NRL Rd 18 Talking Points & Team of the Week
Is Haas the best young prop in the game?, Where to now for Mary? The Chooks are back and the Sea Eagles are flying under the radar.
IS PAYNE HAAS THE BEST YOUNG PROP IN THE GAME?
Brisbane kept their season alive with a convincing 28-6 win over Canterbury with their brilliant young prop Payne Haas leading the way yet again. The 19-year-old is thriving in a position traditionally suited to far more seasoned players, averaging 169m and 34 tackles in his first full season of top-flight footy.
He earned a meteoric call-up for NSW and while the spotlight shined on David Klemmer’s controversial omission when the initial game three squad was announced, Haas was deadset unlucky not to return to the squad after injury ruled him out for the second game.
Canterbury might not be the strongest litmus test in 2019 but regardless Haas bullied his way through their middle and for the fourth straight game registered an increase in his run metres.
In a year where disappointments have come far too often for Brisbane, Haas announcing himself as their future pack cornerstone has to be considered a bright omen for things to come.
WHERE TO NOW FOR MARY?
With each spirit-crushing defeat the Dragons suffer, the decision to extend Paul McGregor’s tenure becomes even more difficult to swallow for Red V punters. St George Illawarra all but waved the white flag on 2019 with a 40-18 belting off Penrith and will now miss the finals for the third time in “Mary’s” five full seasons in charge.
James Graham was a welcome return from his lengthy layoff but with halfback Ben Hunt controversially a healthy scratch, the Dragons were torn apart by the in-form Panthers early in the second half. Whatever McGregor discussed in the sheds during the break didn’t pay off with four Penrith tries in 15 minutes leaving the Dragons shellshocked.
In McGregor’s tenure the Dragons are yet to reach a preliminary final nor finish in the top six of the regular season. The squad at his disposal has been done so entirely under his watch and sees the Dragons still not entirely out of the wooden spoon calculations. With only two wins since round six, the next seven rounds might feel an eternity for McGregor’s men.
THE CHOOKS ARE BACK
For the first 55 minutes on a gorgeous Saturday arvo at the SCG it appeared the Roosters were maintaining the form which saw them lose five of their last six matches. For the final 25 minutes however, it became clear the Premiers had rediscovered their mojo.
Their 48-10 shellacking of Newcastle was an ominous reminder to their rivals that when they’re on song, it’s going to take an almighty effort to contain the Roosters. Overcoming the early loss of Jake Friend, the Roosters unleashed their full attacking arsenal on a stunned Knights to run in six unanswered tries.
James Tedesco has maintained his superb form but the fullback was joined by playmakers Luke Keary and Cooper Cronk who thrived in their partnership after Keary’s recent absence through head knocks.
Latrell Mitchell put his horror display the last time the sides met behind him with a barnstorming display and Boyd Cordner was a man on a mission down the left edge. There’s plenty of time left between now and the finals but if anyone was doubting the Roosters’ during their recent slump, the Premiers went a long way to dismissing them in one swift burst.
THE SEA EAGLES ARE FLYING UNDER THE RADAR
Whisper it quietly – Manly are not only headed for the finals but they’re also looking good for an impressive September run. While some doubts may remain over Canberra’s ability to win the tight games under pressure and other would-be top four contenders are falling by the wayside, Manly are building nicely.
Their 36-24 win over old rivals Parramatta was the latest indication outside of this season’s big three – Melbourne, Sydney and Souths – Manly have the tools to create the most problems in the top eight. Tom Trbojevic is in ridiculous form, shredding the Eels for 284 metres, a try and try assist to provide the magic from fullback.
Premiership-winning half Daly Cherry-Evans is also in fine form and has the seniority to be a dominant playmaker even with his side shuffling five-eighths constantly due to injury. Addin Fonua-Blake and Marty Taupau combined for 289 run metres compared to the Eels’ starting props’ 198m and on their day can stand up to any prop pairing in the league. All this along with Jake Trbojevic’s steadying presence through the middle and the mad scientist coach himself, Des Hasler.
Remember – this time last year Manly were a rabble headed for arguably their worst season in club history under Trent Barrett. With few signings, Hasler has revitalised Manly into a top four candidate and the self-belief they can beat anyone who stands in their way.
ODDSCHECKER TEAM OF THE WEEK
- 1. James Tedesco (Roosters)
- 2. Reuben Garrick (Sea Eagles)
- 3. Latrell Mitchell (Roosters)
- 4. Kotoni Staggs (Broncos)
- 5. Brian To’o (Panthers)
- 6. James Maloney (Panthers)
- 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles)
- 8. Payne Haas (Broncos)
- 9. Damien Cook (Rabbitohs)
- 10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho (Roosters)
- 11. Ethan Lowe © (Rabbitohs)
- 12. John Bateman (Raiders)
- 13. Cameron Murray (Rabbitohs)
ODDSCHECKER PLAYER OF THE WEEK
When Ethan Lowe signed for the Bunnies late into pre-season, it barely registered a blip on the NRL radar. The backrower had gone from a Cowboys Premiership winner to a reserve grader – with a falling out with coach Paul Green in the middle. Wayne Bennett picked Lowe up for a song and just five months later the rangy forward was a serious man of the match contender in his Maroons debut and enjoyed his revenge game against the club who pushed him out the door.
Lowe wasn’t mucking around, opening the scoring inside four minutes before doubling his tally under 20 minutes later. Lowe was the catalyst behind Souths’ crucial win, delivering 38 tackles without a miss and in Sam Burgess’ absence becoming his side’s forwards leader, taking pressure off brilliant young lock Cameron Murray in doing so.