South Sydney bounce back, Brisbane sliding, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow try: NRL 7 tackle set debrief

Mike Meehall Wood
South Sydney Rabbitohs

The NRL remains one of the best sporting competitions in the world because, on any day, anyone can beat anyone. 

That was underlined in bold type this weekend as underdogs claimed the first five games of eight, setting fire to tipping competitions but providing superb entertainment for the paying punters. 

As a result, the NRL ladder is clear as mud: there are eight teams on either seven or eight wins and another two on six. 

Melbourne, Penrith and Cronulla remain well placed in the top three, and the Tigers, Titans, Eels and Bunnies won’t make the playoffs, but for everyone else, it’s week-to-week chaos where anything can happen and, as we saw this weekend, regularly does. 

Let’s get into it. 

A good week for  

South Sydney, who have bounced back from their early season rubbishness to string together three wins in a row for the first time in a year. 

The uptick in form coincides with a radical policy of putting your best players in charge of the team, with Cody Walker steering the ship in the 7 jumper, Jack Wighton at 6, Damien Cook at dummy half and Latrell Mitchell pushing very hard for an Origin jumper in the 1. 

It looks obvious now, but it wasn’t always.  

Lachlan Ilias, who started the year as halfback, was unceremoniously dumped by former coach Jason Demetriou and subsequently broke his leg playing reserve grade, and if ever there was a case of a player getting better by not playing, this is it. 

Ilias was hardly setting the heather alight, but he wasn’t dreadful either and attempts to replace him – first with Dean Hawkins, then with rookie Dion Teaupa – showed just how much he had been bringing all along. 

The current set-up is the least worst option and at least gets good players the ball in impactful positions.  

It won’t last, but it doesn’t have to. Cook is gone at the end of the year, Walker will revert to 6 and St Helens star Lewis Dodd will come in as incoming boss Wayne Bennett sticks the broom through the club after a terrible season. 

For Souths, just getting some pride back was the goal. After all, this is the club that trades of ‘oldest, proudest, loudest’ as a slogan. Next week they get an Origin-affected Manly and then a similarly rubbish Parramatta, so it might yet continue, too. 

A bad week for

The Warriors, who are looking increasingly unlikely to back up last year’s stellar showing.  

Perhaps it was never realistic to expect a second-season coach in Andrew Webster to keep the standards so high, but it’s clear that a top four finish in 2023 is well beyond this side now, with a defeat to Melbourne on home soil leaving them down in 12th. 

This is not the 12th best team in the NRL by a stretch, but results don’t lie and the manner of the defeat to the Storm was strikingly similar to other losses on home soil. 

The Wahs’ structure is as good as pretty much anyone’s, and they play most of the game at the right end of the field – but their penetration in attack remains woeful. 

In the first half of the first half against the Storm, they had double the ball of their opponents and lead 14-0, but in the next quarter, that totally reversed and Melbourne scored four times to lead 20-14 at the break. 

It’s a worrying pattern: when the Wahs are on top, they strangle field position but don’t score enough, but when the momentum swings, opponents cash in. 

In many ways, it’s a good problem to have, because the underlying stuff is still there and you could see it changing. The problem is that it might already be too late. 


Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, who scored one of the tries of the year, indeed any year, at Shark Park on Thursday night. 

The Hammer caught a kick, retreated towards his own goal to evade a chaser, then set off on a 90m sprint that took out multiple Cronulla players and ended with him all alone at the other end. It was breathtaking stuff. 

That’s just the isolated version, too.  

The Dolphins had raced into a 22-0 lead, very much against expectation, but the Sharkies had fought all the way back to lead 24-22 when the Hammer struck. 

Redcliffe won the game 30-28 in the end, with Nicho Hynes missing a conversion after the siren that could have sent it to extra time. 

The try was brilliant, the timing even better. Oh, and it came in Tabuai-Fidow’s first game since scoring a hat trick in Origin. 

Having long been one of the most exciting players in the NRL, he’s fast becoming one of the best full stop.  

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Des Hasler and the Titans, who played a Tigers team devoid of players, confidence and experience, lead into the second half and still lost. 

The veteran coach was fit for taking away at full time, losing his rag in the coaches’ box as his team turned in some chemical grade Titans nonsense football to throw away a win. 

