Monday Morning Halfback: Gone to the Dogs?
JT shows his greatness again, the Wests Tigers turn in a frustrating performance, the Bulldogs match it with some of the best and will the short dropout become the norm?
JT stands up – while Thurston adds to legacy
Johnathan Thurston added another epic chapter into his fabled career by crushing Broncos hearts with a clutch golden point field goal in Round 2 of the Telstra Premiership. While the field goal will be added to his glittering highlights reel, his amazing defensive plays showcased the outright champion that he is.
Thurston wills himself to get into positions that others simply cannot.
Several times in the Queensland blockbuster Thurston found himself the last line of defence and saving the day for the Cowboys. His outright refusal to die on a play often results in him coming from nowhere to save the day. He is the ultimate competitor who refuses to yield when all else seems lost and he is fast approaching Immortal status. He wins games for his team on both sides of the ball – sometimes on sheer will alone.
While Thurston is the heartbeat of the side, it was the work of the other JT that captured the attention. Reigning Dally M medallist Jason Taumalolo ran for a gut busting 231 metres (following up his 295-metre effort the week before against Canberra) but it was his effort in extra-time that showed why he is one of the most important players in the game.
Taumalolo managed to charge down an Anthony Milford field goal attempt, not once, but twice in the first half of extra time, before coming up with two crucial runs in the final set, laying the platform for Thurston to kick his field goal.
Taumalolo took the ball twice in the final three tackles after 87 minutes of football, spinning out of contact and providing a quick play-the-ball for Thurston to ice the game.
The 22-year-old has the rugby league world at his feet and is still getting better. Players rushed to Thurston and Taumalolo in equal doses in the immediate aftermath of the Suncorp thriller, and both were deserved of the highest praise.
Wests Tigers their own worst enemy
The final scoreboard read 36-2, but as brilliantly as the Panthers put the Wests Tigers to the sword, it was the home team that brought it on themselves at Campbelltown Stadium.
The Tigers bombed four tries in a frustrating Sunday afternoon at Campbelltown. Simple execution in the red zone came back to haunt the Tigers big time, with the Panthers finding the electrifying form that had them as pre-season premiership contenders. Matt Moylan was superb, as were Nathan Cleary, Tyrone Peachey and Dylan Edwards.
But on a hot Sunday afternoon, the Wests Tigers wilted and then spectacularly imploded. For much of the first half they looked the better side, but missed chances and a fadeout eight minutes before the break gave the Panthers a big lead. From there it only got worse.
The frustration was palpable and summed up with a Luke Brooks kick-off that landed closer to the carpark than it did the field of play.
For as good as the Tigers looked in Round 1 against the Rabbitohs, they looked equally shambolic in Round 2. There is no doubting the Tigers' potential when it all clicks, the challenge is for this side to be closer to their best than their worst week in and out in a gruelling premiership campaign.
They'll be looking to put this tough week far in the rear-view mirror, but a clash with the Raiders in Round 3 won't be an easy bounce back.
Gone to the Dogs?
The Bulldogs finished last season with four consecutive losses, meekly dropping from a top four spot to seventh before being bundled out of the first week of the finals.
They have started 2017 with two more defeats.
This is a club that demands success. They have made two grand finals in the last five years and have made the finals every year under coach Des Hasler. Still, the Belmore fans and administration expect more of their club. It is a commendable position to take given they are one of only three clubs to make the finals for five consecutive years (the Storm and Cowboys are the other two).
There are a lot of clubs that would kill for that sort of return.
The Bulldogs and Hasler started 2017 under much scrutiny. They are a high profile Sydney club that wants to be competing for premierships every year. That is the only yardstick that matters.
The two losses to start the season stand out and make them easy cannon fodder, as it is now six losses on the trot.
There is no question the Bulldogs capitulated in the end of 2016, but has their start to 2017 been that bad?
In Round 1 the Bulldogs had enough ball to beat the Storm at Belmore Oval in monsoonal conditions. But as is Melbourne's way, they found a way to win. The Bulldogs could have shown a little more composure in key moments, but weren't far away from a result, going down 12-6 to last year's grand finalists after the Storm raced to a 10-0 lead inside the first seven minutes.
In Round 2, they faced bitter rivals the Sydney Roosters, a team that looks set to give the Telstra Premiership a real shake in 2017. The Bulldogs pushed them every step of the way and went down by just four points, losing Kerrod Holland and Will Hopoate in the process.
The Bulldogs have shown enough against two of the best teams in the competition to still be finals contenders. They have nothing to show for it yet, but there have been enough encouraging signs that they are not a spent force.
They will be confident heading into matches against the Warriors, Sea Eagles and Broncos in the next three weeks.
Short dropout a no-brainer
It is only a matter of time before the short dropout becomes the norm rather than the exception. The modern football team is quite content defending their own line. In many respects, they are more comfortable defending inside their own 10 metres than they are from 30 metres out. It is the same reason defensive lines are happy to concede multiple penalties on their own stripe.
The defence doesn't have to work as hard, because they don't need to retreat 10 metres every tackle and there is less space for the attacking team to work.
The risk versus reward is heavily skewed in the team taking the drop-outs favour, yet old wisdom and traditions see teams kicking long out of instinct.
The worst case scenario is giving up a penalty for failing to kick the ball 10 metres. Other than that, it's a 50-50 contest for the ball, where otherwise you'd be defending your own line anyway.
It won't be long before the long dropout goes the way of the old fashioned kicking duels, resigned to a special place in history.
Sharks women's team start with big win
Well done to Cronulla's women's team who started their season with a 28-10 win over Canberra.
The game was played over two 12-minute halves with nine players per side.
The Sharks now return home to play the St George Illawarra Dragons next week in a local derby which will take place prior to the NRL clash at Southern Cross Group Stadium.