The Rabbitohs will be ruing the decision to allow veteran playmaker Adam Reynolds to walk out the door after a strong performance for the Broncos who bested the South Sydney side.
The Eels put the competition on notice off the back of a strong defensive performance to best the cross-town Panthers.
Justin Holbrook has been urged to bring a young gun back into his struggling side, with Craig Bellamy now has to fill his fullback hole.
Read on for all the latest NRL Talking Points for Round 9.
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Broncos skipper Adam Reynolds returned to his old stomping ground to embarrass his former Souths side and the officials that thought it was a good idea to low-ball him with a one-year deal.
Reynolds set up two tries and scored another and his kicking game was the difference between the two sides in Brisbane’s 32-12 win.
Matty Johns believes Reynolds has taken his game from reliable to devastating in his evolution as a player in the last 18 months.
“Adam Reynolds would have taken a lot of satisfaction out of that tonight,” Johns said.
“Geez he is playing good football. Two try assists, one try.
“I reckon the last 18 months he is playing different. He had the reputation of being a steady halfback.
“But we have seen the last 18 months him playing with a lot more imagination and his playmaking is top drawer.
“No matter what he would have gone on to do at South Sydney, he wouldn’t have made his legacy any better.
“No one will forget what he did at Souths, but now he is building a new legacy at the Broncos.”
Gorden Tallis believes Reynolds needed to go to Brisbane to challenge himself and bring out new areas of his game.
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“He was outstanding at Souths and the fingerprints that he left at that club will last forever, but he has gone to Brisbane and I think it was the challenge that he needed,” Tallis said.
“He has a really young naturally and super talented side that needed a bit of direction.
“I think that was the challenge that he needed at this point of his career.
“You don’t like seeing a guy going through a contract dispute and not playing at the club that he loves, but Brisbane are really loving him there at the moment.
“He was outstanding tonight. His kicking game was first class and he’s given them direction.”
Bryan Fletcher believes Reynolds’ leadership has come to the forefront even more since joining Brisbane after bringing a young group of men together.
“The fact that he was at Souths and he had a lot of senior players around him,” Fletcher said.
“He is up here now with all of these young kids. His leadership has been great.
“He is a terrific player, but I think his leadership skills have gone up another level.”
Souths will rue what they let him go because if Reynolds was on the other team the Rabbitohs would have likely won the game, that’s how important his kicking game is, according to Johns.
“What you see a lot of times with struggling sides and we saw it with Brisbane last year, they have good stretches and they were good in patches and then something would go wrong and they just couldn’t hit the breaks,” Johns said.
“They couldn’t stabilise the result, but when you have got a bloke who can steer the side around the park and control the tempo of the game with his kicking, you can go through flat spots in the game or periods when you haven’t got a lot of football and just not bleed points.”
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The Knights have slumped to their worst losing streak since 2017 when they last won the wooden spoon.
Newcastle have lost their past six matches, conceding on average a whopping 38.6 points per game in those defeats.
They have the worst defence and second-worst attack in the competition and sit anchored to the bottom of the ladder after nine rounds.
The Knights defence was terrible against the Cowboys on Saturday night, they missed 35 tackles or more for the fifth time this season.
Kalyn Ponga was the only shining light in Round 9, but coach Adam O’Brien said he’ll get eight players back over the next fortnight.
“There’s a ton of effort going into parts of our game, but we’ve got to be smarter,” O’Brien said.
“You can’t afford ill-discipline. We had three or four play-one errors and we had four last-play tries where we just stopped. You can’t do that. You keep your feet moving on last play.
“There’s so many areas I’m really proud of. But we hold ourselves to high standards and we need to be better in the smart parts of the game.
“Last week, we kicked it out off the kick off and this week we didn’t find touch off a penalty.
“No doubt, a bit of experience coming back next week will help, but we still need to hold individuals accountable.
“I’m confident we get six guys back next week, maybe eight in two weeks. So, that’s a fair chunk coming back,”
Fullback Ponga played in the halves in attack while trying to help inexperienced duo Tex Hoy and Phoenix Crossland.
“I thought he took his hands on (the ball) like a six but just took the 50 tackles he would have had to make if we put him in at six,” Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien said of Ponga’s performance.
“We got him up there, got his hands on the ball but it was a really inexperienced spine with him tonight.
“I thought he was dangerous every time he got the ball and he got the ball like a six.”
A TRBOJEVIC NIGHT TO REMEMBER
On Saturday afternoon in Brookvale, a moment the Trbojevic family will remember forever occurred.
