Saturday 23 September 2017 / 09:11 PM

Golden Points – NRL Rd 1

The Rd 1 injury fallout: how teams will cover the losses

Broncos: Jordan Kahu’s leg injury adds to a worrying list of outside-back injuries at the club, meaning second-row stalwart Alex Glenn – who filled in after Kahu left the field on Thursday – will probably start out wide. The robust Kiwi has played one Test and 27 NRL games as a starting centre. Jack Reed is a chance of returning from injury, with unimpressive debutant Greg Eden likely to be left out.

Raiders: The injuries to star halves Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer could see Lachlan Croker plucked out of Under-20s to play alongside Sam Williams.

Bulldogs: Michael Lichaa’s knee injury is likely to see versatile ex-Dragon Craig Garvey don the blue and white No.9 jumper, while backrower Josh Jackson and five-eighth Josh Reynolds boast a bit of dummy-half experience.

Sharks: Shane Flanagan has plenty of options to cover for hobbled skipper Paul Gallen, including Parramatta recruit Joseph Paulo, and Kiwi utilities Matt McIlwrick and Fa’amanu Brown.

Panthers: James Segeyaro’s broken arm is a huge concern for Anthony Griffin, with back-up Sione Katoa suffering a knee injury during the Nines and former options Lewis Brown and Apisai Koroisau both joining Manly. Young former Eel Zach Dockar-Clay has experience at hooker, while Peter Wallace and Tyrone Peachey could be looking at a positional retrenchment.

Rabbitohs: Luke Keary returns from suspension to slot into the halves alongside impressive Round 1 debutant Cody Walker following Adam Reynolds’ broken jaw. Their partnership shapes as an intriguing long-term No.6 audition. George Burgess is also back from suspension, which will allow brother Sam to revert to the backrow and cover John Sutton’s absence.

Warriors: The luckless Ben Henry’s long-term knee injury is a terrible blow for the likeable utility, but there is more than enough cover in the Warriors’ squad. Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Albert Vete, Charlie Gubb, Ali Lauitiiti, Bunty Afoa, John Palavi, Marata Niukore and Toafofoa Sipley will all be gunning for the vacant bench spot.

Innovations get the green light

The natural inclination of most fans was to expect the worst from the NRL Bunker. We were all pleasantly surprised, however, as the men in the control room made quick and correct decisions – save for the bizarre call to overturn the on-field referee’s no-try decision and award a four-pointer to James Tedesco in Saturday’s Tigers-Warriors rollercoaster. Great use of social media, too.

The shot clock also sped the game up, while the effect of the reduced interchange was palpable. The stop-start contests common at this time of the year were conspicuously absent. While we’re handing out compliments, it was a particularly well-officiated weekend of matches, with the whistle-blowers providing no reason for the condemnation that harangued them throughout 2015.

 

Hot under the collar over drinks breaks

The bulk of the opening round was played in overwhelming hot conditions, yet only a couple of games featured drinks breaks at the 20-minute mark of each half. This is due to one or both clubs opting against them – the same clubs that attempt to flout concussion rules and the like. When it’s a matter of player safety and welfare, there’s no way it should be left in the clubs’ hands. The NRL and the RLPA should have been all over this issue, but probably won’t act until we see a near-tragic incident.

Souths and Canterbury set the standard

South Sydney and Canterbury, coming off disappointing 2015 campaigns after contesting the previous year’s grand final, played like teams with plenty to prove in Round 1 and carved out big victories over archrivals. The trimmed-down Bulldogs whacked Manly 28-6 at Brookvale, with their speed on both sides of the ball and simplified attacking style emphatically shutting down the home side. Graham, Tolman and Kasiano menaced a much-hyped Sea Eagles pack bolstered by Martin Taupau and Nate Myles.  

The Rabbitohs crushed the Roosters to the tune of 42-10 – a supreme effort considering their roster turnover and injury and suspension problems, and supposed internal rift. Their first half was as dominant as you could ever hope to see, and at full strength they will be a force to be reckoned with – but a high casualty rate has thrown a spanner in the works.

Bouquets, too, for the Tigers and Titans, who came away with highly impressive wins in the face of wooden-spoon predictions, injury withdrawals and the fact they possess weak rosters. Character-filled performances from both.

