PAUL GALLEN: The NRL’s top teams have stamped their class early in this competition. Then there’s Brisbane.
NRL great PAUL GALLEN will appear on Nine’s 100% FOOTY on Monday night, debating rugby league’s hottest topics alongside Phil Gould and James Bracey. Tune in from 10.20pm AEDT, following all the action of round two!
The NRL’s top teams have stamped their class early in this competition.
Penrith again held their opposition scoreless. To not let the other team score for two weeks in a row in the NRL is pretty impressive.
Especially so for a team that’s still rightly regarded as a young side. Last week I remarked on the patience they showed to beat the Cowboys and it was there again in wet conditions against the Bulldogs.
It’s still early days but the signs are there that they can again go deep into the finals. Potentially having Nathan Cleary out this weekend could be telling – but then again, they have Matt Burton to call on if he’s missing. Depth in key positions is key and it’s obvious why the Panthers didn’t want to let Burton go early to Canterbury.
Penrith are a quality side and by all reports, they trained really hard in the off-season. As we saw last year with Melbourne Storm, the team that can keep up their standards during the times they’re not playing games is the most likely to go on and win the competition.
Melbourne completed at nearly 80 per cent in Thursday night’s tight loss to Parramatta, despite the pouring rain at Bankwest Stadium. Credit to the Eels that they completed at 88 per cent.
Newcastle showed some grit to come from behind in another soaking wet game against the Warriors. Bradman Best was absolutely outstanding with two tries; it’s hard to believe he’s still only 19, with his size, speed and power.
The Rabbitohs bounced back quickly to beat Manly, with every player in their spine scoring a try. They also showed some character, after losing Adam Reynolds and Jaxson Paulo to HIAs.
The Roosters put on a show against West Tigers to win by 34 points. I thought Daine Laurie offered some nice footwork at fullback for the Tigers but apart from that, it was all the Roosters at Campbelltown.
While not everyone is convinced they can win the comp this year, for me, the Roosters have become like Melbourne. They’re always going to be there and thereabouts.
They won those back-to-back premierships, they obviously ran out of steam a bit last year. The question is, can they keep those long-held standards up?
They have a great coaching staff and a strong crop of senior players, though the best of them all as far as driving standards – Boyd Cordner – currently isn’t playing. He’d be doing plenty of work off the field in that regard.
You can’t fault the early signs, despite the number of players they’re missing.
Hooker has been an ongoing issue for them, with Jake Friend hurt again and Sam Verrills still out on the weekend. Angus Crichton was suspended for Sunday’s game and they’re yet to get Victor Radley back – yet they’ve still won two games impressively.
The Roosters have excelled at building enormous depth during this successful period. Just think: Sam Walker and Joseph Suaalii are still waiting in the wings.
Walker was really close to playing on Sunday, Trent Robinson said before the game. Suaalii is on the fringe, too, and by all reports is an outstanding talent.
The top sides build depth and blend their young talent with an experienced core.
At the Brisbane Broncos, we’re seeing the opposite.
I thought they showed some resilience in Round One and for the first 20 minutes against the Titans, they weren’t too bad. They really looked like they wanted to work for each other in defence; their scramble defence was unreal.
Then all of a sudden, they let in a really soft try that should just not have been scored … and then they fell apart. There were several more soft tries conceded and to be honest, the defence just wasn’t first grade standard.
You don’t want to kick a team when they’re down but this Broncos side just can’t keep up that heart and resilience for 80 minutes.
They just don’t have much resilience in that team. There’s nothing else you can say when they keep on letting in soft tries.
David Fifita is a powerhouse, as we know, but they let him in for two soft tries. He scored the first and last of four tries in a row for the Titans; Brisbane have let the opposition score four consecutive tries in both games so far, something you just can’t do if you want to win.
Anthony Milford epitomises what’s going on at the Broncos.
I was sitting next to Billy Slater when Milford made a run early in the Titans game. Billy and I both said it – ‘great run’ – as he took on the advantage line and made about 15 metres.
But then, he threw a silly offload for a turnover. It was like that put him into a hole and he just couldn’t get out of it.
Milford wasn’t seen for the rest of the game. Brodie Croft barely touched the ball either.
Brisbane are such a ‘confidence team’; as soon as things aren’t going well for them, they just fall in a heap.
The argument that Brisbane are a young team is gone. Those two blokes I just mentioned – Milford and Croft – aren’t young anymore. Milford could reach 200 NRL games later this season and he’s on huge money.
The excuses are over. They’ve got some good players still to come back into their side, like Payne Haas and Kotoni Staggs, who will hopefully boost them but we’re talking about first grade here.
You’ve got to be real. If you’re picked in first grade, you have to do a job. This isn’t blokes running around in reserves just getting a go. This is the NRL and we’re talking about the game’s richest and most powerful club.
I actually picked Brisbane to win on the weekend. I thought I’d seen some signs of life in Round One against Parramatta, which they could carry into Round Two.
I thought that the Broncos and Titans were matched pretty evenly and Milford and Croft could get it over the Gold Coast halves, Ash Taylor and Jamal Fogarty. Yet Brisbane’s halves just didn’t steer them around the park at all.
There’s no quick fix in this game. Only hard work and dedication is going to fix what’s going on at Brisbane.
They showed something in Round One. They showed plenty of the same for the first 20 minutes of Round Two.
Now, it’s time to show it for 80 minutes. No excuses. Do that, and they’ll find themselves in games again, rather than adding to a 13-match losing streak.
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