There has been a number of brotherly trios in the NRL, namely the Burgess’ at the Rabbitohs and the Walters’ at the Broncos.
Now the Trbojevic brothers — Tom, Jake and Ben — have added to NRL lore by starting in the same game in Brookvale.
After the game, all three spoke on what it means to play alongside each other, especially after Ben’s stellar performance in his starting debut.
“It was a really good game, the boys all put in and it helps to get a few tries which helps,” Ben said on Fox League’s Super Saturday.
“It was a pretty special moment for myself and my family. I was expecting to play at centre but there was a late change into the second row, so it was just good to get the win.”
Jake, who puts in strong performances week-in-week-out, spoke glowingly of his younger brother, while Tom again said how important the moment was.
“I just want to say, it was a nice moment today. Before the game I was getting a bit emotional with us all starting together and seeing how proud mum and dad were here at Brookvale. It’s really cool and I’m just very, very proud,” Jake said.
“He trained at centre all week and a last-minute reshuffle he ended up in the back row, he did really well getting a double here at home playing 80 minutes, very proud. It’s such a nice moment for us all and our family and our friends.”
“It’s a pretty special moment for all of us,” Tom said.
“Like Jake said he trained at centre all week and not only that, he hasn’t played much footy over the last couple of years so to come out there and do that is a special moment.
“In front of our family and friends, it’s very exciting.”
Ben was shifted to the backrow late, with both Josh Schuster and Haumole Olakau’atu ruled out.
The 20-year-old was initially named in the centres, filling the vacant spot left by Brad Parker.
Now, Hasler will find it hard to drop ‘Burbo’ who performed strongly at 4 Pines Park.
Morgan Harper slotted into the outside backs after Trbojevic’s shift, with Tolu Koula almost certainly keeping his spot at centre.
Ben recorded two tries, a try assist and 61 running metres to go with two tackle breaks, one linebreak and a linebreak assist.
After Trbojevic’s second try of the night, Fox League’s Andrew Voss encouraged rugby league fans to embrace the youngster in the midst of a special moment.
“It is some moment, again I know and I apologise to Tigers fan, but appreciate the moment,” Andrew Voss said.
“This is Ben, Burbo, this was not in the script.”
Proud parents Melissa and John will be hoping the trio remain in the same team, hoping to save extra trips going to watch their sons do what they do best.
EELS PUT COMPETITION ON NOTICE
The Eels beat Melbourne in Melbourne six weeks ago and on Friday they beat Penrith in Penrith.
Those two wins have convinced Greg Alexander that the Eels should be considered serious premiership contenders.
“What I’ve learnt about the Eels tonight is that they’re ready to match it with the big teams in the competition,” he said.
“Even though they struggled against the Tigers and were poor against the Cowboys, when the whips are cracking they are one of the teams that can match it.”
Parramatta bounced back from a disappointing performance to stun the reigning premiers. They ended Penrith’s undefeated start to the season as well as their 21-home game winning streak.
It was the statement win they needed and one that Corey Parker believes can set the “terrific” Eels up for the rest of the season.
“It’s an incredible win for the Eels and one they can grow from,” he said.
“This competition is a three-horse race. The Eels beat Melbourne in Melbourne and now they’ve been able to beat Penrith in Penrith which hasn’t been done for a long time.”
Benji Marshall can also see the Eels’ potential but believes their success this season will come down to one key area of their game.
“When they get their attitude right and defensive resilience right they can beat any team on the day. They’ve got enough class and talent on the field,” he said.
“Parramatta, when they have a defensive mindset — they did in the trial against Penrith, they came out with great linespeed and matched them set for set.
“There was a moment today when Penrith were up 14-10 and Parramatta toughed it out with their defence. They grinded set for set with the other team and ended up getting on top which is what they haven’t been able to do consistently this year.”
Parker also highlighted a particular moment that summed up the Eels’ improved attitude against the Panthers.
“The (Kikau moment) was a clear dropped ball and that sometimes can unsettle you as a player and they got out in the second half and the Panthers are first to score,” he said.
“They did a terrific job under all sorts of adversity to turn up time after time and repel who has been the best team over the last two years.
“Every time Parramatta have beaten the big teams it has started nice and direct, it has been aggressive and it has been relentless for 80 minutes.”
LOST TITANS URGED TO RECALL YOUNGSTER
Titans coach Justin Holbrook has been urged to move AJ Brimson back into the halves and recall Jayden Campbell.
Holbrook changed up his spine a fortnight ago, shifting Brimson back to fullback — the position he made a name for himself in — and bringing utility Will Smith into the halves to partner Toby Sexton.
