Without a doubt, Round 6 has been one of the most exciting in the 2017 season so far. While I didn’t catch the Panthers-Rabbitohs clash or the Titans-Raiders clash, there was more than enough happening in the other games to make for one scintillating weekend of footy. From the Storm being kept tryless for the first time in club history to the shock win by the Wests Tigers over the Cowboys in Townsville, it was a weekend of upsets, driven by a series of tight and suspenseful games.
On the injury front, Ben Hunt is apparently now out for six to eight weeks, while Johnathan Thurston seems to be looking at a few weeks on the sideline as well in the wake of a debilitating calf injury in the last few minutes of Saturday night’s game at 1300SMILES Stadium. Combined with Matt Scott being out for the forseeable future, Hunt’s injuries may well have repercussions for the Maroons going into the first round of Origin, while Wade Graham’s outstanding performance against Melbourne surely warrants a Blues call-up, especially given the form he’s been showing over the last few weeks.
Speaking of Graham, I’m wondering whether the game at AAMI Park will come to be seen as a watershed moment in the evolution – of devolution – of Melbourne’s Big Three, since I can’t think of a match in recent memory in which Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater have failed to gel so spectacularly. Whether you put it down to Cronulla’s ceaseless efforts to contain Cronk, or Slater’s recent return and comparative fragility, the star spine aren’t functioning like they used to do, which again raises questions about the fate of the Maroons over the next few months.
Of course, it’s been a big week in NRL news as well, with Cronk’s announcement that he plans to leave the Storm only outshadowed by the merry-go-round that is Wests Tigers. More on that in another writeup, perhaps, but nobody following the footy this week will quickly forget the sudden instalment of Ivan Cleary, the equally sudden announcement that Luke Brooks will be remaining, and Mitchell Moses’ subsequent decision to opt for Parramatta in 2018. In the last day or two, Cleary has said that he wouldn’t rule out a backflip on Moses’ part, so this story may well be incomplete – and what a dramatic way for the Tigers to head into their match with the Eels next weekend.
In terms of the ladder, the Dragons continue their dominant streak with a well-deserved win against a lacklustre Sea Eagles outfit at Brookvale Oval (sorry, but Lottoland just doesn’t roll off the tongue yet). Given the contrast with last week’s decisive win, I’ve been wondering whether Manly will turn out to be the rocks-and-diamonds team of the 2017 season. Then again, maybe they were just having an off afternoon in sticky conditions. Still, it’s worrying to see DCE, the Turbos and Dylan Walker incapable of maintaining even a passable level of form at their home ground.
Let’s not forget the Knights-Bulldogs clash either. Some commentators have suggested that Newcastle are actually one of the better coached teams in the competition at the moment, with Nathan Brown setting his sights on the future and aiming for a long-term plan with his younger players. Whatever the reason, it feels as if the Knights are really starting to get their mojo back, with the more seasoned players guiding the young guns around the park with greater confidence.
Finally, the Broncos-Roosters clash was one of the most thrilling games in recent memory, with both teams giving their all for the best NRL spectacle since the Cowboys-Broncos match a few weeks back. From Latrell Mitchell being benched in the second half to Andrew McCullough’s ankle tap to Ben Hunt’s disallowed try and subsequent injury it was pure footy drama, the kind of stuff that’s designed for highlights reels.
Speaking of which, one of my favourite YouTube NRL compilations is hosted by This Sporting Life, who run weekly lists of the best tries and moments across a whole range of codes, including Super League and A-League. Each week I like to try and guess which tries they’re going to include in their top ten or top fifteen, although this week I couldn’t possibly start to predict what will come in at number 1.
James Segeyaro’s magic trick against the Storm? Matt McIlwrick’s lunge for the line straight out of the play-the ball? Or Gareth Widdop’s possible disregard for the Manly play-the-ball in the opening minute of Saturday afternoon’s game? Let me know your top five tries, moments or scandals of the week and I’ll try to get up a post about them.