Dom Young’s form, State of Origin fever: the NRL seven-tackle set weekend wrap

Mike Meehall Wood

The NRL is in its half-baked era with State of Origin on the horizon, but as rain lashed the east coast of Australia, we still got a few fixtures to enjoy.

The round kicked off with Parramatta’s win over Cronulla, with Clint Gutherson and Mitch Moses returning to assist a side that had won three all year to defeat a side that had lost just twice but were missing both Nicho Hynes and Cam McInnes.

Ironically, Parra’s playoff hopes ended last year in the third Origin-affected round, where Moses and Gutherson were called up and thus missed a crunch match with the Warriors, who had nobody out. Swings and roundabouts, eh.

Friday saw Canterbury easily defeat Newcastle, before Saturday’s fixtures started with an upset (of sorts) with the Dragons downing half of the Panthers before a cracker in Redcliffe as Canberra, ever the party-poopers, shocked the Dolphins at their traditional home with a golden point win.

Sunday’s game was the Roosters and Cowboys, with a total of 11 called up to Origin, and produced one of the upsets of the season with North Queensland pulling off a late turnaround to grab a vital win.

Good week for.. St George-Illawarra

The Dragons won at Penrith for the first time since 2018 thanks to a stunning second half turnaround.

Yes, this was a Panthers missing Jarome Luai, Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin, Brian To’o and Dylan Edwards to Origin camp and Nathan Cleary not even fit enough for that, but still, this is the competition’s elite system and the Dragons overpowered it.

It looked so-so at the break, with Penrith’s usual territorial strangle working perfectly, but a half-time riot act from Shane Flanagan turned St George Illawarra around and made Penrith look like the NSW Cup team they essentially were.

“You’ve only got two or three in you per year, and I’ve used one,” joked the ever-quotable Flanno afterwards.

Bad week for.. Newcastle

The Knights had it all set up for them at home to the Bulldogs, with nobody in either Origin squad and returning home on the back of a four game winning streak.

They were pulverised by a Doggies side missing both Stephen Crichton and Matt Burton, failing to register a single try as Canterbury cantered to 32-2 win.

Moreover, in what will be seen as the dumbest play of the year, Jacob Saifiti aimed a headbutt at Reed Mahoney in the final stages, earning himself a $3000 fine in the process. 

He was lucky it was a light touch, as a suspension would surely have been forthcoming, as it was for Victor Radley in a similar incident last year.

It’s the second such brain snap of the year for Newcastle, who had Jack Hetherington banned for trying to continue his argument with Mahoney in the sheds following an incident that saw both binned in the pair’s earlier meeting back in April.

Mahoney is fast becoming the NRL’s premier wind-up merchant and more power to him: if it’s getting other players sent from the field and suspended without much blowback, it’s clearly working. 

Standout: Jordan Rapana

It was hard to look past the Canberra fullback, who has made a career out of being tough as old boots and competing to the last. 

He can’t have had many occasions where he was required to compete quite as late as in Canberra’s win over the Dolphins, where the Kiwi international kicked a late field goal to send the game to golden point, then saved a certain try in extra time and eventually settle the game with his second off the boot.

Jamayne Isaako tied the game from the sidelide in regulation, then put the Phins ahead, then missed multiple times to win it before Rapana, who had never kicked a drop goal before in his life, added a second to complete a classic Raiders smash-and-grab. 

Washout: Braydon Trindall

The Sharks half was allowed back into the NRL following his suspension following a drink drive arrest, and not a moment too soon with Nicho Hynes called into Origin.

Trindall owed coach Craig Fitzgibbon big time, but was posted absent in Cronulla’s defeat to Parramatta, contributing a grand total of five runs, no line breaks and no assists of any kind.

Italian international Dan Atkinson has impressed with Trindall out and, though the pair played together with Hynes out, there’s a big call brewing for next week’s crunch clash with the Broncos in Brisbane when the chief playmaker inevitably returns.

Everyone’s talking about..

Michael Maguire’s NSW Blues, who go into State of Origin on Wednesday with huge doubts about the strength of the side.

Madge, in his first series as coach, had all his best players pull out due to injury, then promptly left out James Tedesco and Api Koroisau, who has been just about the best hooker in the NRL despite playing for the Wests Tigers.

He’s since lost Dylan Edwards and recalled Tedesco, but will start with Isaah Yeo, the best 13 in the world, on the bench and Joey Suaalii, an excellent winger but bad centre, in the centres while Zac Lomax, who is literally leaving the Dragons because he wants to play wing and not centre, on the wing.

Latrell Mitchell, the biggest of big game players, is nowhere to be seen and neither is Josh Addo-Carr, a similarly proven quantity on the big stage – though he is now injured anyway following a hamstring tear in the Dogs’ win at Newcastle, which he would have missed if selected for NSW.

It’s a total crapshoot of a selection from Madge, and while he did have his hand forced by big outs, he also chose to leave others on the sidelines.

There’s also no inclination whatsoever of how this team might play, though anyone with a knowledge of Maguire’s previous work will guess that it’ll be quite conservative, and dogged. In Origin, that might still work, though the week-to-week NRL has long since moved past it.

But nobody’s mentioning..

Billy Slater’s Queensland, who decided not to include David Fifita despite the Titans backrower being just about the best in the world in his position and killing it for the Gold Coast.

On top of that, Slater has picked no fewer than five from the Cowboys, who have won one of their last seven – and that was against the Wests Tigers – and couldn’t tackle a fish supper.

There’s a wider Australian dynamic at play here. Everyone in Sydney, where 75% of the rugby league media is, thinks their guy should be playing rather than whoever is picked, so the debate is endless.

Up in Queensland, however, they know their talent pool is more limited and thus everyone gets behind the side. They, as the Aussie parlance goes, get Origin up there.

Thus Slater will talk a lot about Queenslanders being Queenslanders, players being good Queenslanders, doing everything for their state and so and so forth.

If they lose, few will question why someone like Jeremiah Nanai, second in the whole comp for line breaks caused, gets picked over Fifita, who leads almost every category you’d want a strike edge forward to lead.


A strange week for the English contingent, not least in the Raiders-Dolphins game, where both Herbie Farnworth and Morgan Smithies were on the sidelines for the crazy denouement. 

Farnworth was involved in an incident that would have allowed Redcliffe a late shot at two to win it: Joey Tapine caught him high and the centre stayed down to force the video ref to look at it. Nothing was given, but Herbie was yanked for a HIA anyway, ruling him out of the final five minutes and the first period of golden point.

Dom Young managed a try in a typically eventful performance for the Roosters. He could have done better for one of the Cowboys’ tries and coughed up a few errors, but was generally one of their best in attack and, with the game on the line, his was the side that the Chooks inevitably went to. 

Will Pryce continues to impress in the 6 jumper for Newcastle’s NSW Cup team, grabbing two try assists as they thrashed Canterbury in the curtain raiser, and can’t be far from a debut as long as the current halves set-up at NRL level still looks very uneasy.