead of the outfit who won six straight. A slump like this is all it takes to go from top four contention to a fight to remain in the eight and Newcastle are hardly showing the spark to threaten opponents – Kalyn Ponga can’t return soon enough.

Up next – two out of form teams face off with Newcastle ($3.40* - TopBetta) playing the Roosters ($1.35* - TAB) at the SCG.




For neutrals the Broncos and Warriors’ 18-all draw across 90 minutes was enjoyable viewing, even with the quality not exactly top shelf rugby league. As is so often the case, golden point became a field goal shootout with tiring teams relying on outside backs to cart the ball into position yet neither side capable of executing the shot from six combined attempts. The draw significantly hinders both teams’ faint top eight hopes but there’s hardly anyone who’d argue it was an unfair result – neither side truly got on top. This was the first draw since 2016 which indicates golden point is serving its purpose of deciding a winner – but with the law book seemingly out the window in the extra period and play contested in a different manner to the opening 80 minutes as a result, is golden point still for the best? Let us know on our Facebook page whether you’re in favour of it as is, a change such as golden try, or the plain old draw at the end of 80 minutes.



Few gave the Cowboys a sniff against the Roosters but their superior effort paid off in a crucial 15-12 upset in Gosford. Missing a slew of players headlined by Michael Morgan, North Queensland never gave up and ensured backrower Gavin Cooper’s 300th game was memorable. Jake Clifford spent the end of 2018 playing alongside the master Jonathan Thurston and the half showed his bright potential as he stood up the game’s most experienced halfback Cooper Cronk in style. It’s not a coincidence the Cowboys’ two tries came from their halves taking on the line – big John Asiata scoring in the second half after Clifford’s opener – and with Kurt Baptiste’s cruel knee injury, Jake Granville is relishing playing big minutes. Jason Taumalolo is a megastar and loves facing the Chooks, his barnstorming performance bringing up memories of his incredible game in the 2017 preliminary final. While the spotlight might be shining on the Roosters’ latest loss, it’s only fair to give the Cowboys recognition – they were playing for their season and deserved their win to move them only a win outside the eight.

Up next – Underdogs again, North Queensland ($2.45* - TAB) will host Souths ($1.67* - Bet365) on Saturday night.



  1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Raiders)
  2. Blake Ferguson (Eels)
  3. Brad Takairangi (Eels)
  4. Jarrod Croker (Raiders)
  5. Brian To’o (Panthers)
  6. Cameron Munster (Storm)
  7. Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles)
  8. Payne Haas (Broncos)
  9. Cameron Smith © (Storm)
  10. Jesse Bromwich (Sharks)
  11. Adam Blair (Warriors)
  12. Shaun Lane (Eels)
  13. Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys)



Who else but Mr 400? Cameron Smith has stood the test of time like no other player and the 36-year-old remains at the top of his game even in his 400th NRL appearance.. Melbourne were ruthless against the confidence-stricken Sharks with Smith directing traffic expertly. The only thing lacking from his effort Saturday night was a try, not that the skipper didn’t try with a late intercept briefly raising hopes from the packed home crowd their greatest player would break a lengthy try-scoring drought in his biggest milestone game yet. Smith has hinted he’s got multiple seasons left in him – with performances like this, who’s to argue?


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