 

New-look sides fail to gel

Aggressive recruitment doesn’t guarantee immediate success, an age-old lesson the Sea Eagles and Warriors learnt via dismal first-up defeats last weekend. Both teams underwent major spine reshuffles – with Daly Cherry-Evans and Shaun Johnson the only incumbents for the respective sides – and the lack of cohesion was painfully clear.

Dylan Walker’s first real taste of five-eighth was a disaster, constantly missing the mark with his pass as Manly fans pined for Kieran Foran’s left-edge precision. Boom teenager Tom Trbojevic, standing in at fullback for the injured Brett Stewart, struggled to find his rhythm and chime into the backline. Likewise, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke could not find their way into the game in an awful Warriors side, while halfback Jeff Robson let the side down badly with and without the ball.

 

Meanwhile, the Josh Dugan-Kurt Mann switcheroo failed its first test in the Dragons’ 18-16 loss to the Storm. It begged the question as to why Paul McGregor would pitch a utility recruit with only two NRL games in the custodian role into the fullback spot and move the reigning NSW No.1 into the centres, where he is far less involved and more easily contained. It’s a question that should never have had to be asked. 

The absence of RTS, Maloney and Pearce permeated the Roosters’ display in a 42-10 loss to the Rabbitohs, and Trent Hodkinson did not make a shred of difference to the rabble that is the Newcastle Knights, who were whipped 30-12 by the no-name Gold Coast Titans.

 

Grand finalists get the job done

Brisbane and North Queensland both got off the mark with a minimum of fuss, grinding out wins that suggested both know it’s a long season ahead and there’s no point in setting the world on fire in March. The Broncos comfortably handled Parramatta to prevail 17-4 on Thursday night, while the Cowboys kept their cool after letting their lead over Cronulla slip, sealing a late 20-14 victory. The Queensland heavyweight double was just the fourth time in the past 14 seasons that both of the previous year’s grand finalists opened their campaign with a win.

Stats amazing

  • The Warriors have now lost seven straight Round 1 matches.
  • Brisbane winger Corey Oates produced first-half numbers of 11 runs for 153 metres, six tackle-breaks, three line-breaks, a try and a try assist against Parramatta.
  • Aiden Tolman and James Graham made 50 hit-ups and 349 metres between them at Brookvale.
  • Despite probably his quietest game in a couple of years, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck still managed 200 metres in his Warriors debut.

 

Try of the week

It was aided by some godawful defence, but the Tigers’ fifth try – featuring long runs by Kevin Naiqama and Tim Simona, with the latter scoring – to set up a 28-4 lead was a beauty, and ultimately proved crucial as the Warriors came home with a wet sail.

Underachiever of the week

The underachiever of Round 1 for four years running, the Warriors dished up an opening half described as the worst in the club’s history – and there have been some abominations. Pathetic defence, listless attack and a general disinterest in doing anything that resembled hard work underpinned a display that seemingly aged Andrew McFadden 10 years in the space of 40 minutes. A Shaun Johnson-led comeback provided at least some hope for the weeks ahead.  

Overachiever of the week

Unfancied pair Gold Coast and Newcastle went into their Sunday night clash at Robina as even-money chances, but the Titans were a class above in a 30-12 result. While on the surface it appears they have merely landed a crucial blow in the race to avoid the wooden spoon, if the Titans play with that sort of commitment and execution every week, they’ll surprise a few sides in 2016.

 

On the rise

  • Mitchell Moses: Quickly becoming one of the NRL’s most maligned players after a poor sophomore season, Moses was brilliant against the Warriors. He played direct and with confidence to spearhead the Tigers’ first-half ambush, taking control with Luke Brooks sidelined.
  • James Tedesco: There’s few more exhilarating game-breakers in the game than the Tigers fullback, and if the Dragons persist with Dugan in the centres, Tedesco is a lock for the NSW No.1 guernsey.
  • Shaun Kenny-Dowall: On the back of an incredibly tough period off the field, SKD was a shining light in a badly beaten Roosters side, continually threatening on the right edge.

 

On the slide

  • Manu Vatuvei: We love ‘The Beast’ at CBS, but Saturday’s outing at Campbelltown was one of his most forgettable. He ran strongly as per usual, but fumbled just about every kick that came his way and was exposed badly in defence.
  • Brayden Williame: The former Eel played five games in the centres for the Sea Eagles last year, but it appears wing is not his position. Fortunately, Tom Trbojevic will head back out to the flank when Brett Stewart returns.

