Ryan Sutton injury, Daly Cherry-Evans masterclass, Cronulla freefall: NRL 7-tackle set

Mike Meehall Wood
Cronulla Sharks, Daly Cherry Evans, Ryan Sutton

You couldn’t have scripted Sunday afternoon any better. 

Jared Waerea-Heargreaves, the hardest hard man in the NRL, was celebrating his 307th game for the club and breaking the appearances record in the process, lasted just 16 minutes before being binned for a high shot. It was odds-on from the start. 

The crowd willed him over for a try, but that was always unlikely given JWH has never scored at the new Allianz Stadium and indeed, only 15 times in those 307 games.  

In lieu of that, a binning was much more fitting for the Kiwi enforcer, who earned himself a midseason break by copping a month’s ban in the process.  

He might not have crossed the stripe, but he didn’t need to: Dom Young can do that for him. The English winger is now on 13 tries from 13 games after his brace in a big 42-12 win over the Dragons. 

It was a big weekend for England-qualified halfbacks and former Huddersfield Giants, too.  

Sam Walker was the best on the park for the Roosters in the early Sunday game before Jackson Hastings and Will Pryce lead Newcastle to victory over Canberra in the late kick-off. 

That followed a classic Saturday with two games going to golden point and the other a tryfest at Leichhardt Oval between the Tigers and Storm. Let’s start there. 

A good week for..

Melbourne, who were drawn into a game of basketball with Wests Tigers and came out on top to cement their position on top of the tree. 

The Panthers and Roosters are by far the best teams in defence and attack respectively, but the Storm sit top of the table with two clear wins on their rivals, having lost just three times all year – including wins over the Roosters in Sydney and Penrith at home. 

They’ve done so without Cameron Munster, arguably their best player, and mostly without Ryan Papenhuyzen too.  

The secret sauce of Craig Bellamy’s football has always been making the worst player better and the progression of guys like Grant Anderson, Tyran Wishart and Jack Howarth show it.  

On star power, they’re miles off the Panthers and Roosters, but as a team, they’re top and deservedly so. 

Bellamy’s bet will be that they can secure the Minor Premiership with the guys they have and then get Munster et al back for the pointy end.  

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A bad week for..

Cronulla, again.  

The Sharks were 9-1 after a stunning Magic Round victory over the Roosters, which came a week after beating Melbourne in Melbourne, arguably the toughest ask in the NRL.  

For a side that has been long-accused of being flat track bullies, suddenly the competition was on notice that they might have learned how to win against the big boys too. 

Since, however, the Sharkies have gone 1-5, capping that run off with a loss to the Gold Coast Titans at the weekend.  

Nicho Hynes, their undoubted star, has been miles off it after being made scapegoat for New South Wales’ loss in Origin 1 – quite unfairly given the sending off of Joseph Suaalii in the early stages. 

On Monday, things got even worse as they lost him to a training ground ankle injury that could see the halfback sidelined for weeks at a crucial part of the season. 

Friday’s defeat was marked not by surprise but by how meekly Cronulla surrendered to a Titans side that are up and down at best.  

At a time when the Panthers, Roosters and Storm are all but locked into the top four, the Sharks are losing grip on the final spot.  

They have ten wins, but six sides are on eight or nine and at this rate, will overtake them sooner rather than later. 


Daly Cherry-Evans, who only gets better with age. The 35-year-old Manly halfback kicked his seventh golden point winning drop goal to nick two points for the Sea Eagles in Townsville, overtaking the Cowboys on the ladder to boot. 

It wasn’t just the clutch one-pointer: DCE’s pass for Jason Saab’s opener showed all his guile, stuttering like a penalty taker to let a defender shoot the line before delivering the pass into the space that he had just vacated. 

Cherry-Evans was part of an old-timers renaissance last year in the NRL, with Shaun Johnson, Adam Reynolds and Ben Hunt also starring, but has surpassed them all this year. 

He’s never been the fastest or the biggest, but as far as smarts go, there’s nobody better. DCE was third in the Dally M leaderboard when it went dark in Round 12, trailing only Dylan Edwards and Nicho Hynes.  

Given form and injury to those two, It would be very surprising if he isn’t top now going into the business end of the season and he’s already favourite for the Wally Lewis Medal, given to the best individual player in Origin.  