It meant exciting prospect Jayden Campbell has had to bide his time in Queensland Cup since returning from a rib injury two weeks ago.
Brimson’s first game back in the No.1 jersey was promising with the 23-year-old making 123 running metres and getting five tackle busts.
However, his performance on Saturday fell well below expectations. Brimson only made 72 running metres and got one tackle bust.
It was a stark contrast to opposing fullback James Tedesco’s hat-trick, 185 running metres, 10 tackle busts and three linebreaks. It was also a shadow of what Brimson delivered last season at fullback.
Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach urged Brimson to get more involved in Saturday’s game.
“AJ Brimson needs to go looking for the footy,” he said at half-time.
“He hasn’t been in that good field position or his halves haven’t got him into good field position but he needs to do a lot more if they are to get anywhere near back into this game.”
And now the pressure is mounting on Holbrook to find the winning combination after five-straight losses.
Benji Marshall believes the answer is going back to Campbell at No.1 and Brimson at No.6.
“I think they need to find some consistency around their key players and I think it starts with moving AJ Brimson back to five-eighth and bringing in Jayden Campbell,” he said.
“I thought they formed a really good combination to start the season and they had a couple of wins with that combination.”
Cooper Cronk agreed with Marshall.
While Cronk doesn’t have a whole lot of belief in the Brimson-Sexton combination, he can sense that Holbrook is “searching for an answer” and has urged him to pick and stick.
“I’m with Benji, I think they need to be consistent with their decision making in terms of the team.
“If Brimson and Sexton were your go-to halves to start with and Campbell at the back, they’re inexperienced full stop. Will Smith came in and he didn’t really add a lot so (Hollbrook) is searching for an answer and I like that but I think he needs to peel back a few layers and keep it simple.
“They go from a very flamboyant team to not much quickly.”
Holbrook indicated that there will be changes to the 17 next week after the Titans’ “really, really disappointing” performance in which they were “beaten all over the park.”
“We need some personnel changes,” Holbrook conceded.
“It’s a difficult part of not winning, you have to make changes and you lose your cohesion amongst your side. But we can’t accept what we dished up tonight.”
One area that will no doubt come under the microscope is the Titans’ left edge defence. Six of the Roosters’ tries were scored down that side, prompting Roach and Corey Parker to lash the “diabolical” and “passive” defence.
Greg Marzhew and Brian Kelly manned that edge with the latter missing four tackles.
But there was flimsy defence all over the park. On the other side of the field, Patrick Herbert and Corey Thompson missed four and three tackles respectively, while Smith and Sexton each missed five tackles — the most in the team.
“Defensively they were flimsy and there were some really soft tries that the Roosters scored,” Cronk said.
“They missed 32 tackles as a team and 22 of those were on the edges. That just goes to show their consistency in being steady, being able to make good decisions and make contact on the edges needs a lot of work.”
STORM SEARCH FOR A FULLBACK
Ryan Papenhuyzen’s injury is a huge blow for Craig Bellamy’s side, but the in-form Storm have a knack off being able to make it work and find form.
The mulleted fullback suffered a hamstring tear, along with a knee and ankle injury, and is expected to spend a minimum of three weeks on the sidelines according to the Melbourne coach.
“I’m not quite sure even with that knee, even if he hadn’t of got the hamstring, whether he would have been playing the next couple of weeks anyway,” Bellamy said in the post-match press conference.
“He has got a couple of injuries to deal with, so we’re going to have to find ourselves a fullback.”
In the next two rounds the Melbourne side have two of their toughest opponents so far this year — the reigning premiers and the in-form Cowboys.
“We’ve got a couple of big ones coming up against Penrith and Cowboys, both away from here, so we’ll have a think about that during the week,” Bellamy said.
An unlikely hero emerged for the Storm, with utility Tyran Wishart slotting into the No.1 role, having previously been utilised in the forward pack.
Wishart even came on early in the game to cover Reimis Smith’s injury, completing a strong performance in a number of positions.
“Wishy came on and did a good job and eventually had to go to fullback,” Bellamy said.
“It’s not easy for a young fella to come on and play two positions like that. It’s a pretty key position that centre, Suli is one of their best ball carriers. I thought he’s done a tremendous job in both positions.
“We had to dig in a little bit there. We had to use a couple of interchanges on two guys that weren’t coming back, which made it a little bit hard.”
Many other clubs would have a real headache on their hands, but not the storm.
Captain Jesse Bromwich revealed his club has a “next man up” mentality” which allows anyone to slot into the role and do their job.
