Despite results in Round 19 being largely predictable, the footy was far from it. We run an eye over the action and deliver 20 random thoughts.
1. The Panthers don't have the depth of the Storm. Without Nathan Cleary they don't look anything like the side they were before his injury. Meanwhile, the Storm have blown everyone aside without Cameron Munster, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Jahrome Hughes and Harry Grant at different times.
2. Dale Finucane's signing is arguably the most important signing for 2022. His impact on and off the field will go far beyond his big-money deal. The fact Cronulla were smart enough to front-end the contract shows great experience from the club. Even if Finucane is half the player in the fourth year, it won't matter salary-cap wise.
3. Kodi Nikorima has outplayed Brodie Croft routinely over the past 12 months. Surely another recruitment decision the Broncos would like back? I know the habit is to dunk on the Tigers but the Broncs must have their head in their hands every time the Warriors play.
4. For the Dragons sake I hope they have a plan. Right now they have one half in inconsistent form, no clear cut second half, and a musical chairs game happening at fullback. Where's Jack Bird's best position? Whenever Ben Hunt doesn't put in a brilliant game the Red V struggle massively.
5. Horrible news hearing that Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will play his last game for the Warriors this weekend. He has been enormous for the club both and off the field since arriving. Can't hold it against him in the slightest but it’s going to be tough to say goodbye to the Kiwi megastar.
6. Josh Aloiai should have been sin-binned for that awful cannonball tackle on Saturday. He knew what he was doing and that was a textbook ten in the bin. No question in my mind.
7. The Sharks and Sea Eagles both won 44-24 but the general feeling is that Manly did it easy while the Sharks struggled. You can’t be upset by scoring 44 points. Coincidentally these teams play each other this weekend in a game that will shape the eight. Huge.
8. Sitili Tupouniua and Angus Crichton are arguably the form second row combination in the competition right now. They, along with James Tedesco of course, are largely keeping the Roosters within striking distance of yet another top-four finish.
9. Loved the Tigers social media account's video of family members announcing the team line up. That was special stuff and it was great to see the kids especially announcing their dads. Brilliant.
This is our team for today.
It's brought to you today by their families — many of whom are doing it tough in lockdown and quarantine.
Always with us. 🖤🤍🧡 pic.twitter.com/eBzpnrDtii
— Wests Tigers (@WestsTigers) July 24, 2021
10. Parramatta looked a shell of their former selves without Mitch Moses controlling play. Sticking with the Eels, why doesn’t Maika Sivo ever step? Jordan Rapana had so overcommitted in that final play that a simple step sees him score untouched.
Watch Rugby League Outlaws discuss all things Round 18 and beyond
11. Last week we saw a love tap in the act of scoring saw the Sharks conceded a possible eight-point try. This Saturday night Thomas Flegler knocked Isaah Yeo clean out in the act of scoring yet no penalty try was awarded. If Yeo scores, that's the eight-point try. He was over the line but dropped it due to the illegal shot. I can understand why fans get frustrated at the officials.
12. Nick Meaney is not a short individual but how he managed to take two, uncontested high balls, to score then assist a try against the Sharks in consecutive sets is beyond comprehension. Once, ok players get caught out of position but twice in a row? Awful from the Sharks. Clever from the Dogs.
13. Usually I would be annoyed that the coverage this past weekend contained non stop promos for next weekend however the Storm vs Panthers game is delicious. Penrith will be down some players which is a real shame but I still cannot wait!
14. Canberra have some incredible, young backs coming through. Add Harley Smith-Shields to Sebastian Kris, Semi Valemei, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Xavier Savage. Jarrod Croker and Rapana have had incredible careers but the pressure is now surely on from generation-next.
15. Has Justin Olam overtaken the bigger names like Joseph Manu and Dane Gagai as the top centre in the game? Once Olam develops a draw and pass, I can’t see anyone better than him right now. Full-time centres only I mean.
16. Jason Taumalolo ran for only 147 metres on the weekend in 59 minutes. I say “only” because the Cowboys have become so over-reliant on the monster lock that he needs to run 200 or more metres to keep them in the contest. Jordan McLean with 73, Michael Dunn with 40, Francis Molo with 40. That’s just not up to first grade standard.
17. Brandon Smith could realistically fix a huge issue at the Dogs, Broncos, Titans and Tigers with one signature. He is likely to extend his stay with Melbourne despite not being guaranteed a starting spot. That shows how hard it is for these struggling teams to sign big-name players away from successful environments.
18. There is absolutely no point in playing a World Cup without Australia and New Zealand. I fully expect to see an Aussie invitational side emerge much like the Tongans saw a few seasons ago. I like the idea of an English-based side representing.
19. With Brisbane winning the 2032 Olympics, I’d love to see League in the event somehow. With the games taking place in Summer that’s more than enough time for a squad to train 9s to be ready for a medal run. The key is getting the US serious about it. Could be great fun.
20. The battle for seventh and eighth is now down to the Sharks, Dragons, Raiders and Titans. The Warriors and Cowboys are out while the Tigers are too far back. Newcastle’s awful points differential makes their two points feel more like four. Four into two. This should be fun.
Dragons have no chance their draw is horrible. Tigers and Newcastle have a chance to make the finals based on their favorable draw the Knights having Ponga back
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