Like any decent armchair critic, we like to take apart that week that was.
Trawling through the video, analysing the stats – it’s our opportunity to hold the players accountable and pretend we run the game.
Here’s the top five takeaways take from the NRL weekend:
1. Cameron Smith is a robot
Some call it dirty. Some call it boring. Some call it robotic.
No matter the term used to describe Smith’s style of play, it must be acknowledged for its unrelenting consistency. Smith was at his best (as we call it) again on Thursday night, kicking a 40/20 and setting up two early tries within the first ten minutes.
The future immortal also came up with 51 tackles and a host of other attacking stats (off-loads, busts and line break assists) in a display that underpinned his incredible contribution to the Storm and rugby league generally.
Sharks’ coach, Shane Flanagan, was left disappointed with his control of the ruck (and over the referees), but to us it simply illustrated his greatness.
Smith’s 16th season in the competition is turning out to be one of his best, and he leads the Dally M voting after 14 rounds.
2. Success for cross-coders
It’s always a shame seeing talented players leave rugby league for the other code, but nonetheless pleasing to see succeed if they do.
Both Ngami Laumape (ex Warriors) and Ben Te’o (ex Rabbitohs) are making big strides on the rugby field ahead of the All Blacks three tests against the British and Irish Lions.
Te’o has been one of the Lions’ best in their three games thus far and looks to be the only midfield player in the squad with the ability to stop or dominate Sonny Bill Williams. It shapes as an intriguing contest.
Laumape on the other hand has just been included in an All Blacks squad for the first time – a long way from Mt Smart Stadium.
3. ‘Trust the process’
The Philadelphia 76ers coined phrase is now making the rounds through the NRL. It refers to a situation where a coach or manager implores fans for their support, loyalty and trust during a rebuilding phase. Asking them to suffer a little in the interim for potential long-term gain.
It’s being used at the Knights and the West Tigers at the moment as both sides settle into the new rhythms. The Tigers, with a new coach, and Newcastle, with much less money (and talent at their disposal) than in years gone by.
The sides occupy the bottom two positons on the ladder, but have made some astute signings for next year as they work through the ‘process’.
Speculation as to how these teams will get on in 2018 is pretty unhelpful this far out, yet loads of fun.
4. Are Warriors players better elsewhere?
As an unashamed New Zealand Warriors fan, this weekly segment will often feature commentary on their performances (usually with an underlying tone of disappointment or frustration) and this week is no different.
On the table this week, is whether the culture at the Warriors – the lazy, losing mentality – makes it impossible for players to succeed there?
The hypothesis is that players have to leave the Warriors to become better players.
Russell Packer, Sio Sio Taukeiaho, Suaia Matagi and Laumape are players that have thrived elsewhere in the NRL or in rugby union.
Have they become better players, through coaching or age, or is it that the attitude that hindered them at the Warriors or any inefficiencies in their game are just well-hidden amongst better players?
Sam Tomkins, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Isaac Luke and Ryan Hoffman are players with big reputations that have gone backwards after arriving at Mt Smart. Potentially hinting that the players around them, the ones that struggle to put in consistent performances over eighty minutes let alone a season, are dragging them down.
It would be interesting to compare player performance both at the Warriors and after they’ve left to confirm the speculative hypothesis.
5. Titans team of the century?
This is the Titans team of the century.
Preston Campbell, David Mead, Josh Hoffman, Mat Rogers, Kevin Gordon, Aiden Sezer, Scott Prince, Luke Bailey, Nathan Friend, Ryan James, Anthony Laffranchi, Greg Bird, Ashley Harrison, Mark Minichello, Luke Douglas, Brad Meyers, Luke O’Dwyer, Anthony Don.
Nothing flashy or fancy. No names that stick out or that you would call world-class.
Taking nothing away from all the players, it’s a list of just good honest rugby league players that gave it their all, and found it incredibly hard to compete with the likes of the Roosters, Bulldogs, Broncos and Storm with their weighted Third Party Agreements (excluded from the salary cap).
TPAs need to be scrapped to make the league more competitive, and the Titans team of the century is a glaring example of why.