First tackle: Broncos lack leadership
The Broncos have been playing some terrible football since the post-coronavirus resumption and as expected we're hearing the usual talk around sacking the coach, Anthony Seibold. If the players aren't responding to whatever Seibold is selling, is the solution to sack the coach or call for these professional footballers to front up and take some responsibility for their performances?
Whether you think Seibold is a good coach or not, he can only do so much from the coaches' box. It's leadership on the field where the Broncos are falling over and you only have to go through the roster to see why. Alex Glenn is the club captain, a forward who leads by example, but not one you picture tearing strips off his teammates after they let in another try. He is surrounded by young, inexperienced forwards, Payne Haas, Tevita Pangai Junior and Joe Ofahengaue. There is Matt Lodge up front doing his best to contribute, again a leader by his on field efforts. At hooker you now have the recently acquired journeyman Issac Luke, who is loving life, laughing it up and can hardly be expected to bleed for a jersey he only just pulled on.
In the backs the on field leadership really goes out the window. Darius Boyd is the most senior player, in the last year of his career and clearly ticking the days off on his wall calendar. Boyd was so dedicated to the Broncos cause that he said he'd rather retire early than move to NSW when the idea of single-state coronavirus bubble was suggested early on. He sees the young age of the team as being a contributing factor.
"It is a confidence thing and it is a young group and sometimes you need things to go your way early and get an early try and your confidence grows from that," Boyd said after losing to the Titans.
"Winning is contagious and I think losing is contagious as well. When you are going well you find a way to win and sometimes in a streak like ours you find a way to lose games."
In the halves the Broncos have Anthony Milford, who is being paid enough to be a leader, but is currently running around too concerned with his own patchy form. Then there is halfback Brodie Croft in his first year at the club, hailed as a potential saviour, but his slow start hasn't helped the situation either.
There is clearly enough talent out there to win football games. It only takes the slightest drop in effort for an NRL team to lose to any other team in the competition. The Broncos players have to take responsibility for that drop in effort.
Second tackle: Amazing Manu
Roosters centre Joseph Manu had an ordinary game by his standards last week against the Eels, with veteran centre Michael Jennings clearly outpointing him on the night. With James Tedesco dropping out of the Roosters team to take on the Dragons, Manu was moved to fullback and it proved to be a masterstroke. Manu had a great game, highlighted by one freakish piece of play in particular.
Twenty minutes into the game, he ran the ball at the line from 25 metres out, and put up a high kick which came down near the 10 metre line. He outleapt Dragons fullback Matt Dufty, landed with the ball, spun, took a step or two before flicking a blind pass towards Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. The big prop stuck out his arm, pulled the ball in and scored the Roosters second try of the night.
Third tackle: Another classic lives up to hype
Saturday night's clash between the Eels and Raiders was billed as the match of the round following last week's match of the season between the Roosters and Eels and sure did deliver. The Eels took an early lead and then the Raiders fired up and skipped ahead. The Eels lost Mitchell Moses to injury and it looked like the two points were heading to Canberra.
But Eels captain Clint Gutherson was having none of that and took it upon himself to turn the tide. He lifted the Eels to a 12-point lead with under ten minutes remaining before the Raiders pulled an English rabbit out of the hat.
George Williams set up the first try to Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad with a clever chip kick in the 75th minute. From the restart Elliott Whitehead cut through the Eels defence with a show and go before sending Nicoll-Klokstad over again. Croker's conversion levelled the scores with 90 seconds remaining.
Into the second half of golden point extra time Gutherson again took it upon himself to bring the Eels home. Having never kicked a field goal before in his NRL career, he calmly slotted the decider between the posts. What an incredible finals series we have ahead of us if the Eels' last two games are any indication.
Fourth tackle: Hasler plan needs brilliance to work
The Sea Eagles looked ordinary at times against the Sharks and the loss of Tom Trbojevic and Dylan Walker looks likely to derail what was a very promising season.
When you look at a Des Hasler game plan, there really isn't a lot on offer in attack. He was heavily criticised for it towards the end of his tenure at the Bulldogs and not much has changed at the Sea Eagles.
In the opposition 20 metre zone he runs standard block plays, with passes looping around the back searching for a defensive error and subsequent overlap. It often works when you have the pace and the guile of Trbojevic and Walker involved. Exchange those two for Brendan Elliott and Lachlan Croker and it looks all too pedestrian and predictable.
They did score two tries from it against the Sharks, but against the better defences they will struggle.
Fifth and last: ACL misery for Chooks
The Roosters had some terrible luck on Friday night, with two ruptured ACLs in the space of just 14 minutes.
Star lock forward Victor Radley, chasing a kick early in the first half, fell to the ground clutching at his knee. It was the kind of no contact collapse that usually spells the worse when it comes to knee injuries. Radley was able to hobble off under his own steam, but news soon from the sheds confirmed it was his ACL.
Fourteen minutes later Sam Verrills took off towards the Dragons defence, stepped off his right foot and hit the deck clutching at his right knee as well. He had to be carried off the field to receive the same diagnosis. It has been confirmed that the season is over for both players.
There were no signs of the turf giving way under the feet of the injured players, and the Bankwest Stadium surface was inspected after the game and given the all clear. It is natural to want to blame something when two players suffer such debilitating leg injuries within such a short period of time, but sometimes it is nothing more than a very unfortunate coincidence.
Handover: Flying wingers continue to defy gravity
We've seen some great finishes from wingers in recent times. The rule change a few years back to take the corner post out of the equation has seen some incredible sideline acrobatics.
Five minutes into the second half against the Bulldogs young Tigers winger Tommy Talau, son of former Bulldogs star Willie, headed for the corner with two defenders closing quickly. Watching live there seemed very little chance that he had grounded the ball in the corner before being bundled into touch. The slow motion replays showed clearly that he had somehow snuck the ball onto the chalk.
Earlier we saw Sharks low flying specialist Sione Katoa score another amazing aerial try. Katoa seems to make a habit of it. The best wingers in the game have an uncanny knack of being able to ground the ball one-handed even while their entire body is headed for the third row of cardboard cutout fans.