NRL Tackle: Young gun’s going to be a real star
Our rugby league writers reveal what caught their eye - good and bad - in Round 4 of the NRL.
BRONCOS v ROOSTERS
Dally M votes: Luke Keary 3, Victor Radley 2, Brett Morris 1. Judge: Billy Moore
Like: THE playmaking finesse of Luke Keary. The Roosters pivot has developed into the NRL's supreme game manager and he looked on autopilot as the premiers belted the Broncos 59-0 at Suncorp Stadium. At 28, Keary has developed a wonderful skill set, whether it's his hands, the timing of his pass, his blindside rushes or his ability to create holes for his support runners. With Keary in such fine touch, the Roosters can win a hat-trick of titles. It was also good to see the development of bench forward Lindsay Collins, the unwanted Bronco charging for 240 metres and putting the sword to his former club with a barnstorming try on the hour.
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Dislike: Brisbane's peahearted defence. Never before in the Broncos' glorious 32-history have I seen so many pathetic, insipid defensive efforts from an entire collective of Brisbane players. Some misses reeked of a team with no morale and no commitment to the cause. Brisbane five-eighth Anthony Milford also needs to lift his game. It's hard to expect Milford to run at will when his pack is being bashed but he can contribute in other ways. Milford is the club's highest-paid player and after 171 NRL games, he needs to be a more dominant voice on the field, barking orders and being a leader of men.
- Peter Badel
PANTHERS v WARRIORS
Dally M votes: Matt Burton 3, James Fisher-Harris 2, Apisai Koroisau 1. Judge: Sam Thaiday
Like: The Panthers got through their two games without the suspended Nathan Cleary with a draw against Newcastle and an easy win over the Warriors. Now their chief playmaker is back for what should be a cracking clash against Parramatta on Friday night. Cleary's leadership and reputation were questioned after he lied to the NRL Integrity Unit over his TikTok video drama on Anzac Day. He must now respond by performing strongly on the field.
If the Panthers want to go deep this season, they need their No. 7 at his best every week, starting with a classic match-up against the in-form Mitchell Moses. Bring it on.
Dislike: A week after dominating the Dragons with a near-perfect performance, the Warriors produced a woeful display against Penrith. The New Zealanders were poor in defence while they couldn't control the football, coming up with 14 errors. As brave as Stephen Kearney men have been playing away from home without their families, consistency remains a problem. The Warriors must produce every week to be taken seriously as a contender.
- Matt Logue
STORM v RABBITOHS
Dally M votes: Cameron Munster 3, Dale Finucane 2, Cameron Smith 1. Judge: Nathan Hindmarsh
Like: Everybody's got one. Those players you never give up on. Those guys that you saw rip an Under 20s team apart five years ago who never came close to putting it all together but you're sure that, in the right team, with the right coach, they could turn into absolute stars. Craig Bellamy is that coach. Melbourne is that team. And friends, that player is Brenko Lee.
Ever since he left the Raiders (where he scored 12 tries in 15 games) Lee has drifted to the Bulldogs and the Titans before ending up at the Storm. He has never really looked like the player he once promised be, but he still has the light feet and the quick hands and the size and the speed to make fools like me believe in him because some dreams are too pure to let go. In his first game for Melbourne Lee was very sharp, helping set up Ryan Papenhuyzen and looking like a dangerous options whenever he got clean ball. If he continues to improve, and given the Maroons centre options, a Queensland Origin spot is not beyond him this year. I am dead serious. But even if he doesn't make it, that's OK, cause for some of us there's no giving up on guys like Brenko Lee.
Dislike: Souths were better in this one than they were in their previous two losses, a listless defeat to the Broncos in the Before Times and last week's limp defeat to the Roosters, but it's still a poor start for a team who nursed title aspirations at the beginning of 2020. Cody Walker suspension this, Latrell Mitchell learning a new position that, it's still a disheartening sign. Things get easier for Souths in the next few weeks, and Walker's return is a huge boost, but they haven't looked themselves for some time now.
