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. Mid-season transfer madness part 2
Last week we bemoaned the rules that allow players to negotiate freely during the season and even change clubs halfway through the year.
Citing the impact on club coaches and their supporters, we argued for a transfer window to reduce the uncertainty and angst.
However, we didn’t touch on the impact on players. One glaring example of how contract negotiations can sit on a player’s mind and wreak havoc with their performances was that of Cody Walker. He played his worst game in the last two seasons on Friday night, having a wretched night under the high ball and making three errors.
The general hypothesis is that contract year players try harder and get their hands on the ball more often. But, the opposite was true this weekend of Walker.
It would be intriguing to see the statistics on the impact of negotiations on player performance in the NRL. American sports study it closely. Research from the NFL, in respect of running backs, showed improved performance when players were playing for new contracts, while in the MLB, the results were inconclusive.
2. Once were Warriors
The most frustrating sports team to support in the world is undoubtedly the New Zealand Warriors.
Millionaire backers, star studded line-ups and a nursery of amazingly built junior league players haven’t been enough to get the Warriors a Provan-Summons trophy in their 22 years in the competition. That’s been disappointing in itself for fans, however more so has been the manner of Warriors defeats.
Recent losses to the Panthers and the Dragons are the perfect examples, and even led to calls they should be dropped from the competition. Partly on the basis of results and partly because they are the second worst rating side in the competition on Fox Sports. It was suggested a team in Perth or a second team in Brisbane would be better for the competition.
Their win on Saturday night against an Origin-depleted Broncos outfit probably doesn’t suggest they’re back to their best, nor is to overwhelming evidence they shouldn’t be axed from the competition. The win simply follows the Warriors trend of mid-season winning streaks – they’re still under pressure and still frustrating.
3. Origin influencing quality, but uncovering future stars
There’s no shortage of quality players in the NRL (and the Intrust Cup below) looking to make their mark over the Origin period.
Origin gives fringe of players the opportunity to step up to a run on 17 and push for places for the rest of the season.
While the quality of games was predictably down from non-Origin weeks, there were some stand-out individual performances worth a mention:
Danny Fualalo – The Bulldogs back-rower’s size caused problems for the Sharks as he ran for 128 metres and made 43 tackles in 74 minutes. He’s showed what he’s capable of when he plays more than 31 minutes (his record this season).
Jo Ofahengaue – Has actually played the last five rounds, but his increased minutes returned an increase in output which could tempt Wayne Bennett to give him more time when Gillett, McGuire and Thaiday return.
4. Rookie of the year firming
Going from superstar junior to NRL mainstay is a journey rarely handled well.
Canberra’s young winger, Nick Cotric is the exception to that rule, having acquitted himself superbly on the left wing of the Green Machine in the opening rounds of his debut season. The 18-year-old enjoyed tremendous success in the U20 competition (2016 NYC Team of the Year), which he has carried on comfortably in the top side.
After playing every minute of every game, Cotric has six tries, 71 tackle breaks, seven line breaks and averages over 100 running metres per game.
He’s got our early vote for Rookie of the Year.
5. No longer king of the Castle
Spare a though for Raelene Castle this week. One of the best sports administrators in Australasia has been pushed out of Belmore – the corporate line is that it was her decision.
Castle has done well to keep the Bulldogs’ players out of the spotlight and toeing the behavioural line, but the challenge of managing the power between coach, Des Hasler and chairman, Ray Dib has obviously proven too much.
Managing the salary cap for next season is the top priority before Castle heads off, which could be tricky given she’s obviously not the true head honcho at Bulldogs HQ anymore.