 

My new favourite player

Agnatius Paasi was the undisputed star of the Titans’ unlikely charge to the Auckland Nines semis, and the burly front-rower has carried that form into the premiership proper. An imposing figure who can bust the line, pop a pass and hurt in defence, the ex-Warrior made 180 metres from 18 runs in the wet at Cbus Super Stadium, and powered away for a memorable try. Cult hero status awaits – if not representative honours.

Debutant report

  • Greg Eden (Broncos): A mixed bag for the player once dubbed the ‘English Billy Slater’. Four errors blotted a performance highlighted by some willing defence on opposing winger Semi Radradra and 11 carries for 93 metres.
  • Adam Elliott (Bulldogs): Limited contribution due to injury, with the young forward making three runs and eight tackles in just 16 minutes on the paddock.
  • Jamie Fisher-Harris (Panthers): The youngster from Northland (NZ) had 18 minutes on the field in the Canberra heat, making eight tackles and five runs.
  • Nathaniel Roache (Warriors): An extremely talented utility, Roache appeared unsure and apprehensive during his 24 minutes at dummy-half, with several passes failing to hit their mark. His stint did coincide with the Warriors’ fight-back, however, and he reeled off 14 tackles without a miss.
  • Joe Burgess (Roosters): A late call-up in the No.19 with Daniel Tupou pulling out, the ex-Wigan star scored the Roosters’ only two tries in an otherwise underwhelming NRL debut.
  • Latrell Mitchell (Roosters): Received few chances on the Roosters’ other flank, making seven runs for 49 metres and getting caught out in D a couple of times.
  • Jayden Nikorima (Roosters): Little opportunity to shine for the gifted playmaker, who made 22 tackles and six runs. Will be better for the hit-out.
  • Vincent Leuluai (Roosters): 12 tackles and four hit-ups in 18 minutes from the Minto junior.
  • Cody Walker (Rabbitohs): A try assist, some deft kicking, probing runs and 21 tackles from the 26-year-old, who will play a key role now with Adam Reynolds sidelined.
  • Zane Musgrove (Rabbitohs): The unheralded 19-year-old made 32 tackles and 10 runs for 96 metres in an impressive 39 minutes off the bench.
  • Nathan Davis (Titans): The 20-year-old former Eel likened to Greg Inglis made 10 strong runs for 96 metres to push his case for a regular first-grade berth.
  • Leivaha Pulu (Titans): The Auckland-born 25-year-old contributed 11 tackles and five runs in 22 minutes off the bench.
  • Jaelen Feeney (Knights): Talented but erratic, the surprise fullback pick coughed up a bomb and made just 53 metres from seven runs. Underwhelming.
  • Pat Mata’utia (Knights): The second-youngest of the Mata’utia brothers scored a try debuting at centres, while recording 11 tackles and 11 runs in the disappointing loss.
  • Jacob Saifiti (Knights): The 19-year-old starting second-rower played the full 80 minutes and tallied 28 tackles and 10 runs.
  • Daniel Saifiti (Knights): The Saifitis are among three sets of brothers in the Newcastle squad, and in a unique occurrence he debuted alongside twin brother Jacob. David marked the occasion with a consolation try for the well-beaten Knights.

 

CBS Crystal Ball

James Roberts’ next post-match interview gem will be…

“Ben Hunt’s got more ice in his veins than a Booval meth-head.”

Form Origin teams

Every week leading up the 2016 Origin series, we’ll list the NSW and Queensland line-ups if current form was the only selection criteria.

NEW SOUTH WALES

1 James Tedesco

2 Alex Johnston

3 Josh Morris

4 Joseph Leilua

5 Anthony Don

6 Mitchell Moses

7 Adam Reynolds

8 Aiden Tolman

9 Nathan Peats

10 Aaron Woods

11 Josh Jackson

12 Bryce Cartwright

13 Shaun Fensom

14 Reagan Campbell-Gillard

15 Tony Williams

16 Wade Graham

17 Josh Reynolds

QUEENSLAND

1 Greg Inglis

2 Corey Oates

3 Dale Copley

4 Will Chambers

5 Valentine Holmes

6 Anthony Milford

7 Johnathan Thurston

8 Josh McGuire

9 Cameron Smith

10 Dave Tyrell

11 Ethan Lowe

12 Matt Gillett

13 Corey Parker

14 Josh Papalii

15 Gavin Cooper

16 Michael Morgan

17 Matt Scott

[YouTube – Sports Tube]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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