The NRL season is only one round old yet there have already seen tight finishes, blowouts, upsets, and a plethora of talking points both on and off the field.
Below are week one’s ten biggest talking points. Please let us know below if you agree, or what you think has been the biggest thing to emerge from the opening round of 2016.
1. Bunker gets it right
The big talking point coming out of round one has somewhat surprisingly been the success of the new video referee bunker. Fans became use to two or so decisions a game being contested, however across the weekend only the James Tedesco try remains a discussion. The process is much smoother, quicker and the on-air explanations allow fans to understand the thinking. More difficult decisions will come, but so-far, so-good.
2. Injuries galore
I can’t remember a round one ever coming close to matching the amount of injuries as this weekend’s action. Blake Austin, Paul Gallen, Aidan Sezer, John Sutton, Adam Reynolds, Jordan Kahu, Michael Lichaa, James Segeyaro, and Ben Henry all look set for extended stints on the sideline. The Raiders have been the worst hit, with both of their halves in doubt for the coming rounds.
3. New combinations take time
The Sea Eagles, Sharks, Warriors, Roosters, Eels, and Knights all featured vastly different sides to that of 2015, and all lost. The Titans and Raiders were the only side to buck the trend of sides with a big influx of players, meaning new combinations, losing. Fans shouldn’t reach for the scissors to dispose of season memberships just yet, as this is the norm for early rounds. Of course only the Cowboys entered 2016 with the same 17 as they ended 2015, but the sides with the larger turnover of players struggled early.
4. Coaches already under pressure
At halftime in the Warriors loss to the Tigers, social media was asking whether Warriors coach Andrew McFadden would be sacked before the end of the 80 minutes. Luckily for him and his side, they managed to fight back in the second 40 and had a chance to win it late on. The Warriors need to win a few early games or McFadden will be looking over his shoulder. Although they don’t face pressure in terms of their job security, both Nathan Brown and Trent Barrett are under pressure following their sides both suffered heavy defeats.
5. Fox Sports coverage taking viewers from Channel 9
Off the field much of the talk was about the simulcast games on Fox Sports. Channel 9 still recorded huge ratings for their games, however Fox’s presence certainly had an effect, with many opting to tune in to the new look Fox Sports set up. The pre and post-game shows add to the program, while I have to admit I did enjoy not being constantly reminded about reality TV shows and here come the habibs during play. For the record I watched Channel 9 on Thursday and Fox Sports on Friday and enjoyed both.
6. Two big guns send early warning
The competition’s two most fancied sides the Cowboys and Broncos sent messages in round one that they won’t be easing off after their brilliant 2015 seasons. The Broncos looked in control for the large majority of their game against the Eels, while the Cowboys were able to hold off a keen Sharks side. The Bunnies and Bulldogs also reminded fans who wrote them off that they are around, while the Titans and Tigers looked hell bent on showing everyone that they are not to be discounted.
7. Knights short term pain for possible long term gain
The Newcastle board should go to Nathan Brown and tell him he two years to rebuild the club. They were played off the park by a Titans side expected to struggle to avoid the wooden spoon on Sunday evening. Although it’s only one game in, there is already talk of mass changed being made. Knights management need to take the pressure off Brown and his younger players whilst placing heavy pressure of underperforming experienced players. Brown has the right idea in picking the young guns, let’s hope he sticks with it. It looks like a long, baron year for the Newcastle faithful, but it could be worth it.
8. Tries on club debut flow
Joe Burgess, Clint Gutherson, Will Hopoate, Aidan Sezer, Trent Merrin, Peta Hiku, Chad Townsend (returning), Hymel Hunt, John Olive, Pat Mata’utia and Dan Saifiti all scored on their club debuts. Burgess, Mata’utia and Saifiti all scored on their NRL debuts. Talk about instant impact.
9. Melbourne’s big three still have it
Any worries that Billy Slater wouldn’t be a worry to opposition defences this season were done away with in 80 minutes last night. Slater looked every bit the dangerous player that has made him a legend in Melbourne and for Queensland. He set up a try, busted tackles, and was running his usual dangerous support runs. Good signs. There were no questions re Smith or Cronk, but both showed their class in Melbourne’s two-point win over the Dragons. Bromwich, Chambers and co showed that they will be more than just a supporting cast for the three Storm superstars.
10. Goal kicking was poor
I can’t remember a round where the goal kicking was so poor. Perhaps we have grown too use to kickers converting nearly everything but Smith missed two last night and Widdop missed a sitter. Earlier in the round the Broncos didn’t convert a single try and even Michael Gordon missed. Maloney, Lyon, Hodkinson and Thurston were the only kickers to escape round one without a miss. Once again, it’s still early, but I’m not used to seeing so many waved away.
For those fans who enjoy NRL podcasts, I was a guest on the Forty-Twenty podcast in last week’s season preview, which can be heard here and will again be a guest on this Thursday’s episode. Prad and Shiv host an entertaining show, and I’d ask anyone interested to please check it out.