SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 06: Joseph Manu of the Roosters celebrates victory at fulltime during the 2019 NRL Grand Final match between the Canberra Raiders and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

1. The 2020 competition saw a clear gulf between the top eight and bottom eight sides. 2021 is shaping up as a top five and then the rest type of season. The Panthers, Bunnies, Storm, Eels and Roosters are SO far ahead of the chasing pack. The Dragons, Warriors and Titans round out the current top eight despite those sides all ‘boasting’ .500 records or worse.

2. Negativity Alert: I’m tired of seeing people proud of their sides for “having a go” or “almost beating” sides. It’s professional Rugby League. Players aren’t paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to come close to beating side. Any club willing to accept “we put in” aren’t doing it right.

3. Is it just me or has Jason Taumalolo looked well below par thus far in 2021? I understand the injuries he has suffered but he barely bent the line in an effort worth only 134 metres against the Warriors. That’s hardly terrible but they weren’t Taumalolo-like runs. Hopefully he turns it around.

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 28: Jason Taumalolo of the Cowboys looks dejected after a Dragons try during the round 15 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the North Queensland Cowboys at WIN Stadium on June 28, 2019 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

4. If Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden are the answer, I don’t know what questions are being asked up north. Scott Drinkwater is playing miles ahead of either supposed first-choice halves but despite being named as ‘a priority’ by Todd Payten, is still unsigned for 2022. Even if he is tied to the Cowboys, where does he play?

5. David Fifita is the most damaging forward in the game on his day but I’m seeing Kikau-like tendencies starting to emerge. Kikau either tramples every defender who stands in front of him on his way to a try or two, or he has seven runs for 56 metres. 12 runs for under 100 metres and only two tackle breaks is not the night many expected against his former side.

6. Josh Hannay is an absolute wood duck. If he names an unchanged side this weekend against the Panthers then the Sharks would legit be better off handing a note reading “we forfeit” to the referee pre-game. Woods, Townsend, Trindall (for six minutes) and Magoulias are not first graders in 2021.

7. Josh McGuire hasn’t won a game in over 220 days. Must .. not … make … meetings … joke

8. A HORROR injury toll this week. The Brett Morris footage was very difficult to watch. What a legend of the game, on and off the park. Morris is exactly the player that younger players coming through should to try and replicate. Collins’ season is also over, while Thompson, Reynolds, Murray, Paulo and Graham all face long lay offs. Awful stuff.

9. 2021 Mitch Moses is a completely different animal to 2020 Mitch Moses. He was the missing piece last year in the Eels’ title charge.

10. I have no issues at all with Will Chambers being photographed with the Storm post-game on Friday evening. Yes, his side had just been smacked off the park, but Chambers is a Storm legend and it does no harm to smile and have a photo with his former teammates.

Watch all the latest news discussed in this week’s Rugby League Outlaws

11. 15 minutes into the Broncos/Titans game on Friday night I bet Adam Reynolds was texting his manager advising him to accept that one-year deal at the Bunnies quick smart. After seeing the Sharks get shellacked, then the Broncos go 22-0 down in no time, suddenly the short-term option at Souths was looking pretty sweet.

12. State of Origin must be approaching as we’re seeing predicted lineups being released. Origin Watch will return very soon just quietly. Penrith have built an almighty undefeated streak during the regular season. It will be interesting to see if they can come through the rep period unscathed.

13. Joseph Manu is a superstar in the making. Does he risk leaving a super successful set up in the Roosters to chase his fullback ambitions? If he decides to look elsewhere there will be no shortage of clubs lining up for his signature.

14. The Zac Cini debut is one that won’t be forgotten. The family and friends section he had cheering him on was a genuine highlight of the weekend. To see him score in front of the section was pure theatre. Rugby League, you couldn’t write this any better.

15. They were unlucky to lose their halfback in the warm ups but the Raiders are a far cry from their title-challenging selves. Ricky Stuart is running out of people to blame in his press conferences, suggesting he has run out of answers.

16. What happened to the Knights? I know they’ve suffered a few injuries (although name a side who hasn’t suffered to some degree) but they don’t look anywhere near a top-eight side right now. To allow an 11-man Roosters outfit to score was the final insult on a pretty dire night in front of their own fans.

17. You couldn’t pay me enough to run the social media accounts of underperforming teams. Shout out to those who do run these accounts.

18. For the life of me I’ll never understand picking players on the bench for the token last five minutes stint. In a competition where every advantage must be taken care of, having a utility sit for 75 minutes is a pure waste of a bench spot.

19. If reports are true that Xavier Coates is on the brink of signing with the Storm then you can pretty much pencil Coates in as the game’s next star. After what Bellamy has already done for Brenko Lee and Reimis Smith, there’s literally no limit to the potential Coates possesses.

NRL Rd 6 - Broncos v Panthers
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 15: Xavier Coates of the Broncos breaks away from the defence during the round six NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Penrith Panthers at Suncorp Stadium, on April 15, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

20. Fans across social media have developed this Brimson vs Ponga argument. Brimson wins Round 8 via an easy, unanimous points decision.