This week we take a look at the role of the enforcer, settle an argument over who should use the new Allianz Stadium, and wish Joseph Suaalii all the best, no matter where his career might take him.
Read on as we tackle some of the big talking points in the latest edition of NRL Real or Not.
It's a very fine line between enforcer and thug
REAL: The enforcer; every club wants one, successful clubs need at least one, opposition fans hate them, and referees constantly battle to keep their behaviour within the laws of the game. Storm enforcer Nelson Asofa-Solomona has certainly been in the headlines of late, as he continues to push the boundary between what is considered good, hard rugby league, and that which is nothing more than wretched thuggery.
Asofa-Solomona has developed a tackling technique by which he lands his considerable body weight on a prone player, leading mostly with his forearm. The point of contact ranges from the chest to the face. It is ugly, unnecessary and not as intimidating as he might hope. Despite being placed on report five times for this and other offences, Asofa-Solomona is yet to be suspended this season.
Last week he ran head-first into Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, the Roosters enforcer. It was a monumental confrontation, which stood out even in a game packed with intensity. Thursday night he ran out to take on Junior Paulo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and the rest of the Eels pack, knowing very well that the NRL was watching him, but with the full support of his coach Craig Bellamy.
"He hasn't been suspended, he's been fined and there's a lot of other guys fined," Bellamy said.
"The committee who put the charges out, they haven't seen it as that severe that they've given him weeks.
"At the end of the day we want Nelson to play his footy, how he plays when he plays well, and that's what we need him to continue with."
The value of his enforcing was negated early in the game against the Eels, when he fell off a tackle on Dylan Brown, who rose to his feet to score the only try of the first half.
The Parramatta crowd was all over him, booing each time he was involved in play. He was put on report for a late shot on Mitchell Moses, which Bellamy couldn't quite understand.
"His arms were around his waist, so look I'm not sure if it was placed on report because of his reputation, I suppose might be the word to use I'm not quite sure.
"There was certainly nothing around his head, so it could have been a little bit late, but I don't think there was too much more to it."
Bellamy was not happy with what he considered to be a witch hunt, unfairly targeting his enforcer.
"There are a lot of other incidents that are as bad as Nelson's, but we decided to pick on Nelson this week, so he was the punching bag," Bellamy said.
"If they want to change the rules because of that, well at the end of the day that is their decision."
Clearly, being put on report is not something that will concern Asofa-Solomona. And he will continue to play in the same aggressive manner, until he pushes that boundary too far and the NRL finally acts.
Rugby league at Allianz is for Roosters only
NOT REAL: The New South Wales Government spent around $800 million knocking down and rebuilding Allianz Stadium, mainly because the old venue wasn't functional or safe. Catering facilities, toilets and escape routes were all below the expected standards. The old stadium had served three codes well over the years, and the new one is set to provide well into the future. Now we have a developing cat-fight over who can and can't play there, with the Roosters somehow claiming a right to NRL exclusivity.
The Roosters and Waratahs will share Allianz during the winter, with the occasional rugby Test and concert thrown in along the way. But the Roosters and Waratahs have hardly been packing out grounds of late, unless you consider a full Leichhardt Oval an achievement, so both will be keen for the boost the novelty factor will bring, at least initially. Over the summer, Sydney FC will play their home games there, also hoping for much-improved crowds, as nothing highlights a team or code's decline like an empty new stadium.
If the Rabbitohs can get out of their Homebush commitment, and there are no clashes with other teams, or an overuse of the playing surface, I see no reason why the Bunnies can't play home games at Allianz. It is a new stadium built for everyone, not just the latte sippers from Bondi.
The NRL should do everything in its power to keep Suaalii in the game
NOT REAL: There was plenty of talk during the week concerning Rugby Australia's prospective raid on NRL talent ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Target No. 1 is apparently Joseph Suaalii. The Roosters youngster has been showcasing his undoubted talent on the wing this year, and each week he adds an incredible spark to that already heavily talented backline. He has a background in rugby union and would make the transition presumably with little trouble.
Suaalii has a big decision ahead of him, one that anyone who has dreamed of playing football at the highest levels would envy. Does he leave the NRL to pull on a Wallabies jersey, representing his country on a world stage that rugby league simply cannot match? Does he stay and chase premiership glory with the Roosters and the seemingly inevitable State of Origin and Kangaroos jerseys down the track?
Whichever way he goes, he will be well rewarded, and the chosen code will no doubt benefit greatly from his talent. But let's be clear: He is not irreplaceable. He will not be a ground breaker, he's not the last stone in a crumbling dam wall of player retention that is set to burst with his departure. He won't be the first, nor the last.
There are plenty of talented young players coming through the junior rugby league ranks; you only have to look at the Panthers and the depth of talent that one club possesses to realise this. Players in the past have been tempted by big contracts to try their hand at rugby union -- even AFL -- but rugby league continues to produce an entertaining product without them.
If past examples are any indicator, he will likely end up back in the NRL one day with even more skills to showcase and a lifetime of incredible stories to tell.
I say, good luck to him.