NRL Rd 5 - Eels v Panthers
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 12: Blake Ferguson and Ryan Matterson of the Eels celebrate Ryan Matterson scoring a try during the round five NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the Penrith Panthers at Bankwest Stadium on June 12, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

1. I know it’s because of the Panthers winning streak but the talk this year in regards to Origin-affected games seems more over the top than usual. I’d also guess it has a little to do with the fact we’ve seen an end of year Origin series work.

2. Panthers fans and officials being touchy re the Tigers fans giving it to Ivan Cleary on Friday night are the very same people who cheered when Cleary blew kisses and stirred up Tigers fans previously. You have to cop the bad if you’re going to enjoy the good.

3. A very good point was made by a Twitter follower of mine who said he’d much rather have five or six Origin-quality players unavailable during this time to have those players available come finals time. One loss isn’t the end of the world considering you’ll have Cleary and co. come September.

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 01: Jarome Luai runs with the ball during a Blues State of Origin training session at Coogee Oval on June 01, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

4. It was hugely disappointing to hear reports of incidents on the hill at Leichhardt. Unfortunately it completely mirrored a similar experience I had at the same oval a few seasons ago. There is no place for that rubbish. Razz the coach but attacking fans is pathetic.

5. Reports suggesting Dogs fans should be worried about Matt Burton are laughable. The guy’s had one game in the halves all season and has produced incredible form all year. He was one of the Panthers best in a team missing a stack of top quality players. Come on now.

6. Alex Twal is an absolute boss since moving into the front-row. I don’t know what it is with some players but they just perform so much better with a different number on their back. Twal needs an 8 or a 10. He was beastly on Friday, which has continued his incredible run of form as a prop.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 23: Alex Twal of the Tigers makes a break during the round 24 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Manly Sea Eagles at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

7. It must be a coincidence that there is an illness or freakish occurrence in the QLD Origin camp … each .. and … every … single … series. Hopefully Dane Gagai is good to go. My guess is he’ll be fine.

8. Reports came out this week that Kalyn Ponga‘s trip into Origin camp may have disrupted his rehab and may cost him future games. Newcastle fans have every right to be furious at both Ponga and the QLD set up. Ponga was never going to be fit for Origin One and missed valuable rehab and recovery time to the point he now may actually miss Origin Two also.

9. I cannot believe the Dragons have told Matt Dufty to find another home in 2022. I’ve been saying it for 12 months but he’s the Red V’s best attacking player. He had FIVE try assists to go with his two tries on Thursday night and was the best player on the field by a mile. The Dragons have to swallow their pride and reverse that decision.

10. Reed Mahoney‘s injury has proven exactly why the 18th/19th men rules are so ridiculous. Api Koriasau was unavailable yet won’t play on Wednesday, while Reed was released, injured and won’t be available now. It makes sense whilst not making sense at all.

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11. Albert Kelly has been a huge highlight for the Broncos since his return to first grade. Who had Kelly to outshine Milford in 2021? Incredible stuff.

12. How bout that Trent Loiero scoring his first try on debut on Saturday night despite that being his second try in three games!? Happens to the best of us Braith.

13. Now that the mayhem of the crack down has settled, we have seen referees apply common sense rulings. Only three sin-bins over this past weekend and I didn’t have an issue with any of them. Any change takes a few weeks to take full effect.

14. Clint Gutherson reminded Origin selectors that he’s the next cab off the rank with a huge effort on Sunday afternoon. If Teddy goes down injured I thin the King comes in at one, leaving Turbo in the centres.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 01: Clint Gutherson of the Eels on his way to a try during the round eight NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Parramatta Eels at Stadium Australia, on May 01, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

15. Sticking with Eels plays and Origin, how is Ryan Matterson not in that squad? I commented last week I didn’t have Sims in consideration and Matterson’s efforts yesterday just further confirmed that line of thinking. He can’t be far off.

16. Newcastle are diabolical at the moment. Yes, they had a huge win over Manly last weekend but have lost six of their past seven. I know Ponga and Pearce are out but they look like they’ve never met. Bradman Best is one of the most damaging centres in the game yet is hardly sighted.

17. Does Phillip Sami owe Brian Kelly money? Sami should have had a hat-trick on the weekend but Kelly just flatly refused to pass. If he passes ONCE to the unmarked Sami then we’re talking about a huge upset win over the Storm. I couldn’t believe it.

18. Melbourne have the best “second choice” spine I’ve ever seen. Nicho Hynes and Brandon Smith are superstars. Cooper Johns has some serious talent. Jahrome Hughes (albeit not a second choice option) is in serious consideration now for being a top three halfback.

ALBURY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 07: Cooper Johns of the Storm offloads the ball during a Melbourne Storm NRL training session at Albury Tigers Club on May 07, 2020 in Albury, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

19. Ash Taylor’s kicking game is one of the more elite in the competition. I don’t know where he lands next season but you have to think he’ll at least find a backup spot somewhere. Mind you he’ll be on the tenth of his current contract.

20. I will discuss it at further length this week but I applaud the Sharks for making the very difficult decision to move on three high-profile and extremely well paid stars after adding a young, marquee half. Craig Fitzgibbon is making the tough calls early.