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Penrith Panthers...

 

Eighth. It was ninth last week, and once again, the Panthers are where they should be. The only difference this week is that Penrith played a great 80 minutes against the Roosters, prompting the notion that good times will be returning to the foot of the mountains this year. With the Roosters incapable of making the final pass stick, and with Todd Carney and Mitchell Pearce seemingly bereft of ideas, the Panthers capitalised.

 

Brian Smith thinks the sultry afternoon on Sunday was a contributing factor, but it didn't seem to affect the Panthers who, as a team, ran for almost 500 more metres than the Roosters. The team's cumulative total of 1661 metres was comfortably the best of the weekend.

 

Michael Gordon...

 

State of Origin. Whilst he's unlikely to be picked, Gordon is the best goalkicker in the game, and his wingplay is pretty good too.

 

St George Illawarra...

 

The Top Drawer. How much of the clinical professionalism on show at WIN Stadium against Brisbane can be replicated on the Gold Coast this weekend? Whilst the starting six in the forward pack are all regular first graders, the quality, at face value at least, diminishes on the bench. Can Jon Green, Nick Emmett, Trent Merrin, Michael Greenfield and, should Mick Weyman be suspended, Michael Lett, produce the same sort of display against a much better team? It's very unlikely, but with Wayne Bennett, you can at least expect them to be ready.

 

Luke Priddis...

 

The 300 Club. It's not often a rugby league players notches up 300 first grade games and, if the Telegraph's expose about players getting more injury prone are to be believed, Priddis may be one of the last. Whilst Priddis was on the scrapheap last year, and his performances are more solid than spectucular, his resilience through injury and dejection are commendable.

 

From playing a Super League test for Australia in his debut year in Canberra, to a premiership in Brisbane, another premiership plus a Clive Churchill Medal at Penrith and then the disappointment of being on the outer at St George Illawarra, Luke Priddis has had a career to remember. This Friday's game is only his 11th for the Dragons, so it can only be hoped that it means as much to the Red and White Army as it does to the boy from Dubbo.

 

South Sydney...

 

The Top Four. Very unlikely, but after three straight wins, that's where they'll be should they beat Parramatta this week. And on reflection it would not be undeserved. Their first win in years against the Bulldogs solidified their momentum after the maiden against Cronulla, and last weekend's win against the freefalling Knights was never in doubt. This column wrote three weeks ago that someone needs to stand up to take the pressure of Sandow and Sutton, and that man has been the magnificent Isaac Luke. His probing play caused havoc for the Knights, and his defence is excellent.

 

John Lang...

 

Hollywood. One of the great things about having John Lang back coaching in the NRL is that his teams are clearly the most entertaining and attractive to watch. His teams at Cronulla were always good to watch and he won a premiership at Penrith playing the most exciting football of the decade. Souths are now starting to play that same way, and it's a credit to Lang that he persists with providing a great product to the fans. His work is so adept, he could be a film director. And this column would give him an Oscar just for keeping Jason Taylor out of the game.

 

Canberra...

 

Chris Anderson, Phil Gould, Mark Murray, Brad Fittler. What do these guys have in common? They're all former Roosters' coaches with spare time on their hands. According to Andrew Johns, who is a consultant at Parramatta, it was Michael Hagan, and not David Furner, who masterminded the Raiders' win over Parramatta on Monday night. The former Newcastle and Parramatta coach freelances at the Raiders, and his intimate knowledge of the Eels (especially Timana Tahu) was crucial to Canberra reducing last year's undisputed entertainers into an impotent bunch of frustrated losers. The Raiders play the Sydney Roosters this weekend, so catching up with some former mentors seems the trick, though they already know enough about one Rooster.

 

Todd Carney...

 

The Opposition Dressing Room. No matter what the score this weekend, Todd Carney should go in and thank the visiting Canberra players and officials. He may have cried foul in a newspaper article this week about not being treated well, but those of us close to the Raiders know they gave him plenty of chances to curb his behaviour, all whilst paying him a huge salary - money that could have spent on juniors that left the club instead.

 

New Zealand Warriors and Canterbury Bulldogs...

 

The 1990s. In a season that has been marked by block scoring, it was a real throwback to the glory days of two decades ago to see these two slug it out over the full 80 minutes. Tries being traded is much more entertaining than the current phenomenon of 20-point leads being erased in a whirlwind of piggyback penalties and dummy half running.

 

The Rule Book...

 

Change City. Let's be clear here: neither of the referees involved did anything wrong. Quite the opposite, according to the rules, both the Cameron Smith too-slow penalty and the Ben Smith try off his chest were correct decisions. The problem is that neither of these were good decisions.

 

The rules need to be changed to allow for better officiating of the goal-line drop out, and they definitely have to be changed to stop such unearned tries being scored. The Titans would say that Smith taking that little bit extra gave the Storm players a breather, but didn't it also give the Titans a refresher before launching an attack from 35 metres? This rule should be changed to a fine, whilst the knock on rule should include a player's person from his knees to his shoulders.

 

Heads are okay because at least they're funny.

 

Nathan Hindmarsh...

 

A fullish ANZ Stadium. He deserves a full house, the co-captaincy and a win this weekend. He's brilliant.

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