Tuesday 22 August 2017 / 07:31 PM

TEAM TALK: NRL ROUND 22

Reaction, analysis and talking points from the Round 22 team lists

Hunt to hooker

It was all good just a week ago – Darius Boyd came back and Brisbane’s first-choice spine was back together for the first time since Round 6.

Andrew McCullough’s injury is devastating news for a Broncos team that appeared to be firming in nicely towards the playoffs. The injury, combined with the shock loss to Parramatta, has forced them to step back and re-evaluate.

The decision to move Ben Hunt to hooker, a position he hasn’t started in since 2010, is an interesting one – and all things considered, probably the right one. McCullough’s presence will be tough to replicate, but Hunt offers the best chance of doing so, whilst Nikorima proved capable in the No.7 jersey earlier in the year. If things don’t click, with the race being so tight, it will be interesting to see how long Master Wayne gives it to work.

Slater in, Munster out

Billy Slater returns at fullback after missing last week through concussion. Jahrome Hughes was exceptional filling in for the injured Slater, and although he wasn’t really missed, adding a player of that calibre always boosts the team.

Unfortunately, it comes as they lose Cam Munster, who has succumbed to an ankle injury. It shouldn’t hurt the team, with replacement Ryley Jacks a competent stand-in, but it does add yet another injury to the Storm’s massive toll throughout the year.

Although they’ve flat out dominated the competition, they’re yet to run out healthy 1-17 in a single game, truly an astonishing fact and another eye-opener to the greatness of this team.

Bulldogs stand pat

With their season officially over, one (or everyone) may suggest tinkering with the Bulldogs’ line-up, especially as it has performed so poorly over the course of the season.

There were suggestions of Mbye to fullback, or trying Reynolds at hooker and finally giving Mbye a shot at his preferred five-eighth position, or maybe moving Will Hopoate to a position he actually knows how to play. But no changes.

Somehow, a year filled with disappointed hasn’t inspired any innovation. Des ought to look up that definition of insanity…

Dragons also stand pat

Although they suffered an unexpected loss to the last-placed Knights, the Dragons have named the same team for their clash with the Rabbitohs. I can’t argue too hard against remaining faithful and not overreacting.

But I was skeptical of introducing Dufty so late into the season, and although he impressed first time out, it’s clear there is still some adjusting to do in terms of combination and fitting the new style into the attack.

Not to mention the contributions of Dugan are severely reduced and he doesn’t see half as much ball, despite making the most of it when he did get involved. It’s plenty to ask of a player who has more points than he does first-grade appearances, so just be warned — if they do miss the finals, the decision to replace an Origin rep with a rookie when they are clinging to the final playoff spot might look foolish in hindsight.

Stray Observations

  • How on earth did Kenny Edwards avoid suspension? He was fined, but deserved more. Lost a lot of fans last week and is slowly becoming one of the biggest villains in the game.
  • Cameron Smith’s 350th game…of course he was going to be best on ground. The man is insane.
  • Shaun Kenny-Dowall, reborn at the Knights. Who would have thought?!
  • Morgan Boyle is a fascinating prospect. Now their season is over, the Titans should be giving him more game-time.
  • What would Will Hopoate have to do to get moved from fullback. Seriously…
  • Manly shouldn’t persist with Darcy Lussick. Talented, but brainless. When Fonua-Blake returns in Round 23, that’s who should make way.
  • Newcastle must be happy with how Connor Watson is travelling. Great experience for him to get game-time on a good team at this time of the year.
  • Surprised to see Sam Burgess get picked. With the finals out of reach, hopefully he isn’t pushing through injury and at risk of it worsening.

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About the author

Brayden Issa

Brayden is a Sydney-based sports management student and sports fanatic, specialising in rugby league, basketball, football and cricket. He is concerned with everything related to professional sports performance and management.

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