MOLE’S HITS AND MISSES: Did all the criticism of their cockiness get to the Penrith Panthers last week?
NOT-SO-COCKY PANTHERS FLIRT WITH DISASTER
Did all the criticism of their cockiness get to Penrith last week?
The question has to be asked in the wake of the Panthers’ uncharacteristically clunky performance against the Broncos on Thursday night.
In a match they were expected to win by 40, the Panthers only got home through a couple of moments of magic from their go-to men – Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai – in the final 10 minutes.
The Panthers – normally so confident and well, yes, cocky – looked anything but as the unfancied Broncos matched them stride for stride.
To me, it looked like the Panthers were second guessing the way they played the game – and that is disaster on a football field.
Coach Ivan Cleary will need to ensure they have their game heads on the right way next week, sticking to their ad-lib style and playing the way they do best again – even if it offends a few people.
STORM LOOK BETTER WITH GRANT THAN SMITH
They may burn effigies of me in Melbourne for saying this, but I believe the Storm are a better team with Harry Grant in his first season than in 2020 with Cam Smith in his last.
Smith will go down as one of the game’s greats but was past his best in his swansong – albeit still good enough to lead the Storm to the title.
Grant, on the other hand, is already a superstar, a match-winner on the rise – and has only played four games for the club!
At 23, he reads the game superbly, is yards quicker than Smith and has a marvellous career ahead of him.
The Storm have lost a host of experience and leadership with Smith gone – but Grant’s speed and class from dummy-half opens up a whole new world for Craig Bellamy’s men.
TOM TRBOJEVIC RETURN REIGNITES SEA EAGLES
After all his hamstring problems in recent times, I thought it would only be natural for Tommy Turbo to ease his way back into football against the Titans on Saturday.
But the Manly superstar would have none of it and simply destroyed the Titans with 202 running metres, one try and two try assists before being given a late rest by coach Des Hasler.
It’s a great sign for the Sea Eagles, who suddenly look finals contenders again after back-to-back wins.
PROP’S RARE TRY COMES IN STUNNING STYLE
Only last week I was raving in this column about Thomas Burgess and how well he has been going at Souths.
But I never mentioned big Tom’s try-scoring prowess – because that is one thing he is not renowned for.
Prior to his memorable match-winner against the Tigers on Saturday night, Tom had scored just 11 tries in nine seasons at the Rabbitohs.
But the big fella did the job in extra time – and did it in style.
NEAR-PERFECT WARRIORS FINALS CONTENDERS
The Warriors’ greatest downfall over the years has been their unforced errors, which has cost them many a game.
Which makes their performance in Sunday’s hard-fought win over the Dragons all the more remarkable.
Nathan Brown’s men completed a stunning 39 of their 40 sets – as good a percentage as any team all season.
There’s no denying the Warriors have the talent – and if they can keep close to that completion rate, they are finals bound.
KNIGHTS FIND GAME-CHANGING CULT HERO
The Knights have found a new cult hero in ‘super sub’ Brodie Jones.
Jones had a barnstorming game in the Knights’ dramatic 26-22 win over the Sharks, coming up with some big plays when thrown into the fray from the bench.
The 22-year-old Cessnock Goannas junior scored his maiden try in top company, helped set up two others and saved two tries with desperation defence.
In a match where Cronulla often held the whip hand, Jones changed the momentum of the play – exactly what coach Adam O’Brien would have wanted from the chunky youngster.
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