Monday Buzz: Winners, losers from NRL Round 1
WHAT a wonderful opening round of rugby league. Golden point, upsets, sellouts, high and lows, winners and losers.
1 Blake Green
Had a blinder against South Sydney. Allowed Shaun Johnson to play his natural game and we all saw how well the Kiwi Test halfback went. Green played the organising role and engineered some magnificent attacking football for the New Zealand Warriors.
2 Ben Hunt
Embarrassed his old club with a blinder that included a spectacular solo try from a Matt Lodge intercept pass. Steered the side well but didn't overplay his hand behind a dominant pack. The partnership with Gareth Widdop is only going to get better.
3 Cameron Munster
Bounced back from a tricky off-season to show his extraordinary attacking skills in Billy Slater's fullback position. Has got to play five-eighth in Johnathan Thurston's Maroons jersey in State of Origin with Michael Morgan at halfback.
4 Billy Kikau
What a machine. This 120kg Fijian wrecking ball almost single-handedly lifted the Penrith Panthers from a 14-0 deficit to victory over the Parramatta Eels with his power running on the left edge. The former Cowboys rookie reminds me of Jason Taumalolo.
5 Mitchell Pearce
Struck the ball beautifully for the match-winning field goal and even the kick before that narrowly missed. Under incredible pressure and more spotlight than any other player in the competition but performed like only great players do.
6 Stephen Kearney
And this guy was supposed to be the first coach sacked in 2018. Most of us had him gone by round six. There was not a more impressive or better prepared side than the Warriors for the opening round. New fitness coach Alex Corvo has done a terrific job.
7 Corey Thompson
We all laughed when Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary named this guy on the right wing instead of David Nofoaluma. On paper it looked a joke. Thompson had an outstanding game and showed tremendous skill to score the match-winning try.
8 Shaun Johnson
Have I got egg over my face or what. Your columnist left Johnson out of the top 50 players last week because he has been so inconsistent for years. On Saturday night's form on a consistent basis he'd make any top 10. Electrifying performance.
9 The Perth Stadium
Didn't she look stunning on the Fox Sports' coverage of the two games. A crowd of nearly 40,000 and good atmosphere. This is exactly what Sydney needs in a rectangular shape at Homebush to host Sydney's biggest events.
10 Kalyn Ponga
Lived up to all the hype as the game's next big thing with a superb contribution for the Newcastle Knights in the thrilling victory over Manly. Used his blinding pace and footwork to score the first try. Saved a try with a copybook fullback's tackle on Daly Cherry-Evans.
1 Wayne Bennett
Most sides lack cohesion and good structure at this time of the season but the Broncos were dreadful. When was the last time a Wayne Bennett side had only a 62 per cent completion rate. Dumb move to start Andrew McCullough off the bench.
2 Greg Inglis
You never bag champions but the great GI was well below his best on Saturday night in Perth against the Warriors. It wasn't fitness or lack of trying but he appears to have lost some wow factor. He'll be under the spotlight against the Panthers next week.
3 Val Holmes
The best winger in the world had a shocker at fullback for the Sharks in Townsville. Surely Josh Dugan needs to wear the No.1 jersey on Thursday night against the Dragons, with Holmes moving back to where he belongs on the wing.
4 James Tedesco
Didn't this guy cost first-try punters a squillion by spilling a straightforward pass from Blake Ferguson with the line open against his old club at ANZ Stadium. He also coughed up possession when the Roosters were in try-scoring territory late in the game.
5 Manly recruitment
How could the Sea Eagles release Blake Green before finding a suitable replacement? Lachlan Croker tried his hardest against the Knights but they desperately missed Green's organising skill when the game was there to be won.
6 Canberra Faiders
How could the Canberra Raiders blow an 18-point advantage against the Gold Coast Titans (18-nil and then (24-6). Sure the Titans dominated possession but the Raiders just clocked off and their defence was terrible.
7 Jake Friend
Might have made 48 tackles but the heavy workload is taking the edge off his attack. Looked sluggish for a modern-day hooker with two runs for just three metres. The team looked livelier when Victor Radley replaced Friend at dummy-half.
8 Anthony Milford
When is this guy going to justify the $1 million salary? Didn't get involved enough against the Dragons. Lacking confidence. Struggling to form a relationship with halfback partner Kodi Nikorima.
9 No Eftpos
Fans turned up to the Dragons' traditional home ground at Kogarah, tried to order a beer and meal, but couldn't pay because Eftpos was down. These days 70 per cent pay by debit card rather than cash. And there was no ATM at the venue. Poor form.
10 Sione Katoa
The boom Sharks winger made his NRL debut in Townsville against the Cowboys but suffered a broken jaw that required immediate surgery.