NRL Magic Round Talking Points: Cronulla does it again, surface holds up and hip drop lotto leaves some teams shorthanded


A really enjoyable weekend of rugby league for everyone, unless you’re a Parramatta fan. Here come your talking points from the weekend in Brisbane.

A great weekend’s rugby league

Magic Round is again a rousing success for the NRL, with seven good quality games and just the one bludger as the Storm completed their ritual sacrifice of the Eels.

The crowd was vibing all the way through, or at least that’s how it appeared to those of us who were watching from the couch. I’m going to make it my business to get to this weekend next year like the 149,196 people who saw this version, because everywhere I looked I saw people having a great rugby league time.

The games delivered, too – Thursday’s Women’s State of Origin Game 1 was good fun, then Friday night’s slate was two close wins for Canberra and Brisbane, Saturday’s slate was three enjoyable games decided by a combined 14 points and aside from the Storm whupping of Parramatta, the Warriors and Dolphins wins were both entertaining outings.

The usual NRL business happened, too

We had more hip drop tackle lottery, with some offenders sin-binned but others whose tackles seemed worse either going unpunished or only being penalised. Parramatta like clockwork fell in a heap late in the first half and never climbed back to their feet. The Dolphins stayed on the winners list, Newcastle fought their way again to a critical win.

The Bulldogs blew a massive, massive chance for a key win against the 11-man Canberra. The Cowboys winning but once again not impressing anyone as Titans coach Des Hasler blew up yet again about the Bunker.

New Zealand’s stirring win over Penrith may have left Panthers coach Ivan Cleary fuming, but the thing to watch is how the Warriors go forward after their 22-20 result. They’re an entertaining team to watch when they get going, but they’re still a mile from the finals and this can’t be a false dawn.

The Sharks back it up then sell it out

Cronulla got over Melbourne in Melbourne last week without Nicho Hynes, then backed it up by taking out the Roosters 38-30 in a full-tilt contest. It was a great game for the neutral as the ball pinged all over the field and gave the Sharks their second win ‘for the haters’ against a quality opponent.

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

This week the Sharks have sold out their home ground for the visiting premiers Penrith – but why play the game at a building site that hosts 11,000 people, when another 25-30,000 will miss out? Is the NRL going to have anything to say about how long it’s taking to get Cronulla’s home ground sorted?

The surface made it through

When Canberra’s Xavier Savage caught the opening kickoff of the Friday night early game and took a huge divot out of the turf, I was worried we were going to have a muddy, skittish surface that would make for a bad weekend’s entertainment. But the sunshine helped pull things together and the Suncorp Stadium turf handled another full set of games plus the Women’s State of Origin.

Normally the NRL schedules a clear week in Brisbane after Magic Round but the Broncos are back there next week.

Women’s Origin Game 1 rated its face off

The State of Origin period stated Thursday with the first of the three-game Women’s series and didn’t it get some attention. The game was attended by a record crowd of 25,492 and watched on Nine by an average audience of 941,000, a massive number, and according to the NRL up 40 per cent on 2023.

That average figure was higher than the biggest free-to-air viewership for any NRL or AFL match this season. Incredible.

PVL talks about a heap of great options

ARLC Chair Peter V’landys was in the news during Magic Round holding forth about potential NRL expansion, basically giving everyone what they wanted to hear. A Perth standalone side was a great option, but a Perth/North Sydney combination is a great option, too. Another New Zealand team is a great option, maybe another great option is a new Brisbane-based club.

There’s also the great option of Papua New Guinea, who V’landys and his CEO Andrew Abdo met with government representatives about. Let’s just see where things end up.

Good games this week

Magic Round is in the rear vision mirror, but here comes State of Origin to take the better players from our teams. Enjoy this full-strength weekend while we can!

Round 12 welcomes St George Illawarra back to the fold after the bye, they get a frustrated Canterbury on Thursday night.

Friday’s games could be anything – the pub game is in Townsville with the Cowboys and Tigers, then primetime is at Brookvale when Manly host Melbourne.

Saturday afternoon kicks off with an early 3pm game in the capital, with the Roosters looking to put away the Raiders. The twilight game is Cronulla and Penrith, which should be a belter, then Saturday night is South Sydney and Parramatta, which doesn’t have much appeal but might still be a pretty decent match-up.

Latrell Mitchell. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Sunday’s games are in Brisbane for Broncos and the Titans, then across the ditch for the Warriors and Dolphins. Newcastle have the bye and grab a very handy two points.

All up, it’s a pretty sound looking weekend of rugby league.

Magic Round’s random thoughts

– That Dolphins black away jersey is a belter. One of the best for a long time. But it did clash with the strip of the ‘home’ team Wests Tigers…
– Canberra have a serious talent at five-eighth in Ethan Strange. He’s only 19, but what a football brain he has. His creative play helped the Raiders beat the Bulldogs at Magic Round once again, and for the second time after being reduced to 11 players for a period.
– I’ve never liked a defender hitting a defenceless player who’s on the ground like Wests’ Brent Naden did to the Dolphins’ Jake Bostock. He deserved to get the bin. That tackle happens a lot in games and if a bin is to be the result, all to the good.
– A seemingly bad groin injury to Melbourne and Queensland five-eighth Cam Munster will make things interesting for his club and state teams. The Storm need Jahrome Hughes to get his tweaky leg muscles sorted out now.
– Newcastle keep grinding and banking wins against teams in their weight class, coming back from seemingly down and out for a 28-24 win over the Gold Coast and now sitting in eighth when there was even wooden spoon talk just a few weeks ago. Two free points from the bye this week will be more than useful.

What’s caught your eye this weekend, Roarers?

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