The NRL Digest: Magic Moylan, Smith’s concerns and problematic Parra

Moylan marches on

The class and poise of Matt Moylan lifted the Penrith Panthers to a one-point victory over the Manly Sea Eagles on Monday at Brookie. Moylan just keeps getting better and better and has quickly become a field goal-specialist. Often likened to Darren Lockyer, the Panthers flyer has a similar skill-set, vision and ability to win games single-handedly like the Broncos, Queensland and Australian legend did.

Like Lockyer, you can see the 23-year old also possibly making a shift into the halves at a later stage. He has all the tools as a playmaker and surely a long representative career in Origin and Test footy awaits. A spot in the NSW squad might be a step too soon this year, with Josh Dugan, Brett Stewart and James Tedesco all vying for the fullback role, but Moylan has a bright future ahead of him.

Queensland in the box-seat

The Maroons surely have to be favourites in this year’s Origin series. Darius Boyd is back to full fitness, Jonathan Thurston is in outstanding form, Melbourne’s big three are on a roll and Queensland won’t be short of motivation after their long streak was stopped last year. The likes of Daly Cherry-Evans, Sam Thaiday and Matt Scott have been playing well and the Maroons have no major injuries to contend with.

Contrast that with NSW. Greg Bird is banned, Paul Gallen is out and Jarryd Hayne is in America. Josh Dugan is injury-prone, halves Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds have been disappointing this season and others such as Andrew Fifita and Michael Jennings have been inconsistent. Do the Blues selectors pick and stick with the 2014-winning squad? Or do they try and rejuvenate an ageing roster and inject some new blood like Alex Johnston?

Whichever Laurie Daley and his staff decide, it’s going to be a mountain to climb for NSW to retain the shield.

Paranoid Smith

Cameron Smith decided to go all tap-dancing on Isaac Luke’s head at AAMI Park on Saturday night. It’s doubtful it was intentional but still the Australian skipper managed to land several blows to the Kiwi’s noggin. It wasn’t a good look. Check out the footage here.

Similar incidents in the past, like Josh Reynolds kicking Sam Thaiday, have resulted in a ban for the culprit. But when Smith was asked after the game whether the incident was only being highlighted because of the upcoming Origin series, he went a little paranoid. “‎The comments on social media are probably from people in New South Wales,” Smith said.

Please. Accidental or not, it was dangerous play. We all want consistency from the judiciary. Smith should pull his head in a little. It looks like the hooker won’t miss any matches, including Origin I, after a changing in the loading rules a few years ago. Still, he should count his lucky stars for that.

Poor Parramatta

Many people were crowing about an Eels revival after they smashed Manly in impressive fashion by 30 points in round one. Since then Parramatta has won two of its past nine matches and sits at the bottom of the NRL ladder. They have the second-worst defence in the competition and have been horrible at times. Anthony Watmough has been a flop and the blue and gold are clearly missing their talismanic fullback Hayne.

Chris Sandow has been his usual rocks and diamonds, brilliant one moment and pants the next, and was dropped to reserve grade last weekend. Brad Arthur was meant to be the savior of the club but he will need a lot of time to turn the Eels around. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Off the field things have also been bad – the board elections have turned nasty with the police called in on voting day and outbursts made in the media between warring factions. The club also isn’t happy about a new book from Fuifui Moimoi and have threatened their ex-player with legal action.

Kieran Foran has been signed to Pirtek Stadium for next season, a real coup for Parramatta, but you wouldn’t blame him if he was re-thinking his decision.

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