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This column was abruptly called overseas for its day job last week, hence no report from Round 10, which saw the Dragons beat the Bulldogs to stay top and the Rabbitohs embarrass the Tigers. Unfortunately, despite glimpsing an amusing photo of Beni Marshall with a Chinese whitegoods executive in a remote area of China, I wasn't able to watch any of the matches from Round 11.
So, instead of the usual format, this week's look at the direction of the NRL and its clubs will instead be a little different: with some notes on what the results were, rather than how they came to pass.
- One of the great aspects of the Broncos during the 90s and 00s was their ability to field weakened teams - the Baby Broncos, as they were called - during the State of Origin period with success. Whilst the head coaches of the Broncos and last round's Baby Dragons were the same, the key difference was in the coach's box. With Bennett often away on his own Origin duty, it was an emerging Craig Bellamy that sat in the Broncos' saddle. It was these performances that first brought attention to Bellamy's nascent talent, a now mature quality that no salary cap scandals can diminish. The Baby Dragons only lost by 8 points, so there is depth in the squad, but not the same amount of depth up in the stands.
- It's great to play bad teams in bad form, but it's terrible to play good teams off the back of a bad performance. Teams with Robbie Farrah, Benji Marshall, Chris Lawrence and Lote Tuqiri generally have enough pride to turn up to play a week after being disgraced, and it was the Knights that lost the lottery to take on the wounded Tiger. Unfortunately for Newcastle, they play the Bye this week, so their own desire to make amends may have dissipated by the time they travel to Penrith on Saturday week.
- How good are the Panthers? This column made the point a few weeks ago that Michael Gordon is of representative standard, and despite the kid not even factoring in State of Origin contention, he has certainly made State of Origin week his own. But how good are the Panthers? Despite being second on the ladder only by 29 points, their biggest scalp so far this season has been the seventh placed Warriors, who would be eighth if not for Melbourne.
- Poor old Rabbitohs fans. It's one thing to beat a terrible team by 40, it's another thing to back it up with a gritty win away in awful conditions (I actually have no idea what the conditions were: I'm just guessing it was raining). Having only lost by 2 points, one can assume they had their chances, but those chances missed is the reason the Rabbitohs are only pretenders. Entertaining pretenders nonetheless.
- Brett Kimmorley wants the Blue jersey in 2011? He should start by turning up to play in Game 1. I'm uncertain if this stat has been raised in my overseas absence, but it's worth noting that Kimmorley has lost every opening State of Origin match he's played since 2000, when New South Wales only won because Bill Harrigan missed two ridiculously forward passes.
- Good on the Sharks for picking up another win, and completing their league double over the Eels. Ricky Stuart has since decided to call it quits on the club. I hope he doesn't take over at the team I support.
This column will return to its normal format next week, before a four week break while I am covering the World Cup.