A nightmare season for Bulldogs forward Ryan Sutton got even worse on Saturday with the Wiganer taken off with a nasty knee injury on his comeback game in the NSW Cup. 

Sutton has missed the entire year with knee and hip issues and finally returned to action in the curtain raiser to Saturday’s match between Canterbury and the Warriors, but lasted just 14 minutes before going down. 

It was later revealed to be a patella tendon injury, and his season is likely over again with surgery required. 

He has a long history of knee injuries and has been in and out of the Dogs’ team as a result, though when he gets onto the field he rarely lets anyone down. 

Sutton joined up at the club’s lowest ebb under Trent Barrett, relocating to Sydney from Canberra with his wife, an up-and-coming fashion designer, and was crucial to the rebuild under Cameron Ciraldo before a succession of injuries kept him out of the picture. 

The Dogs are killing it this year based on hard-nosed, in-your-face defence, and a mobile option in the forwards like Sutton would have been perfect for Ciraldo as he looks to end an eight-year finals drought.  

For injury to strike again is a nightmare – if Sutton didn’t have bad luck, he’d have none at all. 

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Everyone’s talking about 

Origin, again, with Billy Slater reacting to his side’s battering in Game 2 by going back to the future with a slate of veterans. 

Dane Gagai, Felise Kaufusi and Kurt Capewell are all in, with Kalyn Ponga back on the bench after just one game of NRL and Selwyn Cobbo, who has taken time out with a succession of injuries and a mental break from the game in recent weeks. 

Not in the squad is David Fifita, the rampaging Titans edge, with many questioning how Queensland can’t find a space for such an obviously talented player.  

Should the Maroons lose, there will be major repercussions around their coach, who tends to respond to questions on selections with variations on ‘he’s a good Queenslander’ rather than tactical insights.  

Using the old adage that you should do what your opponent least wants you to, QLD have dropped the ball in not selecting Fifita, who terrifies NSW. 

The mirror image player is Latrell Mitchell, who was left out of the first game and then dominated the second, but has gone down with injury ahead of the third.  

His replacement looks like being Bradman Best, the Knights centre, but he is also under a cloud with hamstring tightness. Matt Burton, fresh from a game-winning drop goal at the weekend, might get the call up. 

But nobody’s mentioning 

Rugby union. Australia played Wales as a soft launch to their international season following widespread derision and embarrassment at a code that only makes the news when its best players defect to rugby league. 

Two Wallabies, Mark Nawaqanitawase and Carter Gordon, are set for the NRL at the Roosters and Titans respectively and, once the Olympics is out of the way, you can expect plenty of the gold medal favourite women’s team to jump ship to the NRLW.  

Female union players, in the year of our Lord 2024, remain part-time while women’s rugby league goes from strength to strength. Australia, we’re reliably informed, beat Wales but were outrated on TV by the NRL and AFL.  

The first your correspondent heard of it was when Regan Grace, the ex-Saints winger, walked past on the Corso in Manly in his Wales tracksuit.  

He didn’t play on Saturday, but was seen on Instagram meeting up with Josh Ralph, his teammate from the 2017 World Cup, who was last seen running around in reserve grade for the Dragons. 

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Forward pass 

Our last Origin-affected weekend looms next time out, but as befitting the stupid scheduling of the NRL, there are some highly consequential fixtures that will be played out with big names absent. 

Manly host Newcastle in what should be a straight shootout for a finals place on Sunday – but thanks to Billy Slater and Michael Maguire, the Knights will be missing both their centres and Kalyn Ponga, while the Sea Eagles lose DCE and Jake Trbojevic, but might get Haumole Olakau’atu, who is NSW’s 19th man, back. 

It turns a game that was weighted towards Newcastle two weeks ago into one in which Manly will start favourites. 

The Broncos host the Dragons with the loser likely out of the race for the post-season, but a huge slate of players are out due to Origin, in the Dragons’ case, and rep footy plus a monster injury list for Brisbane 

The Bronx haven’t won in five now and lost stand-in half Jock Madden to a hamstring on Friday night.  

They desperately need a win but will seek it with Josh Rogers, currently signed to Burleigh in the Queensland Cup, as an SOS replacement. 

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