Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Take a deep breath, footy fans. After the excitement of round one, it's only going to get better from here on in. At times some of the first round games were frustrating to watch, with many teams looking a little rusty and the ball being dropped constantly. Errors are going to start drying up as players begin to find their rhythm and settle into the long season ahead.
The Penrith Panthers need to find their rhythm fast after their dismal display against the Newcastle Knights last week. The less said about their performance, the better. It's only early days, and the Panthers will be champing at the bit to put that woeful game of Rugby League behind them.
The only problem is that they're coming up against a Parramatta Eels side that showed enough promise in round one against the Warriors to make fans forget about their lackluster 2010 campaign. The Eels looked sharp, composed and above all else, structured. Their completion rate sat above eighty percent, which was the best for the round. When you hold onto the ball that well, your chances of winning the game can only be positive.
The best thing about the Eels side is that their forwards ran with purpose up the middle, and the halves pairing of Jeff Robson and Daniel Mortimer performed well and took pressure off Jarryd Hayne. This halves pairing took the team to the Grand Final in 2009; why Daniel Anderson chopped and changed with the combination last year is beyond me. But with a new coach in Stephen Kearney, the Eels are looking like a completely new team, in both personnel and personality.
On paper Penrith should have played better than they did last week, and I doubt that they will put in the same performance, but against the Eels I can only see them losing again, but in a tighter fashion.
It will come down to which team can hold the ball and take the opportunities on offer. Without Michael Jennings, Penrith look like a team devoid of game-breaking spark. They may try to grind their way to victory, but to do so they will need to vastly improve on last week. And against a side like Parramatta who have appeared to tighten the screws in regards to ball control and discipline, it may be asking too much of them.
This westside derby is going to be tough and aggressive, and if the Eels put in the same performance that they did against The Warriors last week, they are going to come out on top in their first home game of the season.
The Broncos had every opportunity to win last week against the Cowboys, but inexperience and players going for the low-percentage plays in important moments let them down. Coach Anthony Griffin will take an unchanged team to Canberra Stadium to face the Raiders, and the young backs such as Jack Reed, Dane Gagai and Gerard Beale will only be better for that show of faith.
Canberra were the most dominant team of round one, with one of the biggest forward packs in the competition battering the Cronulla Sharks out of the contest. The Broncos were cut to pieces through the ruck by the Cowboys combination of Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen, and if the Raiders forwards are able to wind up and make big metres again, expect Matt Orford and Josh McCrone to do the same.
Orford didn't play last week, and the injection of the 2008 Dally M medalist to the Canberra side will only boost their chances. There are whispers that fullback Josh Dugan might actually play, but whether he does or not won't affect the outcome of the game. This will be won in the forwards before the score line is decided out on the flanks.
Playing Canberra at home will really test the mettle of the Broncos. They displayed guts and determination to come back in the second half and almost pull off victory last week, but the Raiders are playing with the confidence and aura of the Green Machine of old. And we all remember how good that side was in the early