This week we take a look at all the fuss being made about Jack Wighton's move to South Sydney, the crazy NRL ladder after eight rounds and whether there is a glimmer of hope for the long-suffering Wests Tigers fans..
Read on as we tackle some of the big talking points in this week's NRL Real or Not.
Jack should play where Jack wants to play
REAL: There has been a lot of wailing and moaning about Jack Wighton's decision to leave money on the table in signing with the South Sydney Rabbitohs. There have been suggestions that Wighton is making the career move in the hopes of winning an elusive premiership and to play with his good mate Latrell Mitchell. He reportedly turned down a much more lucrative offer from the Raiders and coach Ricky Stuart is understandably disappointed.
Of course the move strengthens one club at the expense of another, but we are not talking about the Panthers, Roosters or Storm here. While the Rabbitohs have been very competitive of late, they still only have the one premiership to show for it in past 52 years. If Wighton is the final piece of the premiership puzzle for the club, why shouldn't they grab him? If Wighton sees no hope of a premiership in Canberra, why shouldn't he move?
How much money Wighton feels comfortable earning is for him alone to decide. The NRL has a system in place to ensure that players are not undervalued when assessing a club's salary cap compliance. If the NRL examines Wighton's contract and is also happy, than all the moaning in the world is meaningless.
Stuart and the Raiders should look back on the missed opportunities they had while Wighton was wearing the lime green jersey, and hopefully learn some lessons. They need to start planning for life after Wighton and concentrate on building themselves into a premiership threat without him.
The NRL ladder is starting to take shape
NOT REAL: The Brisbane Broncos sit atop the NRL ladder after eight rounds, having won seven games, losing just the one and still having the bye up their sleeves. Clearly they are the form team and have proven their credentials with victories over the Panthers, Cowboys and Eels. Still the Broncos are fourth in TAB betting at $7 to win the title, it seems the punters know that you don't win anything by leading in April.
In second place are the Sea Eagles who have only won four out of their first seven games, received a point for a draw and have already picked up their two points for the bye. Below them there are seven, count them, seven teams on 10 points. Starting with the Panthers in third place and finishing with the Roosters outside the eight. Of the seven, the Rabbitohs, Storm, Warriors and Dolphins are all awaiting their two points for the bye.
The Titans and Raiders are next on eight points, the Knights on seven, then the Eels, Dragons, Cowboys and Bulldogs on six points. The Knights, Eels, Cowboys and Bulldogs are all awaiting their two points for the bye. Give or take their for-and-against records, it means these "strugglers" are only a win and a bye away from the Top 4!
I can't remember a more volatile ladder eight rounds into a season. It certainly gives weight to claims that this is the most evenly contested season in a long time.
Where there is life there is hope for the Tigers
REAL: Wests Tigers put in a much-improved performance against the Sea Eagles last week, leading with nine minutes remaining, before letting in a late try to fall once again. New fullback Jahream Bula had a mixed game, but showed some spark with the ball, something that has been very much missing from the Tigers' backs. Despite the loss, the Tigers should have taken a lot of confidence from that performance, knowing that they can compete with the serious contenders.
What a shame then that they face the Panthers this week in Bathurst. A Panthers side which was beaten last start by the Rabbitohs no less, a Panthers side noted for its ruthlessness against weaker sides. It could be a very ugly night in Bathurst for the Tigers.
They then face the Dragons, Rabbitohs and Cowboys before enjoying their second bye. Regardless of what happens against the Panthers, the Tigers have to take some positives into their clash with the Dragons, as it looms as their best chance of a maiden 2023 victory. They need to find belief in their systems, belief in their teammates and the heart to give their all each week. Most of all, they need to shut out the external noise of countless doomsayers taking cheap shots at them every week.