Will Pryce debut and State of Origin II looms large: the NRL 7 tackle set

Mike Meehall Wood
Will Pryce Newcastle Knights Alamy

The rain fell. The best players sat watching on TV. The fans sighed. Just another Origin-affected weekend, then. 

Well, until Sunday afternoon. 

Neither the Wests Tigers nor the Canberra Raiders are good enough to have anyone selected for rep squads so were at full strength and duly produced one of the most enjoyable games of the season, combining for 12 tries and over 70 points in a bonkers match at Campbelltown. 

It looked a little like a reserve grade game, with defences slightly optional and long range tries everywhere, but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. On a weekend where good football was sometimes lacking, this was great. 

Friday night, too, saw a back-and-forth clash between the Dolphins and Storm that went down to the wire – though the less said about the three Saturday games the better. Blame it on the horrendous weather in NSW. 

We now go to Melbourne for Origin 2, then Townsville for Women’s Origin. Before that, though, here’s your first last look at the weekend that was in the NRL. 

Good week..

Wests Tigers moved off the bottom of the ladder and picked up a victory at Campbelltown, one of their key home grounds, for the first time in 12 attempts – and there was narrative everywhere.  

The Tigers fielded five teenagers and their first three tries were scored by players who had never scored in the NRL before. That’s the future of this side. 

Lachlan Galvin, the best prospect of the lot, was exceptional, scoring twice and running the show alongside an evergreen Api Koroisau. 

Between him, last year’s breakout star Jahream Bula and the incoming Jarome Luai, 2025 looks likely to be better than plenty of those in the recent past. Simply not being last, which they aren’t anymore, shows improvement. Poor Parramatta slipped to the bottom without playing. 

The cherry on top was a breakaway try for Adam Doueihi, who made his return to the NRL after more than a year out with an ACL tear, the third of his career.  

It was one of those days when everything broke the Tigers’ way – and by the time Doueihi scored, it seemed inevitable.  

Wins like this are infrequent for the Wests, so to have two in a row following last week’s Titans triumph at Leichhardt Oval, is a minor miracle.  

Bad week..

The Warriors, who take the title for a second week running.  

Defeat to Melbourne last time out wasn’t great, but their 66-6 hammering at the hands of the Titans was a total embarrassment. 

They didn’t have any excuses around Origin, with both sides missing a single player to the squads, but were out-enthused by the Titans and saw their defensive resolve, usually the strongest part of their game, evaporate. 

In 2024, the biggest issue for the Wahs has been turning field position into points, but on the Gold Coast, they combined their propensity for toothless, predictable attack with a defensive disasterclass, conceding the second highest total in club history.  

The Titans had never hit 50 against anyone until this weekend but racked up try after soft try as edge defences melted before their eyes. Lofi Khan-Pereira, who they saw fit to drop earlier in the season, scored four. 

Andrew Webster’s side are now just a point better off than Souths, who were the poster boys for rubbish earlier in the year. A major improvement is needed and quickly. 


Sam Walker is in a strange old spot at times.  

He’s the central playmaker for the Sydney Roosters, one of the biggest teams around, but a million miles away from Origin selection, yet also clearly the heir apparent for the Queensland halfback role. 

Daly Cherry-Evans shows no sign of slowing down, so all Walker can do is bide his time, just as DCE did when Cooper Cronk had a mortgage on the role.  

Walker has time on his side. It feels like he’s been around for years, largely because he has, but he only turned 22 two weeks ago. The Roosters will hope Cherry-Evans plays forever, as they get sole use of their star man. 

Trent Robinson dropped him to reserve grade last year, just as he had previously done to Joey Manu and Latrell Mitchell, and was stung when he suffered a knee injury that prevented a return to the NRL. 

But the treatment worked, both on the leg and the player, and Walker came back late in the year better than ever. 

In a tight, tough contest with the Bulldogs in driving rain on Saturday, the halfback was the game’s most influential player, assisting all four Easts tries and going 5/5 with the boot. 

