As we head into the Origin series, unfortunately some of the games in the NRL rounds will fail to live up to any sort of great heights.
It’s easy to forget the brilliance on show in the early rounds of each season as the rep series takes effect, so I believe it is a great time to look back at 10 positives of the season thus far.
These aren’t in any sort of order, but are just 10 moments, situations, etc. that have been fun to watch in 2015.
Of course it would be incredibly difficult to cover each and every positive of this season, so please let us know what has peaked your interest so far in 2015.
Cowboys amazing run
After starting the season with three straight losses, the Cowboys have set the NRL alight with eight straight victories. In those eight wins has been some amazing football, mainly on the back of brilliant halves Jonathan Thurston and Michael Morgan. James Tamou looks like a different player than the one who was well below par last season. Lachlan Coote feels like a brand new signing and has been absolutely brilliant in the number one. After blowing out to ridiculous odds following their horror start to the season, the Cowboys are now amongst the favourites to take out their first NRL crown. It’s been fun to watch
The Dragons proving doubters wrong
I always enjoy when a side raises its collective middle finger at the experts, and this season it has been in the form of the Dragons. Tipped to finish in the bottom few, they now sit with an equal lead of the competition. Although they may still fall away and miss the finals, their start to the season has been absolutely stunning. It has come on the back of some gritty defence and teamwork. Josh Dugan has found form that has seen him entrusted with the number one jersey for his state, while the likes of Mike Cooper and Trent Merrin have made a mountain of metres. Benji Marshall has more than justified his signing last season. Can they hold onto their form?
Jack Bird’s debut and rise
After a month of football, all the talk in the Shire was doom and gloom, and rightfully so. Step forward young gun Jack Bird, and suddenly the future, and present, isn’t so dark. His debut against the Titans was promising, but it was his run-on debut, at five-eighth, that had Sharks fans breaking out in a smile. He was the match winner against the Roosters in the Sharks drought breaking win, and backed it up with impressive performances in each game he has started since. Although his future may lie in the centres, he, and Valentine Holmes, have given Sharks fans hope that the future may be special.
Brisbane a force again
Wayne Bennett has transformed the stuttering Broncos into a real force in very little time. To represent his influence, you need look no further than the form of Sam Thaiday. He started the season with an absolute shocker. He was benched, publically denounced in the media, and warned he may not be re-signed. Fast forward nine rounds and Thaiday is arguably one of the form back rowers of the competition. Anthony Milford’s permanent move into the halves started slowly, but has paid off handsomely to date.
Anyone can beat anyone else
This is a ridiculously close season thus far. You get the feeling, and the results support said feeling, that anyone but beat anyone else on their day. The Sharks lost four straight games and beat the red hot Roosters, Parramatta ended the Bunnies winning streak, the Titans have recorded some serious upsets, and the list goes on. In fact over this weekend the massively under-maned Bulldogs beat the near full strength Raiders. It’s a tipster’s worst nightmare.
Pacific Nations Tests
Heading into rep-weekend there were plenty racing to put the concept down, but the passion, and talent on-show made it an incredible event. The Samoa/Tonga game was one of the better games of the season, and the pre-match war dances and singing were chock full of emotion. I know it’s a weekend off from NRL action, but I love the international weekend concept, and it can only benefit the international game in the long term. Hopefully Fiji and PNG can continue to improve also.
Titans playing well despite off-field distractions
Looking at their squad, the Titans were always long odds pre-season to make a huge impact in 2015. When the alleged scandals broke, you could have all but ruled a line through the club as anything more than fodder. Someone obviously forgot to tell the Titans. It’s still early and they could still fall away, but as it stands, it has been good to see the club rally and record some exciting wins. Is there anyone more fun to watch in the clear than James Roberts?
Extreme Fullback Talent
Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Josh Dugan, Matt Moylan, James Tedesco, RTS, I could go on. The amount of talent occupying number one jerseys across the competition right now is absolutely incredible. The fact that players such as Valentine Holmes and even Alex Johnson are unlikely to play in their preferred fullback position unless an injury occurs, proves how deep the talent goes. Fullbacks are more important than the modern game than they ever have been. The Eels, and possibly the Knights apart, every side has a near superstar fullback.
Moves to limit ‘staying down’
I for one have been happy to see the video referee stop interfering every time a playing stays down after copping a shot that the on-field referees missed. I realise that any contact to a player’s head and neck is deemed ‘dangerous’ however sometimes contact is incidental and penalties are not warranted. Anything that is not deemed a grade five offense is now let go, and left in the hands of the on-field officials. Serious foul play will still be penalised if missed, but the move will hopefully end players who cop ‘love taps’ from staying down to milk penalties.
Games go bush
I am a big fan of taking the game to the people. The Bunnies/Raiders game in Albury and the Panthers clash with the Titans in Bathurst were great steps in doing just that. I’ve written before on how I’d love to see a NRL ‘goes bush’ weekend however the odd game certainly won’t hurt. A massive amount of talent comes from country areas, and those areas should be witness to a game of NRL standard football every so often.