NRL Rd 9 - Cowboys v Roosters
TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 09: James Tedesco of the Roosters runs the ball during the round nine NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Sydney Roosters at QCB Stadium on July 09, 2020 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

This week’s 20 thoughts will be a split between looking back at Round 9 and looking forward to Magic Round.

1. Nathan Cleary looks well on track to win that Dally M Medal he should have won last season. Only injury or a horror Origin series can deny the youngster what is rightfully his. He’s pushing Tedesco as the best player in the game right now.

NRL Rd 18 - Panthers v Eels
PENRITH, AUSTRALIA – SEPTEMBER 11: Nathan Cleary of the Panthers is tackled during the round 18 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Parramatta Eels at Panthers Stadium on September 11, 2020 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

2. Anyone writing off young Kyle Flanagan for being ‘hooked’ this weekend needs to remember that he’s 22 and hardly the first playmaker to ever be removed due to some bad decisions. He’ll be fine. That said, the Dogs should be thumped for making him face the media today where he was upset and then dropped. Pathetic stuff.

Loading

3. The Sharks have supposedly ruled that the game is too fast for Andrew Fifita yet continue to pick Aaron Woods and Aidan Tolman? We’ll FINALLY see the former best prop in the world return this Saturday afternoon for the Sharks, from the bench.

4. I cannot believe the amount of people saying Tommy Turbo is the best No.1 in the game, as if James Tedesco doesn’t exist!? Turbo is a magnificent player but Tedesco is still the best player in the game. Brad Fittler will be lucky enough to name both in his backline (fitness allowing) come Origin I.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JULY 10: James Tedesco of the Blues celebrates scoring the match winning try during game three of the 2019 State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at ANZ Stadium on July 10, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

5. Also remember a month ago when Ryan Papenhuyzen was the best fullback in the game, for like two weeks? Another super player but he has literally five years of magnificence ahead of him to even be in the same conversation.

6. Speaking of Tedesco, THREE times now he has been hit in the head and left dazed only to not be brought off for an assessment. It honestly gives credit to those claiming superstar players are above simple rules. Very frustrating for those of us who care about injuries.

7. After 30+ years of watching this game, it’s not often I see ‘firsts’ in Rugby League. Step up Kyle Feldt who scores one of the most ridiculous tries you’ll ever see. Go-go-gadget Feldt! Incredible stuff. Gotta wrap up the ball.

8. That Penrith -35.5 was easy money this past Friday evening. I hope those following my twitter account jumped on as encouraged. I don’t usually bet to be honest but this was such an easy result and margin to predict. Games of first grade Rugby League shouldn’t be foregone conclusions before kick-off. Gamble responsibly.

9. At the top, the teams are so good that even just a few injuries can completely blow contests open. See Storm vs Bunnies on Thursday night. Souths and Melbourne are equal in terms of being the best other than the Panthers but Melbourne blew the Bunnies off the park. You take four stars out of the game and it makes a 50-point difference.

10. For the third week in a row the Titans ran out to a huge early lead. This time they weren’t run down as in prior weeks but they did lose the second half to the Tigers. No fan will remember this moving forward but don’t think for a second that would have been missed by the Titans coaching staff.

Watch: The full Magic Round previewed via the Rugby League Outlaws

11. The Storm are missing three of the biggest names in Rugby League in their clash with the Dragons yet are still ridiculously short favourites. That says EVERYTHING about the Storm. For the record I’ll be tipping them despite missing Munster, Papenhuyzen and Grant.

12. With all due respect there are a few players who can count themselves VERY lucky injuries and a lack of accountability have combined to allow them undeserved first grade spots. I won’t name players but I’ve previously written about two such players who seem to be above NSW stints. I point you back to that article.

13. This Friday evening’s kick off to Magic Round could very well be the worst game of the round, or it could be the best. Both of these sides are capable of absolutely anything and I can’t wait. I can’t believe Adam Doueihi has been shifted out of the halves despite being their best half all season. Adds to the story though.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 21: Adam Doueihi of the Wests Tigers looks dejected during the round two NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Sydney Roosters at Campbelltown Sports Stadium, on March 21, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

14. The Bulldogs have a brilliant opportunity to get back into the win column. The Raiders are down on confidence and Ricky Stuart looks to be out of ideas or people to blame. This could be a sleeper match also. I look forward to the press conference should the Dogs cause the upset.

15. Just heading back to Round 9 quickly, the Eels should have had two players sitting in the stands on the one play. How that was missed by officials and more ridiculously the video referee is beyond comprehension. Brown is very, VERY lucky he’s not facing far longer off the field.

16. Fans are starting to ask where the next Penrith loss will come from yet everyone is looking past the Titans this weekend. Without Fifita it is going to be extremely difficult but if this becomes a straight shootout, the Titans have the game to to push this one close. I don’t see it happening for the record but I don’t expect the usual ‘Penny’ blow out.

17. To say I wish I was attending this weekend is a huge understatement. We were all booked and ready last season but of course life got in the way. 2022 is the year! Have fun legends.

18. The amount of off-contract talent is crazy right now. The amount of names still talking to multiple clubs is at a level I can’t remember almost ten rounds into a competition. Expect one big move to really kick things off. The Reynolds saga seems to be the one although I still expect young Hynes to be a big player in the market.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 25: Nicho Hynes of the Storm offloads the ball during the round three NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Melbourne Storm at Panthers Stadium on March 25, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

19. We’re not even ten rounds into the competition yet the top four looks set. Let me know who, outside the the current four (Panthers, Eels, Storm, Bunnies) will challenge.

20. It’s looking as though this year’s top try-scorer may need 30+ to be safe. When players are scoring six tries in 80 minutes, anything is possible.