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In this weekly feature for LeagueUnlimited, our Armchair Expert runs his lazy eye over the weekend that was. Each round he'll look at the happenings of the previous weekend, and keep you up to date with the big issues like refereeing, social media and the current controversies.
This week he looks at the Panthers purrfect rise, a questionable decision from the Red V, and a surprising duck egg for the Victorian boys. All those, plus a wrap up of all the injuries and suspensions from the weekend. Let's get into it....
Performance of the Round
Geez, Penrith snuck up on everyone, didn't they? The boys from the foot of the mountains took care of a Hayne-less Parramatta outfit on Friday and find themselves sitting pretty in second place, comfortably ahead of Manly on points differential. What's more they're starting to draw people to Sportingbet Stadium as the winning formula continues to build. As some commentators have waxed lyrical on lately, Gus Gould's 5-year plan could be coming to fruition two years early if the Panthers keep up this form.
Better still - a comfortable win over the Titans this weekend and Manly accounting for Canterbury by a sizeable margin could see them jump to the top of the ladder.
The Paul Carige Award for the Worst Performance of the Round
It's really, really hard to go past Benji Q Marshall for this award, but we will. Not sure who exactly should receive this award but the coaching ranks of the St. George Illawarra Dragons have to ask themselves some serious questions. Benji signed with the Dragons a few weeks ago, and was thrown straight in to debut with the side against Parramatta. The big Red V copped a 36-0 hiding and a week later former coach Steve Price received the chop.
Fast forward a fortnight and while there was more heart shown under new coach Paul McGregor in the Dragons' 29-10 loss to South Sydney, the big question many are asking is why, with a bye the weekend prior, wasn't Marshall shown a Cutters jersey and told to get some match fitness? He looks hopelessly out of his depth and short of the form needed to be guiding the famous club around the park.
This pundit is a little surprised by Saturday night's result in Townsville. Yes, the Cowboys were clear favourites once the Storm lost Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater to injury - but the boys from the south still had courageous Cameron Smith guiding the side around the park. The surprise is that they weren't able to convert any of their attacking chances into points, and instead for the second time in two seasons were held scoreless by a much less fancied opponent.
Bellamy has a lot to do in tweaking the side's strategy ahead of Sunday's clash with the Roosters, and will want to hope his big stars recover quickly if they're to have a serious tilt at the NRL title.
We'll flash back to Wednesday for ref watch. The men in pink had a relatively quiet week at NRL level, but were lambasted in the press on both sides of the border for their performance in the opening State of Origin clash. The first half saw a few 50/50 calls go in the Blues' favour before several contentious moments favoured Queensland in the crucial final ten minutes.
It begs the question and makes you wonder - are we really catching more and policing the game better with so many officials? Should the NRL consider a return to the one-referee system... even if it's just for Origin?
Bumps and Bruises
Josh Morris (Bulldogs/NSW) - knee (PCL) - Round 20
Cooper Cronk (Storm/QLD) - arm - Round 22
Billy Slater (Storm/QLD) - shoulder - Round 15
Joel Romelo (Storm) - ankle - Round 20
Beau Falloon (Titans) - back - Round 14
Adam Cuthbertson (Knights) - knee - Round 18
Nathan Peats (Eels) - knee (ACL) - Season
Darcy Lussick (Eels) - knee - Round 14
Paul Gallen (Sharks) - neck - Round 15
Jeff Robson (Sharks) - hamstring - Round 15
Anthony Tupou (Sharks) - knee - Round 15
Brett Morris (Dragons) - shoulder - indefinite
Sam Williams (Dragons) - thumb - indefinite
Kyle Stanley (Dragons) - hamstring - indefinite
Ben Henry (Warriors) - knee - indefinite
Cory Paterson (Tigers) - finger - indefinite
Joel Edwards (Raiders) - cheek - Round 16
Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Raiders) - knee - Round 18
The Naughty Chair
Mitchell Allgood (Eels) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw
Mitch Rein (Dragons) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw
David Fusitu'a (Warriors) - Grade 1 Dangerous Contact
Around the Social Media Traps
It's always a hoot checking the tweets during a big match like State of Origin where everyone's watching. Tweeter @rainey262 spotted this tender moment on the sidelines as Queensland's Cooper Cronk came off nursing what appeared to be a broken arm.
Smack that ass coops wooo pic.twitter.com/tyQ4P6McJe
— Sharkies4Eva (@rainey262) May 28, 2014
We'll give Cronk the benefit of the doubt here, given he probably had a limited range of movement in his arms...
And one more thing...
A new addition to this column but we couldn't go without saying a big congratulations to the "Keptin" (click here if you don't quite follow). Warriors captain Simon Mannering capped a fantastic day at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday by scoring two tries in his 200th NRL game for the club. Who said loyalty was dead?
Check back next week for more expert analysis from the seat of my pants.
- The Armchair Expert