Round 7 is still early in the season, but a few results happened this week that no doubt demoralised fans of a few clubs. Here come your talking points from the weekend.

Good, good times for some

A good week for Cronulla, who slaughtered the Cowboys at home to continue their early season points accumulation. The Sharks sit top of the pops and with Canberra and St George Illawarra their next fortnight, they should be confident they can back couple more wins.

Brisbane took advantage of the armchair ride Canberra gave them through errors, so much so they could coast through the second half and give their main players a long spell. The top up of point differential also boosted Kevin Walters’ men onto the fringes of the top four.

Canterbury took out the listless Newcastle, and when their attack is clicking they’re a pretty fun side to watch. It’s like watching a kid learning to ride a bike without the training wheels – some spectacular things happen, every now and then the journey ends up in a bush on the side of the road, but there’s always something being learned.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 21: Daniel Saifiti of the Knights is tackled during the round seven NRL match between Canterbury Bulldogs and Newcastle Knights at Accor Stadium, on April 21, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Daniel Saifiti is tackled. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Special mention to St George Illawarra too. After they got washed out by Newcastle in the hosing rain of Round 5, the Dragons have won two on the trot against quality opponents. They’re on the fringes of the top eight and with everyone around them a week-to-week proposition, maybe they can sneak a finals spot when all’s said and done.

Bad, bad times for others

With large wins come large losses. Canberra’s rookie fullback Chevy Stewart had a first-half nightmare against the Broncos on route to a 34-10 Raiders loss. Worse than the score, though, was halfback Jamal Fogarty rupturing a bicep and looking like he’s out for three months. Fogarty was a big driver behind Canberra’s decent early form and the young squad gets even younger in their key positions.

Another shocker from New Zealand losing to the Dragons. The Warriors are supposed to be better than this, aren’t they? There’s enough time to right the wrongs, but teams with top-four aspirations should be winning these games, ugly or not (see: Penrith 22, Wests Tigers 6).

Parramatta fall further and further away from the top eight as their points differential got another caning by The Dolphins in Darwin. They led 10-4 at half-time, even stand-in halfback Dylan Brown thought they’d be ok in his half-time interview. Then the world collapsed. Parra didn’t score again until the 79th minute and in between the Dolphins scored eight (8) tries in 25 minutes.

Coach Brad Arthur was seething, players had their heads down and it’s really hard right now to see a way up to the surface for the Eels. These problems go far beyond missing Mitch Moses.

The biggest sook in the NRL coaching fraternity

When it comes to coaches ranting and complaining after a game your mind turns to the reputations of Ricky Stuart, or maybe Des Hasler. Jason Demetriou and Todd Payten can sook it up. Even Benji Marshall had a crack at the referees this week.

But there’s one coach who now stands above all as the game’s biggest whinger, and it’s Roosters honcho Trent Robinson. It’s a shame, too, because I really like Robinson. He’s sadly degenerated into a post-game referee bashing machine.

His effort after a close loss to Melbourne was embarrassing. Robinson teed off yet again on the bunker and referee Ashley Klein, but he must have forgotten a couple of calls that went his way, particularly a missed dropped ball in the lead up to the try which tied the game.

It’s one thing to whack refs and journos to cover for your team (like Ricky Stuart does) or go super, extra hard to plant seeds for future treatment (like Des Hasler does) but Robinson is disproportionately into the refs and bunker every week now. He’s better than this.

Wayne

I love Wayne Bennett. Love him. When the Dolphins finished with nine wins last year it was an amazing achievement in their first year. They’re off to another good start in 2024 but much like last year, injuries are starting to take the shine off a top-heavy squad.

Among all of this Bennett has clearly built a team that can compete. Love him or hate him, you can’t deny his man management of both the players under him or the coaching crew around him.

It’s also amusing his name is being shopped as a replacement for South Sydney or other clubs with coaching questions. He’s probably the one dropping his name to journos, too.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 05: Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett with players after the round one NRL match between the Dolphins and Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium on March 05, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett with fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Bennett’s time with the Dolphins won’t be good for his wins and losses record, but it has been massive for his reputation.

Your annual ANZAC Round reminder

Round 8 is the NRL’s ‘ANZAC Round’, which the league says is the time for the “Rugby League community will come together to pay tribute to the servicemen and women who have served, and continue to serve, our countries”. This is a good thing, because we need to be aware and reflect on what the horrors of war mean to Australia.

But I still can’t abide the ‘special’ jerseys we’re about to see. If a club is selling an ANZAC jersey, they should donate all of the profit to a related charity or veterans support service and I’m yet to see any club do that.

And don’t forget your yearly reminder that NRL players are not soldiers – they don’t ‘go to war’, they’re never ‘in the trenches’ and they certainly do not ‘pay the ultimate price’.

Good games this week

Round 8’s games are a quandary, readers. There’s some that may well turn out to be fantastic, but on the other hand might well be horrific bludgers. Be warned – it may look straightforward, but this will be one of the worst tipping weeks for the year.

We start on a three-game slate on Thursday for ANZAC Day, with the Warriors and Titans in New Zealand, St George Illawarra and the Rosters in Sydney then Melbourne welcome Souths to their worst performed NRL venue.

Friday night sees Manly hosting Parramatta at Brookvale. Historically this would mean plenty and be great but the state of the Eels may well put paid to our hopes of a contest.

Two games on Saturday with Wests Tigers and Brisbane at Campbelltown, then the Cowboys are in somewhat of a ‘last chance for respect’ saloon against Penrith in Townsville.

Sunday wraps the round with Wayne’s Dolphins and Newcastle at Suncorp Stadium, then the Raiders host Cronulla, who will be keen to bank another two points for a top-four spot later on.

Canterbury have the bye and if results go their way, the two points they’ll get for a week off will put them into the top eight!

Round 7’s random thoughts

– The Raiders got whupped good and proper in Brisbane but they kept alive their 273-game streak of scoring points in a game – they haven’t been held scoreless since Round 3, 2013 (the record is 488 games, held by North Sydney).
– Want another good streak? The Dragons have conceded at least one try in every game they’ve played since Round 23, 2015 – that’s 198 in a row. If they can make it to 211 games, the record is theirs!
– Parramatta have now lost their last three ‘home’ games in Darwin. It’s muggy, it’s hot, it’s slippery as hell and it’s not easy to handle the ball or make a tackle stick at the first go. I hope they’re getting a heap of cash for it!
– Benji Marshall was right, by the way – Penrith’s Brad Schneider should have been sin binned for ankle-tapping Justin Olam.
– Newcastle clown Jack Hetherington might need to pull his head in a bit more after trying to go after Canterbury hooker Reed Mahoney in the tunnel after they got sin-binned. Adam Blair and Glenn Stewart, they ain’t.
– After all the fuss last week, it was nice to see there weren’t any notable disruptor penalties paid in Round 7…

What’s caught your eye this weekend, Roarers?





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