The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Last Friday we saw something that has become incredibly rare in the modern era of Rugby League: a draw. Who would have thought that a result such as this - the sole reason why the golden point rule was brought into the NRL in the first place - could still exist? It was an anti-climactic end to an otherwise interesting contest between the Parramatta Eels and the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Dragons coach Wayne Bennett's sentiments after the game really hit the nail on the head: why play another ten minutes for the same result? We should either play until a result is achieved, or just settle with the draw at the end of 80 minutes.
The golden point rule can be too chancy and lopsided at times when it comes to determining contests. Even the NFL - whose golden point rules were virtually adapted verbatim by the NRL back in 2003 - amended their extra time rules for their post-season playoffs last year to create more equality between teams in determining a result. Because with all this debate about player welfare and burnout going on at the moment, a draw at the end of extra time is simply not good enough for either the players or the fans.
Those extra ten minutes of play last Friday night could prove to be especially vital this coming Friday night for Bennett's side. On the one hand, they're missing a slew of players to State Of Origin duty and have lost key players such as Matt Cooper to injury. On the other hand, those extra ten minutes could prove to be the Dragons' Achilles heel at the back end of this match.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS VS GOLD COAST TITANS
The Dragons have still not lost a game since round two, but last week's match against the Eels showed that the team with the great red V is still human and susceptible to an upset. The Eels may not have broken the Dragons' unbeaten run, but they certainly put a mighty dent in it.
Now it's up to the Titans to break it themselves, and this Friday might be their best chance to topple the competition frontrunners. Considering how badly the Titans' form has been over the first half of the season though, it will still be an almighty challenge.
So where can the Titans beat the Dragons? It could be through the edges of the home side's defence: without Beau Scott and Ben Creagh, Dean Young defending at hooker and Matt Prior covering one of the vacant centre positions, the Titans' more experienced back row of Anthony Laffranchi, Mark Minichiello and Luke O'Dwyer have the advantage over their counterparts wide of the ruck.
But to achieve this, the Titans will have to win the contests that occur around the ruck itself, and Dragons front row pairing of Michael Weyman and Dan Hunt are formidable opponents. Rookie Matt Srama has impressed in his first two games in the NRL and may provide the vital spark that the Titans have been lacking around the middle in the absence of established hooker Nathan Friend.
The opportunity to take down the defending premiers, albeit a weakened version of them, may be the kick in the backside that the Titans need to get out of this form slump that they've found themselves in. But after seeing the amount of mistakes that they made last week against the Panthers, it will need to be a mighty kick to get them back into gear.