Five Things: Walters got there in the end

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. Did Kevin Walters get it right for game two?

With Queensland’s win in game two of Origin came a number of questions about the selection decisions of coach Kevin Walters.

After a shock defeat in game one where he left Billy Slater out of his side and showed selection loyalty to a number of ageing stars, Walters swung the axe and made five changes for game two.

So, was he wrong in game one and right in game two?

Or was he wrong on both counts, because his reasons for not selecting Slater in game one (pressure, big game fitness) were also relevant in game two? Likewise, the loyalty he extended in game one could have perhaps been shown in game two as well.

His squad in game two was future-facing and dynamic. And, the right call. But taking a game to get there wasn’t.

2. The Dragons reinvigorate their stalled season

After a mid-season slump of sorts, the Dragons managed to fight back to beat the lowly Knights and get another two points closer to the 28 they’ll probably need to make the finals.

After consecutive losses to the Bulldogs and Eels, the naysayers started to suggest the wheels on the Dragons season were hanging by a thread if not completely coming off.

But as he’s done so often this season English star Gareth Widdop delivered in a big way, helping his side overcome a 28-10 deficit at half-time and a strong chorus of boos from the home fans.

With the Titans, the bye and then the Raiders over the next three weeks, and the Dragons could be three points richer and with one foot into the play-off mix – something they couldn’t do last year.

3. No home for Hiku?

Incredulously, none of the 16 clubs in the NRL wanted former Kiwi international, Pita Hiku, and the supremely gifted centre has had to look to the Super League for more regular football.

With Waga Blake, Dean Whare and Tyrone Peachey standing in his way at the Panthers, and knee and eye-socket injuries curtailing his ability to overthrow them, the 24-year old will move to Warrington immediately.

The NRL’s loss is truly Warrington’s gain. Looking across the squads in the NRL it’s unfathomable that they’ve all overlooked a proven performer with time on his side – preferring arguably inferior players within their own set-up.

Huddersfield could also go after Shaun Kenny-Dowall, the tackle breaking, law breaking, winger that has recently been released by the Roosters. Hiku and Kenny-Dowall could reprise their combination last seen in the 2015 Kiwis tour to UK.

4. No JT, no worries for the Cowboys

Responding to the news that club captain, Jonathan Thurston, is out for the rest of the season, the Cowboys showed the kind of dogged determination that they’ll need to continue.

Marshalled by the man that will replace Thurston n the Queensland number 6 jumper, Michael Morgan, the North Queensland side simply made less errors than their Penrith opponents. Team traits that Thurston has instilled in his side and would be thrilled to see implemented.

Opposition teams and fans will look closely, and probably see less threat, at a new attacking trio featuring Morgan, Lachlan Coote and newcomer Kyle Laybutt. It will rely more than ever on a high involvement from Coote at the back, but could be short on points and repeat sets.

5. Origin period again determining the table

The Origin period script is generally true to form. The Warriors win – all the time – and the Broncos and Storm struggle badly.

This year, only part of that script is ringing true. The Warriors had yet another Origin win Friday night – taking their five-year record during the Origin period to a remarkable 21 wins from 28 games. While the Storm lost to the Roosters after resting most of their Origin players.

However, in Canberra, the Broncos who have traditionally struggled thanks to their large numbers of Queensland representatives, turned the tables with a pulsating win against early season favourites, the Raiders.

Benji Marshall, who we saluted in this column recently for turning back the clock, put together another reminder of his talents. The 32-year old who many scoffed at when Wayne Bennett announced his signing, had two try assists, seven tackle busts in a nostalgic effort.

It was also encouraging to see the Titans use the Origin period to gain a fifth win this season, on the back of a star turn from Jarryd Hayne, also backing up from Origin.

For more on this week’s NRL action, check out our report on how the English players in the competition fared. You can also find a full list of results here.

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