8 things we’ve learnt after 8 rounds
The 2018 NRL season has, thus far, kept us on our feet. Nearly every team has been competitive and punters have been left scratching heads in their efforts to pick a consistent winner. After eight rounds, here are eight things that we have learnt so far this year.
Unpredictability is at its peak
It’s been a rough one for the punters. Certain teams that weren’t expected to do well are in the top four and teams that were potential premiership threats find themselves at the bottom end of the table. The Warriors, Tigers and even the Dragons were tipped by many to have tough years, with plenty of fans expecting the Warriors and Tigers to be genuine spoon contenders. Conversely, many tipped the Cowboys and Eels for big things. Together, they form the bottom two after eight rounds. It is very difficult to tip matches this year and this uncertainty will more than likely continue as the season progresses. It is making for some exciting rugby league.
No discipline = no man
It has been made clear by the referees that if you are ill disciplined on the field, you will see time on the bench courtesy of the sin bin rule. In the first eight rounds of the year, we have had 28 players sin binned for professional fouls and continued indiscretions. This time last year there were only eight. While some fans may not like it, I love that we get to see periods of time when a team has an extra man. It gives the offended team the licence to chuck the footy around and be less structured for 10 minutes of the match.
Dragons could be the real deal
St George Illawarra Dragons. Boy oh boy. What a team they have shown themselves to be this season. I know it’s still early days and they have made a name for themselves in the past as the competition chokers, but it’s hard not to be excited by what’s happening at Kogarah. James Graham has lead the forward pack and provided the energy that they previously weren’t able to maintain for 80 minutes. Along with this, Ben Hunt’s team management has allowed Gareth Widdop to play his natural game and this is ultimately brilliant for the game. The red v will be tested this weekend, taking on the reigning premiers.
Origin squads near impossible to pick
With just over a month until origin football, there are endless questions concerning who will throw on a rep jersey in June. New South Wales have roughly 16 potential players that have never played Origin but could step up. On the other hand, Queensland have a massive decision to make regarding their halves pairing and countless backline options.
No shortage of off field drama
There has been plenty of off field drama to start the season. Manly hosted the now infamous Gladstone incident to go with the Jackson Hastings drama. Parramatta’s poor start created question marks around Brad Arthur’s future at the club and the relationship between Mitch Moses and Corey Norman. Des Hasler has sued the Bulldogs and Todd Carney has been trying for months to get a clearance from the NRL to play with the Cowboys. As the season has only just begun, I’m sure journalists will have their hands full for the rest of the season.
Roosters struggle for chemistry despite stars
Despite major signings in Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco, the chooks have not met expectations so far this season. After placing 2nd on the ladder in 2017 and finishing one match shy of the grand final, many expected them to be red hot in 2018, especially after snaring the Storm’s premiership winning halfback. They appear stagnated in attack and look to be without spark and gel. There’s plenty of footy left to play, but the Roosters need to get it together and fast if they want to make it deep into September.
Storm still a threat, despite no Cronk
The Storm have continued to display the class that we have come to expect over the last decade or so despite losing Cooper Cronk. They struggled originally, winning only two of their first five, but have begun to hit some form. Billy Slater is in career best form, showing that even after a two year hiatus he is still one of the best to ever walk onto a rugby league field.
It’s only going to get more hectic from here
With everything that has unfolded in the first few rounds of rugby league, one would assume it’s only going to get crazier. Few would be shocked to see the Warriors or Tigers fall into a heap, or the Eels or Cowboys to make a miraculous charge for the top eight. It’s been two months of excitement and I truly believe that it will only continue to get more enthralling as the year continues.