It goes without saying that Shaun Wane should try to move heaven and earth to get the Leeds-born pivot to declare for England – but you feel, like the similarly-qualified Cherry-Evans, he’s got his heart set on the Maroons. 

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Origin-affected doesn’t quite cover the Souths-Manly game, which might well have been the worst of the year so far.  

Washout might given appropriate the rain, but in truth, it was rubbish long before the weather forecast. 

For the record, the Bunnies won 14-0, but the real losers were anyone who watched the game: the Sea Eagles were without at least 10 of their best 17 due to a combination of Origin, suspension and injury, while Souths struggled through without Latrell Mitchell and Cam Murray at NSW plus their regular, ongoing injury issues. 

The joke at this time of year is that you pay NRL prices for reserve grade content, but that doesn’t cover this, because the NSW Cup is a wildly entertaining competition whereas this was turgid, conservative nonsense. 

Manly coach Anthony Seibold said his side had a free swing, but they played with zero ambition and never looked like scoring, while the Bunnies were the 1% better than that they needed to be to win. 

It’s harsh to blame either, because this game shouldn’t happen.  

These two were showpiece enough to be featured in Las Vegas at the start of the season, only for the return game to be destroyed by Origin. This happens every year and the NRL shows no appetite for changing anything at all. 

Everyone’s talking about..

Origin, obviously.  

We go to the MCG on Wednesday night with NSW needing to win to keep the series alive.  

They were beaten badly in Game 1 after Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii’s early sending off, but were rubbish beyond that with an attack that had plenty of opportunity to do something to be never got close to going. 

Coach Michael Maguire wasn’t willing to admit that, but did so tacitly with his selection changes: Nicho Hynes, Cam McInnes and James Tedesco dropped, Mitch Moses, Cam Murray and Dylan Edwards in.  

Latrell Mitchell is in too, taking the place of the suspended Suaalii. Connor Watson, the Roosters utility, gets a debut off the bench. 

Queensland weren’t that great, either, but didn’t have to be. They’ll need to pick up their levels if the expected Blues backlash comes. 

The NSW changes should increase their strike, but they have again left themselves open for disaster. No back on the bench, multiple players coming in off long injury breaks, little cohesion. 

It’s a dead heat in the betting, but only as NSW punters have piled in. Queensland will be quietly confident. 

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But nobody’s mentioning..

Women’s Origin, which is invariably overshadowed by the Men’s game the night before but is set to be a barnburner. 

This is the first time that we’ve gone to a three-game series and the decision is already vindicated by a classic in Game 2 that saw Queensland come back to keep the series alive. 

They take it back to home turf in Townsville, where they secured last year’s edition on points aggregate despite losing the second match.  

That was wholly unsatisfying, but this won’t be: these games are consistently tight, tough and dramatic, which is what Origin should be. 

Game 1 was scrappy as the players were out of season – the NRLW doesn’t begin until the end of July – and Game 2 this year was played in a monsoon, only adding to the drama. 

Nobody knows what Game 3 will be like as this is the first one, but the signals are that it should be a belter. 

It’ll live on Sky at 10.45am on Thursday morning, so for the unemployed, retired, students and hybrid workers among you, there’s no excuse. Everyone else, ring in sick. You won’t regret it. 

Forward pass

Newcastle had the bye this weekend and didn’t play, but withdrew Will Pryce from their NSW Cup win over the Roosters at the last minute.  

It was later confirmed that he wasn’t injured, sparking rumours that the Huddersfield product is set for a debut this coming Saturday afternoon against Parramatta as the Knights look to kickstart their misfiring attack. 

They’ve been running Jack Cogger and Jackson Hastings in the halves – two controlling 7s, no 6 – and looking dreadful, with fans clamouring for Pryce to get his chance. 

Teams are announced on Tuesday, so we’ll know more soon. Super League fans know how electric Pryce can be in attack, but the question has been around how well he can stand up to the rigours of week-to-week NRL defence.  

Coach Adam O’Brien, with the Knights season drifting away, might have decided that the reward now outweighs the risk. 

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