NRL Round 3: What can you say?
The new six again rule has been genius. It is rewarding the attacking team, and leading to open fast play and more tries. However it’s early days, and coaches may yet develop game plans that spoil the party. The Roosters seem to have already come up with their own plan. They were content to give away penalties by rushing off their try line. The penalty rather than a fast re-start allowed them to dictate terms defensively. Regardless, most games on the weekend, including the Roosters v Rabbitohs clash, were of a remarkably high standard considering the short within-season pre-season. And is it my imagination or has everything been sped up? The refs in the bunker seemed to be making quicker calls. On-field refs seemed to be backing their decisions. Because the six again call leads to immediate play on, there was no time to scrutinise the referee’s decision. This translated to extraordinarily little criticism of the whistle-blowers over the weekend. There were a few dud decisions, but no one is talking about them.
The Titans Cowboys clash showed that one rule change is still needed. The Cowboys had players sin-binned on two separate occasions, with the Titans well on the attack. As invariably happens with sin bins, the attacking team loses momentum waiting for the offender to leave the field. Predictably, the Titans did not score, even though the Cowboys were ‘disadvantaged’ by the loss of a player. For the first sin bin, the Titans were still in the contest and even looking like the better team. The rules need to allow for the offending player to be sin-binned at the end of the following set of six.
I was pleased to hear the crowd boo when the Titans were denied a try late in the first half. Like me, I don’t think they were booing for the disallowed try but felt the Feldt held back Brian Kelly and should have been penalised.
What did we see from teams over the weekend? In any normal comp, you would have to say no team could ever win three premierships in a row. But this is no normal season. The Roosters looked like premiership contenders. Parramatta annihilated Brisbane, but didn’t look anywhere near as convincing as The Roosters. There is a question mark as to how Parramatta will go against the best defensive sides. The Eels attack on Brisbane’s line was clunky. With the amount of possession, they should have scored 20 more points.
The Roosters attack was singing, and they showed they are still one of the competition's best defensive sides. The Raiders were also very impressive. They looked like the only team on the weekend who could have matched it with the Roosters. They seem to have lost no strength from last year. Speaking of which, has there ever been an Englishman who has joined the NRL and couldn’t play? Maybe every NRL team should be raiding the Super League. Canberra seems to have the pick of the current English stars. George Williams, tough and dominating straight out of the blocks, looks like he might bring even more than was provided by the very capable Aiden Sezer. Canberra frustrated their opponents and their coach. What non-Storm fan doesn’t love the sight of an apoplectic Craig Bellamy storming out of the coach’s box?
Credit to the Warriors for their gutsy win. Their opponents looked like they’ve been training by teleconference. Although that may be a bit harsh. The Dragons looked like they always do. Whatever impression this performance had on me compared to past ones, for the first-ever time I left my St George Illawarra shopping bag in the car when I went into the supermarket on Sunday.
What did we see from individuals? Starting with Mitchell Moses on Thursday night, we saw that goal kickers had plenty of time to practice during the lockdown. Player highlights included Brett Morris tackling almost the entire Rabbitoh’s backline in one play. Why is he never mentioned in discussions of the game’s quickest players? He mowed down Braidon Burns, then Alex Johnson from a standing start. Brian Kelly’s jink one way then spin to the other was special. You often see hookers attempting this close to the line. But when have we ever seen a winger do this before?
A lot of stories are written about players who aren’t fulfilling their potential. We don’t hear enough about the players who are not only the best in the game but who prove it week-in and week-out. Teddy and Tommy Turbo were both huge for their clubs, by producing what they always produce. Tom’s brother was no slouch either, just quietly. Jack Wighton is showing that his transformation last season into a world-class half was not just a flash in the pan. And Josh Hodgson has overtaken Cameron Smith as the game's most influential player.
It was a great re-start to the season. So, can it get any better? The excitement and anticipation will wane, but this weekend we have five days of NRL to look forward to. So, while restrictions are easing, I’m still very much in lockdown.