Sunday 17 December 2017 / 12:07 AM

GOLDEN POINTS: NRL ROUND 1

Distracted Hayne will sink Titans

The fact that Jarryd Hayne spent his time before and after his insipid showing in Gold Coast’s heavy loss to the Sydney Roosters putting out social media blasts suggests his head’s not in the game.

When he should have been preparing for the first game of the season, Hayne was on Facebook taking a pot-shot at Daily Telegraph journalist Paul Kent.

Hayne’s brand of recovery session on Sunday was jumping on Twitter to provide his confusing take on why he received a fine for the Titans in the off-season.

Talent and ability has never been a problem for Hayne, but attitude, maturity and application has been a constant thread throughout his career – issues that were also at the heart of both of the stories he is hell-bent on refuting.

Parramatta, San Francisco 49ers and Fiji Sevens Rugby all dodged a bullet or saw through Hayne’s façade, and the Titans’ gamble on Hayne – at the expense of a host of committed mid-level players – is looking like it may back-fire.

Hayne is good enough to turn it around and become the Titans’ best-ever signing, but history suggests he won’t. Fittingly, the club’s fans took to social media to vent their frustration at Hayne’s egomaniacal ways.

JarrydHayneFBpost

Injury clanger could signal ‘Madge’s’ downfall

It has to be one of the all-time great coaching howlers, and among the most remarkable instances of player neglect in recent memory that Michael Maguire allowed his hobbled superstar, Greg Inglis, to stay on the field for so long against Wests Tigers on Friday night.

Whether the extended stay as a passenger on the wing made Inglis’ knee injury worse will never be known, but it was a big strike against Maguire’s name.

The dismal nature of the Rabbitohs’ loss heaps pressure on ‘Madge’, particularly as Adam Reynolds is still sidelined and the club will battle to win games without their fullback talisman on the field. Alex Johnston is a classy player but provides nowhere near the all-round impact Inglis does, while his shift from the wing weakens their already threadbare three-quarter line stocks.

A couple of backline injuries is far from the extend of the Rabbitohs’ problems, with their vaunted pack steamrolled by the Tigers.

At this stage, Maguire and Des Hasler are neck-and-neck in the market for first coach to get the sack in 2017, with Paul McGregor blowing way out after his Dragons’ stunning Round 1 exhibition.

First impressions

BRONCOS: Solid first-up showing and plenty of character to shut down the Sharks’ withering second-half comeback. Anthony Milford was clutch, but Ben Hunt was awful.

RAIDERS: The best loser of Round 1, the Raiders laid out their premiership credentials with a gallant showing in an out-and-out classic against the Cowboys – despite missing Jack Wighton, Jarrod Croker and Junior Paulo.

BULLDOGS: The much-discussed improvements in the Dogs’ attack failed to materialise in Round 1, and the pressure is already mounting on Des Hasler after the 12-6 loss to a below-strength Storm.

SHARKS: Clearly missed Michael Ennis and Ben Barba, but the Sharks will get better. Shane Flanagan should be heartened by the premiers’ second-half fight-back.

TITANS: The quintessential ‘more than the sum of its parts’ team in 2016, the Titans looked like the opposite on Saturday night – they were lethargic and sloppy throughout the first half. Significant improvement after the break, but have they given up too many consistent grafters to get Hayne and co. to the club?

SEA EAGLES: A gutsy display, but it’s hard to see where the improvement required to make the eight is going to come from. Lacking authority in the spine and played like the team in transition that they are.

STORM: Stoic effort to close out the win after losing Jesse Bromwich and fielding a newcomer at five-eighth. Proved themselves as the defensive benchmark yet again.

KNIGHTS: Will win far more games than they did last year on the back of that performance. Lacking class in certain positions and 80-minute application, but they’ll cause a few upsets – as they almost did in Auckland.

COWBOYS: Premiership-calibre effort from the Cowboys, with their new-look pack standing up to their vaunted Raiders opponents and then some. No team is better equipped to put games away in the clutch, as Thurston and his cohorts proved again in golden point.

EELS: Picked up from where they left off last year, producing a bruising forward effort complemented by the polish of Corey Norman, Bevan French and co. Shaping as a definite title threat.

PANTHERS: Played like a team that had been believing their own hype over the summer, trying to let the ball sing as in 2016 without doing the hard yards first. How many passes did they have intercepted? Plenty of concerns for Anthony Griffin.

DRAGONS: Wow, who saw that coming? The Dragons’ performance flew in the face of everything negative said about them for the last couple of years. Their attack was sizzling, the halves were decisive and the forwards steamrolled their Panthers opposites. Whether they can keep that form going is another matter, but Paul McGregor should bask in that triumph for the moment.

RABBITOHS: I’m not sure why Souths were getting talked up over the summer, but they were appalling. Desperately short out on quality out wide and starch in their pack, the Bunnies’ September chances already seem on tenterhooks with Inglis gone.

ROOSTERS: Big statement from the Chooks. Luke Keary and Michael Gordon slotted in seamlessly, Latrell Mitchell looks to have gone to another level, and their pack returned to their intimidating best. Clocked off disappointingly in the second half, but the Roosters look every bit the contender.

WARRIORS: Eerily similar to the performances at home that brought them undone at the end of last season – except for getting the result. Very, very patchy performance, but getting out of jail after Mannering and Luke left the field injured to grab the club’s first Round 1 win since 2009 was an achievement. Johnson and Tuivasa-Sheck looked great.

