NRL Round 13 Talking Points: State of Origin skews the regular season (again), but the Dragons and Cowboys aren’t complaining


Only five games this weekend but plenty to get stuck into. Here come your talking points for NRL Round 13.

State of Origin is great, but its impact is not a good thing

It used to be that the State of Origin period was a good test of depth and system for the better teams and the lower teams could claim a scalp or two if they could pull it all together against a seriously weakened opponent.

But with an extra team in the league (and more to come) coupled with huge injury lists across the competition, depth is already an issue for a lot of clubs and the Origin period is biting even harder than before.

Penrith missed 50 tackles. Penrith, who lost to the often unimpressive St George Illawarra. James Tedesco, who has been in great touch this year, was pulled from the Roosters preparations the day before his club’s Sunday game. His team went on to lose by two points in a bludger to another team that was missing a swathe of their best players.

A competition where anyone can beat anyone is a thing of beauty. But only that when everyone is at full tilt. With respect to those who wheel the ‘we get to see the up and coming talent’ barrow, I prefer to see the better players on a list going at it, rather than depth chart-filling, multi-club journeymen and kids who aren’t ready for the big league.

As great as it is to watch, and don’t get me wrong, I do love to watch, State of Origin wrecks the competitive integrity of the NRL season and as more teams come along, the on-field quality of what we get between June and August is going to get worse and worse.

There are a number of solutions worth trying like a mid-season NRL break for representative and international games, a standalone Origin period… but we all know nothing is going to change.

This is the absurd hold State of Origin has over the clubs. A starting fullback has to leave on game day, forcing a club into changes through no fault of their own. It’s a money spinner, sure, but it’s also an exhibition series. There has to be a better way #nrl #origin

— 24 Sep 1989 (@Raiders_24Sep89) June 2, 2024

Who made the most of the weekend?

So with all that off my chest, who’s coming out smiling from these affected times? Clearly the Dragons are, because they vaulted out of the bottom four bog in getting past the weakened premiers. Long term, it will probably mean nothing, but a win is a win and while Penrith were Penrith in name only, Dragons fans rightly will not care.

Canterbury were great against the spiritless and unthreatening Newcastle. The Bulldogs are clearly in the ‘best of the rest’ contest for the fourth-eighth spots and when their attack is going, they’re great to watch.

North Queensland kept their nostrils barely above the waterline with the aforementioned away win over the Roosters. If you said the Cowboys were going to win with half an hour to go and down 16-4, you would have been committed. But win they did and on the fringes of the finals they remain.

Playing this on repeat on the drive to work tomorrow ????

— NQ Cowboys (@nthqldcowboys) June 2, 2024

Parramatta were a whole new team with Mitch Moses back on deck. The Eels’ 34-22 Friday night ‘boilover’ against the Sharks didn’t mean much for Cronulla’s reputation (cos Origin impact) but it was a big deal for the blue and gold. Who would have thought an elite player in a key position would make a difference? If Moses hadn’t been injured, how different would Parra’s season be? A fit Moses puts his team in finals contention, but they’ve put themselves so far back that just one slip could mean it’s all over.

In the three games Canberra and the Dolphins have played the Raiders have won two in golden point, the Dolphins the other by just four points. It’s a meeting of grinders who can both score but also let in a soft try or two. Canberra’s Jordan Rapana had never kicked a field goal before, he now has two after tying and then winning Saturday night’s game. Both teams had many chances to put the game away, but in the end the Dolphins would look back on this with much regret and frustration.

Jordan Rapana of the Raiders celebrates victory after kicking the winning field goal in golden point. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Canberra’s last four victories have come by a combined eight points. They’re 7-5 and in sixth, with a -37 differential and an average losing margin of 22.8 points. How do they keep doing this?

Good games this week

It’s Origin week, so we get a genuine rugby league smorgasboard! It’s men’s Game I Wednesday night in Sydney and you can read all the quality insights and analysis around The Roar.

The women’s Game II is Thursday night at a sold-out Newcastle stadium. New South Wales can wrap up the title in what should be a good match.

Our regular season weekend goes from five games to seven, with the rep players backing up where they’re able. What kind of matchups are they getting into? A few good ones. Let’s check the weekend ahead.

Thursday is the women’s Origin Game II so NRL Round 14 commences Friday with just the one primetime kickoff; St George Illawarra and Wests Tigers will get us going.

Jaime Chapman celebrates after scoring a try. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Saturday gives us three interesting Queensland-based contests starting with the Titans and Rabbitohs on the Gold Coast, then the Cowboys and Warriors in Townsville, and capped off by what could be a belter when Brisbane host Cronulla in a game with plenty of top-four ramifications.

Sunday sees Melbourne hosting Newcastle and the late afternoon game is Penrith against Manly at Panthers Stadium, another potential beaut.

We come together to celebrate King Charles by offering up Parramatta and Canterbury on Monday afternoon, a game that could literally be anything.

The Dolphins, Roosters and Raiders all get the week off and that guaranteed two points.

Round 13’s random thoughts

– I’ve given up on hip drop lotto. There’ll be no more coverage of the random punishment generator in your weekly talking points.
– No dispute about the illegality of Rooster prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves’ shoulder to the head of North Queensland’s Tom Mikaele. JWH was fined $1800 for dangerous contact in Round 7, so another fine wouldn’t surprise from this wet lettuce of a judiciary.
– Melbourne took the two points for the bye and happily leapt over Cronulla into top spot courtesy of the Sharks’ 12-point loss. Say it once, say it often – there’s no reason to award two points for a bye.
– I’m no weather guru but my eyes are telling me this season is one of the most ‘rained upon’ in recent memory. Am I going mad, or is there at least one game a week getting hosed?
– I’ll be rating the Cane Toads players on Wednesday night for Origin Game I, joined by special guest Tim Gore who will run his firm but fair judgement over the Cockroaches. Remember to tell us both about how our eyes are painted on!

What caught your eye this weekend, Roarers?

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