The Gold Coast is where Australian sports teams go to die, but Dessie seemed to have got a tune out of his side at one point this year – only for that to fade away again. 

They lost their first six, but weren’t as bad as that sounds in performance levels. When they started to pick up results, it wasn’t actually that surprising and when they defeated the Cowboys and Broncos, things really started to look up. 

Since Origin, however, the Titans have reverted to type. Last week they were thrashed by Souths in the sort of defence optional performance that has been the trademark of Gold Coast rugby league since their entry to the NRL. 

This week, it was their other speciality, the fade out, where the Titans built up a lead, squandered a load of chances to kill the game and were inevitably run down by a team they really should have beat. 

Hasler will have known the scale of the task on the Gold Coast and is under no pressure at the moment – but any prognosis that this team has changed remains well wide of the mark. 

Everyone’s talking about

Leichardt Oval, the so-called Eighth Wonder of the World, has been saved by a major tranche of government funding that will improve the facility and bring it into the 21st century. 

That’s not a joke. Leichhardt is falling apart – and quite literally, given a wall collapsed during a rugby union game last year. 

The Tigers are a peripatetic nonsense, unable to decide whether they represent Balmain or Campbelltown, some 30 miles away, and have often flitted between grounds without ever calling any home. 

Now, they can at least cling to some of their identity for nostalgia purposes while playing most of their games in better stadiums. 

Shane Richardson, their CEO, has made it clear that his plan, much as it was when he was boss at Souths, is to get maximum revenue from corporates to give the perennially useless team a chance.  

That, inevitably, means either the massive, unloved Stadium Australia in Homebush or moonlighting at Parramatta’s ground. Neither is Campbelltown, where they should play given that is their growth area, but sense rarely prevails at Wests. 

Leichhardt, for all its faults, is an amazing place to watch rugby league and, for one for two nights a year, it will continue to be so. 

On Saturday afternoon, it was packed despite the rain and fans were rewarded by a gutsy win, the Tigers’ first in a million years. The game was horrendous, but nobody cared. 

It’s falling down, the beer queues are long and if it rains, you get soaked. But in a league that is largely devoid of atmosphere – Super League wins that battle every time – Leichardt is full of it. 

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But nobody’s mentioning

Kevin Walters and the Broncos, who have lost three on the spin and are in freefall.  

Origin bites hard in Brisbane with so many players involved, but that doesn’t excuse a decline that was already setting in prior to the rep period.  

Despite a Grand Final appearance last year, the questions over Kevvie’s suitability for the job have never gone away, with plenty of rumours that he wasn’t the reason for their revival. 

Before 2023, his players openly speculated about his coaching ability and when their great run began, rumblings were that Lee Briers was the actual brains behind it by revolutionising their attack.  

Plenty suggested that halfback Adam Reynolds was a coach on the field assisting the man in the box, and that the form of Reece Walsh was as much as reason for the upswing as anything the coach did. 

Now Reynolds is injured, Walsh has missed several weeks, Briers is heading to Souths for 2025 and the other assistant, John Cartwright, is off to Hull FC.  

Brisbane now have to travel to the Warriors, who will have zero Origin involvements, then the Panthers. Five losses in a row would greatly imperil their chances of making the finals at all, which given their roster, would be a total disaster.  

Forward pass

It’s all about Origin, with Latrell Mitchell, Mitchell Moses and Cameron Murray all recalled for Game 2 and Dylan Edwards set for a debut as the Blues look to shake things up and save the series. 

It’s been presented as a panic from Michael Maguire, but wasn’t really: he would have picked three of the four if they’d had been fit and Mitchell was in terrible form prior to Game 1, but has been excellent since. 

Queensland, of course, remain serene and will see no need to rock the boat. The game isn’t for a week and a half yet, but with the NRL deciding to kibosh its own credibility by scheduling good games during Origin, it’s what we’ll have to talk about. 

This weekend we have the Dolphins v Storm (fourth v first) and two big Sydney clashes with the resurgent Bunnies taking on Manly and a fifth placed Roosters facing a sixth placed Bulldogs. 

These should be belters, but all the good players won’t be playing so they probably won’t be. It’s annoying and, every year, we hear murmurings that it will change. It won’t. 

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