TIGERS: Probably shaded by only the Dragons as the most impressive team of the opening round. Absolutely blistering attack from Tedesco, Moses and Nofoaluma, while Woods, Sue, Lawrence and Taylor were sensational up front. That type of performance week in, week out will see the Tigers knocking on the door of the top four.

Debutant Report

Jayden Brailey (Sharks): Looks very sharp at hooker, reeling off 39 tackles in 59 minutes and providing good dummy-half service. Would like to see his running game come to the fore.

Ryley Jacks (Storm): A late call-up at five-eighth, Jacks looked the goods in an extremely tough game to debut in. Incredibly was second on the Storm’s tackle count with 35.

Moses Suli (Tigers): The teenager looks to be worth the pay-packet, registering 125 metres, a try, two line-breaks and two try-assists in an eventful debut.

Jai Field (Dragons): Came on for the last 11 minutes and made an error with his first touch, but the livewire will make an impression sooner rather than later.

Nick Cotric (Raiders): Stood up in a big way on the Raiders’ flank, making 151 metres in a tense, high-quality clash with the Cowboys. Looks to be a tough cookie as well as super-talented.

Dan Sarginson (Titans): Highly involved and eventually ran for 146 metres, but didn’t see enough to suggest he will break the mould of English imports struggling in the NRL.

Joe Greenwood (Titans): Contributed 14 tackles and 48 metres off the bench in a decent first outing for the Brit.

Isaiah Papali’I (Warriors): The 18-year-old made three hit-ups and 13 tackles in 21 minutes off the bench as the Warriors started to fall apart in the second half. The tyro replaced Simon Mannering and appears every bit the first-grader.

Luke Yates (Knights): Eye-catching debut from the young forward, making 10 runs for 82 metres along with 25 tackles in a 48-minute debut.

Sam Stone (Knights): Came on for 17 minutes from the bench, racking up four runs and seven tackles.

Brian Kelly (Sea Eagles): The hyped ex-Titan was in the thick of the action, making a line-break before being run down by Semi Radradra. Finished a solid maiden hit-out with 101 metres from 11 carries.

The early Friday night game furore

I can see all the arguments against the 6.00pm Friday night fixture. The Belmore Oval hill was deserted, and it’s likely every other venue except maybe Suncorp Stadium will be similarly sparse, while it’s not ideal for most Australians to even catch the game on TV.

But I live in New Zealand, and after struggling to stay awake for a 10pm kick-off (NZT) – usually having to sit through a Super Rugby game to pass the time – then burning the midnight oil to watch back-to-back games, it’s a godsend. So I’m staying out of this one…but I see what you’re all saying.

Try of the week

Any chance of a Souths fight-back in the second-half was stamped out in the Tigers’ first set after the resumption. Tedesco collected a kick near his own line, put Nofoaluma away, backed up his winger and sent Moses on a 60-metre run to the line.

Underachiever of the week

Pumped up into premiership favouritism by pundits and punters alike, Penrith flopped harder than any heavyweight team I can remember in a season opener. Loose passes, a lack of urgency, a poor attitude to defence – Phil Gould hit the nail on the head when he said on Twitter it was the club’s worst performance in years.

The loss was a reminder that the Panthers are a young team with a lack of long-term leaders, while the Bryce Cartwright saga is hanging over the team. Cartwright was one of many underperforming stars on the day, along with skipper Matt Moylan and the Panthers’ boom halves pairing.

The weight of expectation can be a hell of an obstacle, as the Panthers learned in 2015 after surging to a surprise top-four berth the previous season.

Overachiever of the week

The Dragons were the complete inverse of their flat-as-a-pancake opponents, defying all expectations to go on a high-quality scoring spree after being tipped as a wooden-spoon candidate.

Josh Dugan and Gareth Widdop lived up to their marquee billing; new hooker Cameron McInnes was excellent; Tim Lafai stormed back to form after a dreadful first season at the club; Paul Vaughan and Russell Packer ran for over 350 metres between them in a dominant front-row display; and Joel Thompson got a hat-trick.

I’m the first to admit I didn’t rate this side at all, and whether the Saints can keep it going or not, it was a performance to cherish.

Under-pressure XIII

1 Jarryd Hayne
2 Ken Maumalo
3 Jamal Idris
4 Cheyse Blair
5 Edrick Lee
6 Kane Elgey
7 Ben Hunt
8 Clay Priest
9 Michael Lichaa
10 Nate Myles
11 Bryce Cartwright
12 Curtis Sironen
13 Leivaha Pulu

Form Origin teams

NSW
1 James Tedesco
2 David Nofoaluma
3 Latrell Mitchell
4 Tim Lafai
5 Josh Addo-Carr
6 Luke Keary
7 Mitchell Pearce
8 Aaron Woods
9 Cameron McInnes
10 Paul Vaughan
11 Joel Thompson
12 Chris Lawrence
13 Boyd Cordner

14 Wade Graham
15 Luke Lewis
16 Ryan Matterson
17 Mitchell Moses

QLD
1 Darius Boyd
2 Corey Oates
3 Will Chambers
4 Justin O’Neill
5 Dane Gagai
6 Anthony Milford
7 Corey Norman
8 Matt Scott
9 Cameron Smith
10 Scott Bolton
11 Sam Thaiday
12 Ethan Lowe
13 Josh Papalii

14 Johnathan Thurston
15 Coen Hess
16 Gavin Cooper
17 Jacob Lillyman

[YouTube – Real Rugby TV]

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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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