2023 is shaping as the year of the upset. Collectively, Round 3 seemed to be obsessed with ensuring our tipping nightmare continues... and it's hard not to love it!

The Dolphins continue to defy the odds while Parramatta are still looking for that elusive victory in 2023. We've also enjoyed massive crowds across three states and territories.

Round three also saw the first instance of a team coming off the bye, having played prior, as well as playing host to multiple NRL debuts.

Below are 20 thoughts from the round that was. As always, they're not all destined to be deep-thinking commentary that will change the world, but instead just talking points from Round 3.

1. I was at Allianz Stadium on Friday night and that Roosters and Bunnies clash felt like a final. The atmosphere was special and other than an injury stoppage or two, the crowd was red-hot for 80 minutes. I can only imagine just how intense last years final between the two sides would have felt.

2. Is the loan system that ran during Covid still in place? If so, the Knights and Bunnies could be forgiven for putting out an SOS call for some middle forwards. The injury crisis at both club in the engine room is frightening.

3. Last week I wrote that Parramatta fans shouldn't be concerned about being 0-2. Despite it now stretching to 0-3 I still wouldn't be overly concerned. They've lost all four games by a try. If they lose to the Panthers by four points this Thursday night, we'll have to go to the record books. I can't remember that ever happening.

4. In the off-season I commented that the Sharks were missing a monster prop. Since then they have signed the massive Max Bradbury and even bigger Tuku Hau Tapuha. Fair to say Craig Fitzgibbon was more than onto it. Expect to see at least one, possibly both in first grade post-Origin period.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 28: Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon watches his players warm up during the round eight NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla Sharks at Suncorp Stadium, on April 28, 2022, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

5. Ever get the feeling you massively underrated the Warriors, Dragons, Dolphins and Sea Eagles? Yeah, me too.

6. You really have to question how the Eels have been fixtured to play three sides in a row coming off the bye. Having just played the well-rested Sea Eagles, they're forced to play Penrith coming off the week off and then the refreshed Roosters. I haven't checked the draw thoroughly enough to see if that is an aberration but it sure is glaring.

7. Over the past two weeks Jeremiah Nanai has run for a combined 62 metres. He ran for 31 metres in each of Round 2 and Round 3 despite playing for 160 minutes. It's all well and good to be scoring tries but to not even crack ten runs across two games is simply not good enough. Is he not willing to do the hard stuff or is the game plan to go up the middle for the Cowboys? Either way, not good.

8. I'll try to limit the Origin talk for a few more weeks yet, but for mine the Blues are about to name a debutant back row pairing of Haumole Olakau'atu and Keaon Koloamatangi. Brad Fittler just has to hope neither opt out. He may benefit from the fact that Tonga don't have a fixture in the rep period.

NRL Qualifying Final - Storm v Sea Eagles
SUNSHINE COAST, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 10: Haumole Olakau'atu of the Sea Eagles is tackled during the NRL Qualifying Final between the Melbourne Storm and the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles at Sunshine Coast Stadium on September 10, 2021, in Sunshine Coast, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

9. I absolutely hate this short drop-out rule. If the ball doesn't travel 10 metres on the full, it should be a penalty in front of the sticks. This kicking it to the moon and having it land five metres out, only to bounce randomly, just isn't right. Latrell Mitchell and Adam Reynolds both benefited from this ridiculous rule this weekend in the oppressive heat.

10. The Roosters are the kings of putting out spot fires. Talk of a rift between James Tedesco, Joseph Suaalii and Joseph Manu threatened to dominate talk prior to Tedesco not only re-signing but putting the rumors to bed quick smart. Even if there is or was a rift, it surely looks to be settled, at least publicly.

11. Always happy to eat a big of crow when I'm wrong. I didn't like the two-point field goal when the idea was first floated. Now I absolutely love it. It made the final moments on Friday night's blockbuster really tense knowing Latrell could slot a field-goal from 40 out. The Reynolds drop goal on half time also meant something at the time. Great rule change.

12. I wonder if it was the heat or just a result of attacks absolutely humming but there were a mountain of points scored across Round 3.

13. Risky move by the Titans staff hooking Kieran Foran prior to halftime. I actually thought it would be Tanah Boyd who would make way to ensure Jayden Campbell could come on but the tough decision was made. It ultimately worked, despite Foran's obvious annoyance.

Gold Coast Titan's Kieran Foran (Image: Gold Coast Titans Twitter)

14. As a Sharks fan it is hard to pinpoint exactly what is going wrong. Obviously, Nicho Hynes being out is massive but every team has injuries. There just seems to be a ten-minute period in every game where the Sharks flatly refuse to hold the ball or tackle. Super frustrating.

15. How good was the potential Origin (yeah I know, I know) shootout between Katoni Staggs and Zac Lomax? Staggs has one Origin to his name while Lomax has long been talked about as a NSW certainty. Given the early form of Latrell and Tommy Turbo, they'll need be good to be in the discussion.

16. I completely understand the telecasters, especially Channel 9, wanting to hold firm on kickoff times, but there has to be a plan B when the temperatures are close to 40 degrees. I was in Canberra and it was unbearable in the sun as a spectator. Once the shade hit it was fine but I can only imagine the pain theJersey Flegg and NSW Cup players had to endure.

17. For 65 minutes the Bulldogs looked very, very good at Belmore. I attribute the late fade out to the aforementioned desert conditions but I liked what I saw. Ok, it was against the lowly Tigers but the Dogs showed signs of the exciting brand of footy they played under Mick Potter last season. Very entertaining.

Viliame Kikau and Jacob Preston celebrate during the round two NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and Canterbury Bulldogs at AAMI Park on March 11, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Grimes/Zero Digital Sports)

18. There has been a lot of talk about Parramatta's rough start but the Tigers are now looking at the very real chance they're 1-8 (with a bye), at best, come the start of Round 10. If they can't beat a stick-taped-together Storm side this weekend they then play Brisbane, Parra, Manly and Penrith before a winnable game against the Dragons. Rough!

19. For all the talk of big-name recruits, one has slipped under the radar: Te Maire Martin. Last week I named Sean O'Sullivan and J'maine Hopgood as the two early bargains but my word Martin has been worth every dollar and then some. It shouldn't be a surprise as he was very good for Brisbane last year. Now that he has nailed down a regular position, there seems to be no stopping him.

20. This has been the strangest start to a season I can remember. Only three teams remain undefeated through three rounds, and I would not have picked any of them. Meanwhile 2022 high flyers the Cowboys, Sharks, Storm and Bunnies are struggling big time. Is it the heat? Injuries? Or is it just the competition is closer than predicted? Probably a mix of everything but it sure is fun!

1 COMMENT

  1. As for comment #20 – I’m loving it ! One of the attractions of the NRL – except for the last few seasons – has been the inherent unpredictability of it. On their day, any team can beat any other.

    The last few seasons; especially with Six-Again; have gone against the grain, but this year we are seeing a return to a much more even, much more interesting competition.

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