2022 is shaping as the season of the upset. Round 11 saw the Raiders and Cowboys send big messages in their upset victories while the Sharks and Eels returned to winning ways.
Here are 20 thoughts from yet another highlight filled round of rugby league.
1. There is no justifying Jared Waerea-Hargreaves reaction to the awarding of an obvious eight-point try. I understand his frustration but the referee was spot on in his decision. JWH's blow up was childish and his sin bin a no brainer. Trent Robinson backed it in the press conference. How?
2. Look out for predicted Origin sides in the next few days on Zero Tackle but I dare say the sides announced this Sunday/Monday will be far different to those predicted in the pre-season. The Blues are in the midst of an injury crisis while the Maroons will likely name a side chock full of emerging stars. Exciting times ahead.
3. I cannot believe Ryan Matterson is not signed up for 2023. He has been an absolute monster in the past month and walks into a host of sides. Parramatta have reportedly stated they can't afford to re-sign him so there should be a line for his services.
4. The Panthers have thumped two high-flying teams in the past fortnight, effectively ruining two potential blockbusters. The Storm and Roosters were brushed aside with ease. Will it be a third straight this Friday night? I'm expecting a much closer contest against the Cowboys.
5. Nothing good comes from the Graham Annesley run down of decisions. Either he backs the refs despite blatantly incorrect decisions or he publicly trashes his officials. That Dane Gagai decision was an absolute howler but that decision to allow Cobbo's try was an all time shocker.
6. Those who didn't watch the NSW Cup games on Saturday afternoon missed a string of incredible tries this weekend. My favourite was a Josh Kerr try off a kick from Tautau Moga for the Dragons. Yes, that actually happened.
7. Fa'amanu Brown scoring a double on his return to NRL action was the story of the weekend. He's still only 27 and, with a number of injuries in the Tigers ranks, looks to have plenty of first-grade in his near future.
8. Newcastle are in a lot of trouble. They welcomed back Gagai and Tyson Frizell this past Thursday night yet were still battered at home by a Broncos side missing Adam Reynolds. I'm not writing off their finals chances just yet but they're absolutely on the outside looking in.
9. The Bulldogs have to find the key to unlocking Tevita Pangai Jr on a regular basis. In Round 10 he was barely sighted. In Round 11 he entered from the bench and was the best Dogs forward on the park. He comfortably ran for more metres than any other forward in blue and white and set up a try from nothing. What will he do this weekend? It's anyone's guess.
10. Manly are nowhere near the side they were last year. Most, perhaps correctly, will point to the fact Tom Trbojevic has been limited due to a combination of injuries and the slowing down of the game overall, but I'd point to the forwards. They don't have a consistent weapon up front. Only Marty Taupau ran for over 100 metres on Friday night. Against the Broncos a week prior, no Manly forward hit three figures.
11. The Warriors allowing Matt Lodge an early release raised eyebrows. Is Mitch Barnett heading across early? Lodge to Newcastle? Thomas Mikaele's release from the Tigers suggests Lodge may be headed back to Tiger Town for a short stint. Judging by the early reaction, fans of the Tigers are non too happy about the prospect.
12. Lachlan Miller's debut was a huge highlight from Round 11. From the emotional jersey presentation video to one of the week's highlight reel tries, it was just a joy to watch. Shows that you don't need to debut at 18 to make a splash at the highest level.
13. The Storm have been belted 68-12 across the past two rounds yet still have the second best for and against in the competition. Just goes to show hot utterly devastating they were in the opening two months.
14. It was pointed out that it has now been 50 straight weeks that Penrith have been in the top two teams on the NRL ladder. That is absolutely ridiculous in the modern era of rugby league. A real testament to what they have built at the foot of the mountains. To think how little has to go wrong to slip from the top two spots. An early round loss, a big loss through Origin. Outstanding stuff from the Panthers.
15. With the greatest of respect to Brent Naden and Jack Hetherington, I don't believe there are too many tears from Dogs fans after their exits. Naden has moved to the Tigers while Hetherington is reportedly looking to leave after Trent Barrett's removal. I dare day a few other players will follow whether they like it or not.
16. The Sharks looked a completely different side with Nicho Hynes back in the number seven. This system has been built around Hynes and it has shown over the past fortnight. Sitting second in the Dally M count and with an Origin jersey in his near future, Hynes decision to back himself outside of the Storm system looks to be paying off.
17. With the A League finals taking place this weekend I saw some NRL fans ask if it was worth exploring a home and away aggregate finals series in the future. In response my short answer would be "no". My longer answer would be "not in a million years". The one-off nature of our finals series isn't always fair but it's always exciting.
18. In a severe case of not missing something until it's gone, I miss City-Country. With so many positions up for grabs in this year's Origin series, it would be so great to see players rip in. Unless it was framed as a genuine Origin selection trial though you'd again see players pull out (or be ruled out by their side). Shame though.
19. Newcastle took a huge stride toward recording their first NRLW win by signing Millie Boyle and Tamika Upton this past week. Two big names, two supremely talented players. Expect some more big movements in the coming weeks and months.
20. With the team's set to be named this Sunday night and Monday morning, it's officially Origin season baby! Now is the chance for sides battling for top eight spots to make a move. Penrith are going to lose up to eight starters while the Storm and Cowboys will be largely gutted.