- Nick Campton
EELS v SEA EAGLES
Dally M votes: Mitchell Moses 3, Reed Mahoney 2, Maika Sivo 1. Judge: Anthony Minichiello
Like: The evolution of Maika Sivo. The flying Fijian impressed all with his hard running and try-scoring ability when he first burst onto the scene. But on Saturday night it was his deft passing which proved an unlikely source for Parramatta's points. He laid on the Eels first two tries with off-loads including a clever pass for Michael Jennings. The second bit of magic saw him stand at centre from scrum, hitting the line at speed and attracting two players. He then delivered a ball to Dylan Brown to score. Classy.
Dislike: The easy option is to criticise the forward pass call of the touch judge. Obviously it was crucial with 41 seconds left and the game on the line. The NRL came out just minutes after the game to declare the decision as incorrect. It was a split second call in a big moment. While the pass travelled forward it was thrown backwards. Manly fans have every right to be filthy despite there being just centimetres in the decision.
- Michael Carayannis
COWBOYS v SHARKS
Dally M votes: Jesse Ramien 3, Josh McGuire 2, Aaron Woods 1. Judge: Ben Ikin
Like: The Sharks have an outstanding right-side pairing of Jesse Ramien and Ronaldo Mulitalo. Ramien and Mulitalo both bagged doubles and terrorised the Cowboys all night with their speed, talent and athleticism. It has been a slow start to the season for Cronulla but they have some very good young players coming through the ranks with plenty of potential. They are unlikely to challenge for the premiership but have enough talent to be competitive in 2020.
Dislike: The Cowboys rely too heavily on Jason Taumalolo to provide spark for them. Taumalolo was missing with a knee injury and it was painfully obvious how much work he does. Jordan McLean has been a high-priced flop for the Cowboys, providing little impact with his lumbering runs. Cowboys coach Paul Green reckons his side was dudded by the Bunker and not being allowed to use a captain's challenge, but his team was outplayed and made too many errors.
- Travis Meyn
RAIDERS v KNIGHTS
Dally M votes: Kalyn Ponga 3, Herman Ese'ese 2, Bradman Best 1. Judge: Ryan Girdler
Like: The Knights were clinical and relentless, their attitude in defence first class. They are undefeated after four matches and, according to Fox Sports Stats, have still not conceded a try in the final 20 minutes of any match this season. They simply outmuscled Canberra. The Knights have really taken to new coach Adam O'Brien. Bradman Best was red hot again, as was Kalyn Ponga.
Dislike: The Raiders were beaten through the middle and on the right edge. Canberra didn't meet the challenge. It was a largely out-of-character performance from a side which has set new levels of excellence in the past year. The 34 points were the most they've conceded since losing 40-31 to the Panthers late in 2018.
- Dean Ritchie
TITANS v TIGERS
Dally M votes: Moeaki Fotuaika 3, Harry Grant 2, David Nofoaluma 1. Judge: Steve Menzies
Like: This young hooker Harry Grant is going to be a real star in the NRL, if he's not already.
The Tigers' new recruit who's on a one-year loan from Melbourne put in another eye-catching performance despite the loss to Gold Coast.
Whether it's his crafty dummy half play, his speed out of the gates, his kicking game or just his eagerness to keep busy, this bloke is a genuine footballer.
Not only is there an electric energy about him but he has that calmness the great ones always have.
At just 22, he's also rapidly developing into a player who is going to be a serious contender for the Queensland Origin hooker spot at the end of the year.
Dislike: Good luck to the Gold Coast.
But while it's a shame the Tigers couldn't hold on they had only themselves to blame for the heartbreaking loss.
They had the game won midway through the second half when they pushed ahead 22-12.
Then after the Titans locked the game Benji Marshall nailed a field goal with three minutes left.
That should have got them home.
But the Titans to their credit simply refused to surrender and came up with a sensational matchwinning try to Phillip Sami.
It was the Titans' first win in a year and the first for new coach Justin Holbrook who looks to be really putting some life back in this club.
- Paul Crawley
Originally published as NRL Tackle: Young gun's going to be a real star