NRL Rd 20 Talking Points & Team of the Week
Brooks rising to the occasion, where next for the Warriors?, are the Knights gone?, the surprise team barracking the Roosters' rout
BROOKS RISING TO THE OCCASION
Luke Brooks turned on the class as the Tigers comfortably prevailed 28-4 over the Cowboys to boost their September chances.
Brooks exploded onto the scene with his memorable SCG debut against the Dragons in 2013 yet nearly six years on, it’s arguable the halfback hasn’t quite lived up consistently to the hype created way back when – even if he went close to the Dally M last year, there’s still a perception about Brooks taking a backseat to veteran teammates Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall.
Brooks has hardly been helped with a coaching carousel, succession of halves partners and overall misfiring club recruitment, but his kicking masterclass at Leichhardt showed he could be the man to break Wests’ finals drought, which is the longest active streak in NRL.
Esan Marsters himself has endured an up-and-down 2019 campaign but the young Kiwi centre was the early beneficiary of Brooks’ pinpoint kicking game to score first with a bulldozing finish from the crossfield bomb. With the loser of this clash becoming a longshot for finals footy, Brooks stood up and his three try assists ensured the Cowboys never stood a chance of their first win at Leichhardt since 2000.
Considering the Tigers have teams with no hope for the finals in their upcoming draw including Canterbury and St George Illawarra, Brooks must seize this golden opportunity to steer Wests into the finals and experience the finals cauldron for the first time in his career.
Up next – Wests ($1.62* - Bet365) have a danger game with the Bulldogs ($2.55* - Sportsbet) confident they can spring another upset.
WHERE NEXT FOR THE WARRIORS?
If you look up “horrible” in a thesaurus, you’ll find 43 synonyms – almost a word to describe each point the Warriors leaked as they waved the white flag on their 2019 in a 46-12 humiliation by Canberra. Coach Steve Kearney had an all-time blow-up at halftime, booting a towel at Peta Hiku in between a tirade having some of the side hiding their faces.
Considering in a must-win game they were already trailing 30-0 at that stage, what else could you say? Kodi Nikorima’s ankle injury midway through the first half didn’t help the home side but his early departure doesn’t vindicate why the Warriors’ defensive line looked like they had met each other for the first time 10 minutes before kickoff.
Canberra was ruthless and took full advantage but it’s this type of loss which can linger long after the final siren. The Tigers in 2016 were a win away from a breakthrough finals appearance when they faced Canberra and suffered the same first-half ambush.
A month in 2017 and their coach was sacked and it’s only now they’re back in with a genuine finals shout. This defeat could be one of the more significant setbacks in their topsy-turvy existence.
Up next – Manly ($1.65* - Bet365) have torched the Warriors ($2.40* - TAB) once in New Zealand already this year, can they do it again on Friday?
ARE THE KNIGHTS GOOOONE?
Newcastle made it five straight losses to leave their finals chances increasingly forlorn, going down 30-6 to Manly. Just like their recent loss to the Roosters, the Knights were competitive for around 55 minutes but once their opposition stepped up, things got ugly in a hurry.
Coach Nathan Brown is a man under pressure – his incentive-based contract leaves him a sitting duck for any sustained failures and after their long rebuilding period, Newcastle are very much a club struggling to build a winning culture.
Mitchell Pearce is a shadow of the player he was even two months ago and the likes of Kalyn Ponga and David Klemmer are entitled to feel let down their strong individual efforts aren’t being matched by their teammates.
Jesse Ramien’s banishment is hardly the sign of a united club and having been a real chance at the top four at the start of Origin season, it’s now going to take an almighty turnaround for them to even make the finals.
Up next – it’s now or never for Newcastle ($2.05* - Bet365) when they head to Bankwest to play the top eight Eels ($1.90* - Sportsbet).
THE SURPRISE TEAM BARRACKING THE ROOSTERS’ ROUT
Strap yourself in next Saturday – we’ve got ourselves a Spoon Bowl. Bottom-placed Gold Coast were diabolical in their 58-6 caning by a rampant Roosters – perhaps to the relief of the hapless Dragons.
While Canterbury are finishing a poor season on a high having upset the Panthers, St George Illawarra are limping towards the finish and were it not for the imploding Titans a genuine shot at the wooden spoon. The Dragons’ 12-4 loss to the Eels means Paul McGregor’s side are four points ahead of the Titans but the Roosters’ cricket score has shot the already poor Titans point differential to pieces.
These two freefalling sides face each other next round where a Dragons win will send the spoon to the Glitter Strip. Should they lose though and we could see the spoon decided in these clubs’ final round rematch.
Based on how badly the Dragons are going – having lost five straight – they can do with all the help they can get from the likes of the Roosters, because they’re barely able to help themselves.
Up next – Will the Dragons ($1.35* - Bet365) finally settle the wooden spoon race by beating the Titans ($3.50*)?
ODDSCHECKER TEAM OF THE WEEK
- 1. James Tedesco (Roosters)
- 2. Brett Morris (Roosters)
- 3. Latrell Mitchell (Roosters)
- 4. Bronson Xerri (Sharks)
- 5. Reuben Garrick (Sea Eagles)
- 6. Luke Keary (Roosters)
- 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles)
- 8. Josh Papalii (Raiders)
- 9. Josh Hodgson (Raiders)
- 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Sea Eagles)
- 11. John Bateman (Raiders)
- 12. Wade Graham (Sharks)
- 13. Ryan Matterson (Tigers)
ODDSCHECKER PLAYER OF THE WEEK
If James Tedesco versus the Gold Coast was a boxing match, chances were it wouldn’t have been sanctioned. The mismatch between the best player in the world and a Titans outfit playing like a second grade team was stark – and the Roosters fullback took full advantage.
Two tries, three try assists, 264 running metres and some twinkle toe magic were the final results of Tedesco’s day out. There are far greater challenges ahead for Teddy’s Chooks but the confidence they gained in their cricket score at the SCG will only benefit them in the weeks ahead.