To say this has been a newsworthy week in the NRL it an understatement. We have the State of Origin sides named, a genuine megastar has requested his release and the upsets have continued.
Here are 20 thoughts from a week that could have presented 120.
1. The Penrith Panthers are so far ahead of the rest. In the past three weeks they have thumped the Storm, Roosters and Cowboys. Anyone can be beaten on any given night but they are simply in a different class. Parra fans will make noise but they beat the Eels nine times out of ten.
2. I was initially very happy with the squad Brad Fittler named but given the changes announced this morning I am at a loss. Why name a centre as your utility? Why name a player who has been schooled at Origin level twice now in the run on side? Nicho Hynes at 18th man? Fittler marches to his own drum but I think he's got it very wrong, after initially nailing it.
3. There is roughly 0.00% chance that Payne Haas doesn't already have a club lined up for at least the remainder of 2022. There's no way in the world that he would be willing to walk away from $750,000 without something. Whether or not that be in the NRL is the only question.
4. With the return to Belmore, again I applaud teams for sticking with Suburban grounds. Penrith Stadium has been jam-packed every game this season and always looks amazing. Shark Park was rocking on Saturday night. In terms of the experience, the smaller grounds are second to none... unless you need to use the bathroom or plan on eating and drinking.
5. Over the weekend we saw the final of the Challenge Cup in England. I've long been a supporter of introducing a knockout competition and again I want to lead the charge. The FFA Cup, pre-covid, was the highlight of the round ball game for casual fans. Include the NSW Cup and QLD Cup sides, the NRL sides and potential sides from Fiji or PNG and you have a brilliant tournament. It would take some ironing out of the details but I'm in.
6. I've seen plenty of suggestions that both the Cowboys and Sharks were found out over this past weekend. I think it's more about showing where they're both actually at rather than being found out. Both sides have started the season extremely well but are a fair way off the top sides.
7. Fans are frustrated with refereeing inconsistencies and have every right. The past few weeks we've seen some weak sin bins yet Round 12 saw two iron clad professional fouls ignored. Eight different referees each round mean eight sets of interpretations but professional fouls are obvious. Don't get me started on the bunker.
8. That QLD side is dead set bang on. Billy Slater has named a side that stands as the best QLD have put forward for years. If David Fifita ever finds form, watch out! The true strength of a side is measured by the bench and those who miss out. That Maroon bunch is crazy good.
9. Matt Dufty was awarded a Dally M point on the weekend, which I completely agree with. He was one of the best on ground... For the Dragons.
10. The Panthers will be missing six of their starters for their clash with the Bulldogs yet are $1.30 favourites. Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo, Stephen Crichton, Brian To'o, Jarome Luai, and Liam Martin are all names which will be absent yet you still couldn't pay me enough to tip the Dogs.
11. I'm sick of hearing about Michael Maguire's job security, or lack thereof. The Tigers should have made a definitive decision over 12 months ago. It has become an absolute joke. I can only imagine how Tigers fans feel. My thoughts can be summed up by "who better is available"?
12. Manly are a spent force. The Storm have been bog average the past two weeks yet pantsed Manly with ease. The Storm are very, very good but so below strength. Always a risk to write Manly off but hand me the pen.
13. It will be of no consolation to the Titans but that game on Friday night was an absolute belter. At 24-4, and having outscored Brisbane despite having 11 men, it should have been game over. The Titans have forgotten how to win.
14. I suggested it a few weeks ago but it's time for the Warriors to make the tough call and drop Shaun Johnson. The Warriors moved heaven and earth to sign Ronald Volkman and I would not be at all shocked to see him sooner than later.
15. The Eels continue to be there or there abouts. Canberra have been unstoppable in the middle over the past fortnight and Parra went with them and ultimately got the chocolates. Dylan Brown is an absolute must for the Kiwis for the end of year World Cup. He's a different player to his 2021 self.
16. Alex Johnston is incredible. 147 tries in 178 games is unheard of and shouldn't be possible in this day and age. Johnston has played outside of some incredible centres and halves but his record should be celebrated in a big way.
17. Ryan Papenhuyzen has been out for three weeks yet is still 20 points clear as the competition's top point scorer. Can we just appreciate that for a second? As a Blue, I really wish he were available for Origin.
18. Origin-effected footy just isn't the same. The next few weeks are a test for League fans but there are four pretty interesting fixtures this weekend. How is there a Thursday night fixture yet nothing on Saturday afternoon? Tv money baby!
19. Reminder: Ryan Matterson still doesn't have a contract next year. He's wearing sky blue next week. Have recruitment teams forgotten about Matto or is he pricing himself out of a contract in 2023?
20. I have never seen rugby league social media unite as quickly as when Clint Gutherson made a mess of that bomb in the nation's capital. I say this in jest but no one divides the NRL fan base quite like the King!