While the 2018 #NRL Pre-Season is still a few weeks away, there's a bunch of warm-up clashes happeni...
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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, our Guru looks at mammoth turnarounds, the classy and not so classy sides of Michael Ennis, and the Holden Cup Team of the Year through the ages... all those, plus ref watch, and a wrap up of all the injuries and suspensions from the weekend. Let's get into it....
Performance of the Round
Two bottom-half teams caught my eye this week - the Knights and Warriors. The pair played out a well-fought contest about 2-3 weeks ago, then both went on to cop big hidings in Round 24 - Newcastle were spanked 48-6 by the Broncos and the Warriors copped a 46-12 lashing from the Sydney Roosters. This weekend, they each executed massive form and points turnarounds.
Over the ditch, the Warriors' turnaround of 76 points was the largest in the NRL for a few years as they went on to account for the hapless Titans 42-0, their points tally easily beating the clock over the first twenty minutes. At Hunter Stadium, the Knights put on a clinic to register their own 72-point turnaround in defeating an out-of-sorts Parramatta by 42-12. While both teams are either out of contention or teetering on the edge, it was inspiring for the fans of both sides and showed what promise is available for them next season. For the Warriors they'll be hoping a last-round clash with Penrith
The Paul Carige Award for the Worst Performance of the Round
Jamie Lyon was an absolute shoe-in for this honour until his bomb-contest and quick hands on the siren at Brookvale got his table-topping Sea Eagles home. The Manly captain had handed the Panthers two tries through poor passes resulting in intercepts earlier in the game, but was instrumental in the final-minute heartstopper which meant his side stayed at the top of the NRL ladder going into the final round.
Instead, Titans fullback William Zillman is the winner of this week's award. His start to the Warriors-Titans contest on Sunday was nothing short of abysmal - spilling a bomb, then a grubber, then allowing another bomb to bounce. His poor handling gave the Warriors a mammoth 80% possession count over the opening 25 minutes of the contest and meant the visiting side was never a look-in from the start.
While they registered a loss, few Canterbury fans would be upset with the side's performance against South Sydney last Thursday night. The 'Dogs led from the start and took the game physically to the Bunnies, only running out of legs in the final ten minutes where the Rabbitohs pushed in front by four, then six, then seven to edge out a desperate Doggies outfit. Michael Ennis provided great value for the players on the field as well as those watching at home on TV, remonstrating repeatedly with the referee and niggling his opponents in his own inimitable style. A character the Belmore boys will surely miss come 2015 when he moves to the Sharks.
While the mooted referee bunker was the talk early in the round, Ben Cummins stole all the headlines on Friday night when he sensationally sin-binned Matt Gillett for being offside from a 40m break - something simply not possible. To his credit Cummins later apologised to Gillett, and the Broncos won the game despite a Dragons fightback during Gillett's binning.
Another talking point was the captains' referee address, bought to a head by Ennis's actions on Thursday. The Bulldogs' captain was constantly approaching the referee, sometimes with valid arguments, but often simply to give his side a rest from the brutal defensive work they were undertaking following a string of penalties against them. South Sydney coach Michael Maguire was highly critical of the officials for allowing the repeated exchanges, given the NRL had moved at the start of the season to squash the tactic. Time will only tell if other officials enforce it better in the future.
Bumps and Bruises
Matt Ballin (Sea Eagles) - thigh - indefinite
Jamie Buhrer (Sea Eagles) - ACL - season
Glenn Stewart (Sea Eagles) - ankle (recurrence) - season
Kevin Kingston (Panthers) - leg fracture - indefinite
Jake Friend (Roosters) - haemothorax - indefinite
Frank-Paul Nuuausala (Roosters) - foot - Finals
The Naughty Chair
Ben Smith (Eels) - Grade 3 Dangerous Contact - Unnecessary Head/Neck Pressure
Adam Docker (Panthers) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw
Dale Finucane (Bulldogs) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw
Adam Reynolds (Rabbitohs) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw
Mitch Rein (Dragons) - Grade 1 Dangerous Contact (with kicker)
Sam Thaiday (Broncos) - Grade 1 Dangerous Contact - Unnecessary Head/Neck Pressure
Greg Bird (Titans) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw
Michael Jennings (Roosters) - Grade 1 Careless High Tackle
Sam Rapira (Warriors) - Grade 1 Dangerous Contact - Unnecessary Head/Neck Pressure
Kane Linnett (Cowboys) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw
Not Guilty - 0 matches
Issac Luke (Rabbitohs) - Grade 1 Dangerous Contact (Feet) - Charge dismissed at Judiciary
Around the Social Media Traps
Yesterday the NRL confirmed its 2014 Holden Cup Team of the Year (click here for more). One of the major NRL magazines had their staffers on hand and snapped the below shot of a series of pull-up banners on display listing out each full Team of the Year from the six previous seasons of the Under 20s competition. Geez, some pretty decent quality that came through, hey?
— Big League (@bigleaguemag) September 1, 2014
As always, come back next time for more analysis from the seat of my pants.
- The Armchair Expert