While Wishart has put his name forward as an option to play at fullback, off-season recruit Nick Meaney is another option, having played in the No.1 at his former club at various stages.
Meaney has been in stellar form to start the season, scoring six tries in eight games, including a runaway try and try assist on Sunday against the Dragons.
Cameron Munster could also shift back to No.1, but Bellamy will be hesitant to ruin his groove, being currently in the midst of career-best form.
Young winger Dean Ieremia could see himself slotting back onto the wing, with Wishart potentially keeping a spot in the centres to fill the hole left by Reimis Smith.
Smith is set for a 10-12 week sideline stay according to the Melbourne coach and his replacement will have an extended period to find their feet and excel in the Storm system
Young gun Jack Howarth could slot into the vacant slot, while utility Tom Eisenhuth is also a possible option, having in the past filled holes for Craig Bellamy.
HISTORIC WIN MARRED BY UGLY TACKLES
The Sharks showed incredible resolve to beat the Warriors while playing with 12 men for 63 minutes, but win shouldn’t gloss over two ugly moments.
The first was the reason they had to dig so deep to win in the first place – because Will Kennedy was sent off for a coat hanger tackle.
Kennedy caught Reece Walsh with a reckless swinging arm and he could spend the next month on the sideline.
“You talk about what would have happened in the game 20 or 30 years ago, well you would have been sent off for that 20 or 30 years ago,” Greg Alexader said on Fox League.
Cronulla captain Wade Graham said there was “definitely” no intent to harm from Kennedy.
“He’s come up as a defender and he got beat on the inside and he hung out an arm,” Graham said.
“It’s never a nice feeling, even 10 in the bin, but to be sent off you feel like you’ve let everyone down but we’ll get around him and he’ll be fine, he’ll bounce back.
“The team rallied and got the result despite that, so he can keep his head up and move on to when we get him back.”
The second incident was another ugly tackle, this time it was Jesse Ramien and he was lucky to escape with just a sin bin in the second half.
Ramien’s shoulder made forceful contact with the head of Warriors second rower Euan Aitken who left the field for an HIA.
“That is very, very fortunate. I would not have been surprised if he was just straight marched for that,” Andrew Voss said on Fox League.
Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon admitted Kennedy was “sheepish and disappointed” after the game but said he’d need to see the replay to form his own opinion.
“It’s hard from the box, so I need to have a real good look at it and Jesse’s as well,” Fitzgibbon said.
Once he does there’s almost no chance the Sharks will be fighting the charges that drop for his players on Monday.
COTRIC GETTING BACK TO HIS BEST
After a difficult year at the Bulldogs in 2021, Nick Cotric is starting to find the form which found him donning the famous Blues and Kangaroos jersey.
Bulldogs coach Trent Barret must have been wondering why he couldn’t find his feet in Belmore when the 23-year-old constantly threatened the Canterbury-Bankstown defensive line.
Having signed with the Canterbury-Bankstown club on a three-year deal which begun in the 2021 season, Cotric was let go to return to the Raiders..
Cotric signed a three-year deal with the team from the nation’s capital and in Round 9 played his 100th game in green, against the club that deemed him surplus to requirements.
His Bulldogs deal was reportedly worth around $1.8 million and after signing a number of big-name players, Phil Gould and Canterbury powerbrokers went about trimming their salary cap, with Viliame Kikau, Reed Mahoney and Ryan Sutton all joining the club in 2023.
The Raiders welcomed back one of their favourite sons with open arms, and Ricky Stuart clearly knows how to get the best out of the damaging ball runner.
On Friday, Cotric ran for an impressive 214 metres with five tackle breaks — a huge increase on his Bulldogs average of 118 over 14 appearances.
NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler spoke glowingly of Cotric’s 2022 form, but with Brian To’o and Josh Addo-Carr still at the peak of their powers, the Raiders winger may have to wait for another Origin appearance.
“I love watching Nick play. I think his form has been good,” Fittler told The Canberra Times.
“He runs a lot, he’s hard to tackle and makes tackle breaks, and he’s doing a lot of it out of his own end.”
Cotric himself was realistic about his chances of making the Origin squad.
“I’ve got to work on my game, get a bit better, just to feel good, have more confidence,” Cotric said.
“Playing that 2019 series, my first Origin game, it’s something that I want to be back to play. That was a great experience and I’d love to be back there.
“I’ve got to find my rhythm again and I’m slowly getting it back. I’m just focusing on getting my role for the team right and getting my hands on the ball as much as I can.”
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