It might have been a split round, but there is still plenty to talk about from the weekend that was in the NRL.
1. Origin-impacted rugby league is far superior to that horror weekend we had to endure recently without the greatest game of all. Two close games, a good contest and the weekly Bulldogs blowout loss. Could be way worse.
2. I feel terrible for those fans in Newcastle who had tickets and were finally going to be able to enjoy Origin in their home town. The current environment is terrible and I really hope an Origin game can head to the Hunter in the future. What a shame.
3. Following on from the above, in terms of banter, can you imagine a New South Wales 3-0 series win with all three games taking place in Queensland? They'll make Origin memorabilia about this for many years to come. Brings Queensland right into the contest though.
4. Stop the contest. Braden Hamlin-Uele has delivered the greatest post-try celebration of all time. I was genuinely shocked when he threw that 'punch' as the camera angle made it look like he was lashing out at a Warriors player. What a moment. Hopefully Jack Williams can recover quickly from the vicious People's Elbow.
5. Shaun Johnson, by all accounts, was close to being ruled out for Sunday's game. Coming off a horror game against Brisbane and playing against his former and future side, he responded with a masterclass. He had the ball on a string from the boot and ground the Warriors down.
6. Full disclosure I was very vocal about Josh Hannay's decision to play Mawene Hiroti off the bench on Sunday. Worked out very well when Ronaldo Mulitalo's HIA meant Hiroti slotted in with zero disruption. Sione Katoa almost went off with an injury just moments after. Great foresight.
7. In a game consisting of names Addin Fonua-Blake, Matt Lodge and co, Aiden Tolman was the best forward on the park in the Sharks/Warriors contest. Social media gives Tolman an unwarranted bum wrap but his signing for Cronulla has provided amazing value.
8. Re the Sam Walker run... I feel like I've seen that before, and I also can't believe we don't see it more often. If he had run back over the in-goal it allows his side 30 seconds to take the drop out. Pretty sure Josh Reynolds did similar. Not the greatest example of great sportsmanship but pretty smart.
9. The Bulldogs signing Matt Dufty completes a speedy back five for the Dogs next year. Dufty, Nick Cotric, Corey Allan, Brent Naden and Josh Addo-Carr will score plenty of points, however the Dogs pack needs a massive upgrade. Paul Vaughan is an almost must-sign at this stage.
10. Jai Arrow's story is not "complicated" as it was put to fans by certain publications. I feel bad that his relationship ended but his covid breach was as simple as not bringing your personal life to work. Very lucky to escape with just a two-week penalty.
11. Staying on penalties, Nathan Brown made a very good point when he questioned the NRL's decision to suspend Dragons players for one game. Warriors' players forced into quarantine missed two weeks through no fault of their own. Not really fair.
12. Manly fans might be a little nervous after seeing their side played off the park against Canberra on Thursday night. The general feeling is they're only a Tom Trbojevic or Daly Cherry-Evans injury away from being also-rans. Canberra aren't exactly burning the house down with red hot form but I wouldn't worry too much. Origin changes everything.
13. Cody Walker probably should be playing Origin 3. I think it's fair to say he's the best (eligible) player in the competition to not play in the series this year. He may go close to a Dally M medal such is his individual form.
14. Put it down to the new rules, a gulf in quality etc but Alex Johnston looks set to break all sorts of try-scoring records this season. I dare say it has a little to do with skill and also the amazing team he's currently playing in. He's scoring hat-tricks for fun.
15. Good to see a return to form of Jason Taumalolo. I still don't understand exactly what the Cowboys are doing using their megastar as a pinch hitter of sorts but if he's going to perform like he did on Friday then they may be onto something.
16. Really looking forward to seeing Payne Haas and his 10-year contract working out ... much like such long term contracts that always work out ... always ... except they never do. Ask the Swans.
17. Joseph Manu has a monster future in the number one somewhere. I think, for his career, he needs to look at moving on at the end of 2022. His game has stagnated out in the centres. He was once the undisputed king in the outside backs, however now probably doesn't crack the top five.
18. There is a serious footballer in Lachlan Lewis. I dare suggest the Dogs need to pick and stick with the youngster for the rest of the season. If Jeremy Marshall-King is fit, he must play too given his recent contract extension. Young Kyle Flanagan may be looking for his fourth club in as many seasons.
19. As much as I love Origin, I'm glad this is the second to last weekend that will be affected by the interstate series.
20. It's a shame that the entire competition will be uprooted and moved, however, the NRL was left with no choice. The AFL had a successful 2020 season in QLD and I have no doubt the NRL can replicate this and then some. With the greatest of respects, the QLD sides probably aren't in title contention so there's no home ground advantage, while the others teams have to be good enough to win away from home. It'll be good to keep fans at the games also.