NRL Rd 21 Talking Points & Team of the Week
IS MCGUIRE A LIABILITY?
It speaks volumes when Matt Lodge of all people unloads on an opponent post-game. Josh McGuire’s skill and individual achievements can’t be questioned. But what was traditionally the lock’s strength – his menace – is rapidly becoming his biggest liability. McGuire has become almost symbolic of the spate of constant cheap acts which NRL is under fire for failing to consistently punish. His “attention” paid to opponents’ faces is the most frequent accusation and it again happened on Thursday night with David Fifita on the receiving end of an apparent eye gouge. This was his third contrary conduct charge of the year Twice this season after an alleged eye gouge on Cameron Munster and an aggressive facial on Dylan Walker. Incredibly, it’s only now he’ll spend time on the sidelines instead of copping a fine. McGuire was lured to North Queensland on a lucrative long-term deal and to become the Cowboys’ experienced pack leader once Matt Scott calls it quits at season’s end. McGuire can’t fill that leadership role if he’s in the stands or in the bin – he’s playing a dangerous game both to his victims and his own teammates.
NATHAN CLEARY DELIVERS AT THE PERFECT TIME
With time running out on James Maloney’s NRL career, Penrith got a glimpse of the future in their crucial 26-20 ambush of Cronulla. Nathan Cleary was forced to step up as the senior playmaker with Maloney suspended and responded with one of his best performances of the year. With debutant Matt Burton his halves partner, Cleary scored a try, set up two more and his faultless goalkicking proved the difference. Releasing Maloney gives Penrith significant cap space but also means the side unquestionably becomes Cleary’s and for a 21-year-old it’s a massive weight on his shoulders. Yet Cleary delivered the goods in a match with finals ramifications and will be better for the experience should Maloney be unavailable at any remaining stage of 2019. The win consolidates the Panthers in the eight while keeping Cronulla out and presents an interesting dynamic given Maloney’s impending return – will Cleary look for more of the ball next week?
Up next – Penrith ($2.25* - Bet365) are outsiders when they travel north to meet the Broncos ($1.72* - BetEasy).
THE WOODEN SPOON IS HEADED TO ROBINA
Gold Coast’s faint hopes of avoiding 2019’s wooden spoon were ended this weekend – their 40-28 loss to the Dragons coupled with Canterbury’s upset over the Tigers means the wooden spoon may as well hop on a Jetstar flight to Coolangatta. It’s a well-deserved outcome for an abysmal Titans season and their limp defensive effort against one of NRL’s worst attacks summed up why Gold Coast are at rock bottom. They appeared only interested when they had ball in hand – if defence is about attitude then it certainly was apparent where the Titans’ heads were at. Mal Meninga’s claim his club couldn’t afford a crack at Broncos veteran Alex Glenn due to only having $100,000 in their 2020 cap is frightening. The Titans are believed to have a policy to avoid contributing towards players moving elsewhere – but that policy is only good if there are clubs seeking your players mid-contract to begin with. It might be an extremely long 2020 for incoming coach Justin Holbrook.
Up next – the Titans ($3.20* - Sportsbet) need to deliver some sort of fightback at home when they host the in-form Eels ($1.45* - TAB).
ARE THE 2019 RAIDERS STILL FADERS?
It was a cracking Sunday battle between second-placed Sydney and third-placed Canberra, the Roosters eventually squeaking home 22-18 in front of a packed GIO Stadium. Canberra have come a long way this year but their notorious habit of losing the tight games may still be a problem for coach Ricky Stuart to solve. Each of their seven defeats so far in 2019 have been 1-12 and compounding this five of these losses have come against fellow top four contenders Roosters (2), Storm, Souths and Manly (1 each). Considering their next two matches are against Melbourne (away) and Manly (home), if Canberra are serious about being a Premiership contender they’re going to need a turnaround from their near enough efforts against the elite sides – because as they found out once again this weekend, near enough isn’t close enough.
Up next – NRL’s toughest assignment awaits Canberra ($3.10* - Bet365) when they play the Storm ($1.45* - TAB) in Melbourne.
ODDSCHECKER TEAM OF THE WEEK
- James Tedesco (Roosters)
- Campbell Graham (Rabbitohs)
- Latrell Mitchell (Roosters)
- Brent Naden (Panthers)
- Nick Meaney (Bulldogs)
- Cameron Munster © (Storm)
- Nathan Cleary (Panthers)
- Payne Haas (Broncos)
- Cameron Smith (Storm)
- Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Storm)
- Manu Ma’u (Eels)
- Josh Jackson (Bulldogs)
- Nathan Brown (Eels)
ODDSCHECKER PLAYER OF THE WEEK
With seemingly more withdrawals than a bank account, the Storm were under the pump in their top four showdown against South Sydney. Cameron Munster though didn’t care – the Queensland five-eighth was clutch in a 26-16 win all but delivering the Minor Premiership to his side. Cameron Smith was as wily as ever at dummy-half yet it was Munster who stole the show in Gosford with a brilliant performance. A try, try assist, three line breaks and 115 running metres were vital and ensured Melbourne have the luxury now of potentially resting players before the finals.