Nintendo News – NRL round 13: What we learned
The first bye round of the season gave only four games for us to feast our eyes on but that was more that did nothing to dilute the excitement.
Whether it was the Tigers handing a weakened Panthers side their first loss of the year, Matt Dufty’s heroics in the face of being told he’s not wanted by the Dragons next year or Parramatta’s return to form against Newcastle, there was plenty left to talk about heading into round 14.
Here are all the main talking points from the weekend’s action.
THE SWITCH THAT COULD ELEVATE UNWANTED DUFTY TO GAME’S BEST
Matt Dufty’s speed has always been his biggest strength but his ball-playing – as highlighted by the five try assists against Brisbane – has arguably become the most elite among the competition’s fullbacks.
Dufty’s seven total try involvements in the 52-24 rout of the Broncos was as big a statement you could make after being told you aren’t in your club’s future plans.
While the Dragons have been urged to rethink their decision in the wake of his efforts against Brisbane, the Broncos and Bulldogs have been raised as potential destinations for Dufty next year.
Kevin Walters was coy after the loss to the Dragons about the prospect of pursuing Dufty, however the club are clearly not settled on a fullback after trying to lure Nicho Hynes to the club before he eventually joined Cronulla this week.
The Bulldogs are desperately in need of an x-factor like Dufty at the back, but are tipped to give new signing Josh Addo-Carr first crack at fullback next year.
With no other obvious options for Dufty to be a first-choice fullback elsewhere, a switch into the halves significantly broadens his prospects.
The Dragons’ reservations around Dufty relate to his tendency to get caught out of position at the back in defence and his poor kick returns. But these become non-problems if you throw Dufty into the defensive line.
The way Dufty tore the Broncos to shreds with the ball combined with his running threat would make him a great five-eighth option for the likes of Brisbane, Canterbury, Newcastle or Cronulla.
BURTON GIVEN EARLY GLIMPSE OF LIFE AS A BULLDOG
Matt Burton was given perhaps the closest taste possible to what life at the Bulldogs might be like next year leading a weakened Panthers backline on Friday night.
The highly-rated young playmaker, who has been cast to the centres this year at Penrith, had a tough night playing his customary five-eighth role in the absence of Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai during Penrith’s 20-6 loss to the Wests Tigers.
While he tried hard and didn’t shy away from the extra responsibilities of leading a significantly undermanned Panthers side pulled apart by Origin representation, Burton struggled in the pressure cooker at Leichhardt Oval, with the Tigers putting plenty of heat on the young No. 6.
While he scored the Panthers only try with a trademark dart close to the line, Buton’s kicking game was off and his ballplaying appeared rusty, which is understandable given he’s been playing at centre all year and running onto passes rather than throwing them.
Burton is one of the game’s best up-and-coming players, but will find out just how good he is when he steps into a Bulldogs team next year that is incomparable in terms of quality to what he’s used to at Penrith. Friday presented the first sign that he might take time to adjust.
THE CRACKDOWN HAS BEEN WOUND BACK
Just a few days out from the State of Origin opener, it appears the NRL’s crackdown on high shots has been eased back.
Whether it’s due to a directive from those above or the officials are subconsciously becoming more lenient, but fans and pundits alike are noticing a difference.
Just three games into round 13, commentator Braith Anasta had seen enough to believe there’d been a change since the officious Magic Round.
Storm halfback Jahrome Hughes was collared by Joseph Vuna in Melbourne’s 20-14 win over the Titans on Saturday night, but no penalty was called.
“Here is the shot now I have got no doubt in my mind that this round they have relaxed the (rulings) on contact on the head and neck,” Anasta said.
“I have called two of the three games on Friday night footy and tonight.
“A couple of times in that set of six Hughes got hit around the head. It was soft and I like it.
“I like the way we have been going. Don’t get me wrong, I like the way we have been adjudicating so far this round, but they have taken a few steps back.
“I like it, especially before Origin.”
PARRAMATTA ARE A FAR BETTER SIDE WITH DYLAN BROWN ON THE FIELD
He hadn’t been setting the world on fire earlier in the season – but Dylan Brown’s return from suspension on Sunday highlights just how important he is to the Eels.
The 20-year-old had missed three games after an ugly incident involving Drew Hutchison, with rookie Jakob Arthur filling in at five-eighth and doing a solid job despite some tough games.
But against the Knights in round 13, Brown was back with a vengeance and was involved in everything, running for well over 200 metres and putting in a strong shift in defence as well.
Brown takes pressure off Mitchell Moses, and the pair have shown plenty of times that they are one of the better halves combinations in the competition.
While they aren’t on the level of Penrith or Melbourne just yet, the return of the Kiwi international is only going to help Parramatta come finals time.
Nintendo News – NRL round 13: What we learned
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