Almanac Rugby League – NRL Finals Week 1 and NRLW Round 1 Review

I’d like to start by telling you that my middle name is Jeffrey, not ‘Kiss of Death’. Two out of six tips isn’t a good look. In my defence, I’ll argue that there were at least two upsets I didn’t see coming. Here’s how it all went.


In the NRL Finals Week 1, we started with the Roosters giving the Rabbitohs a good going over on Friday night. As I expected, Souths played themselves to a standstill the previous week and just couldn’t get up again this time around. The boys from Bondi were too big, strong and fast from the word go and ran away to win by 30-6. Luke Keary, playing behind a dominant forward pack, had time and space to provide early, quality ball to his outside backs. Joey Manu, Brett Morris and James Tedesco all played well but it’s fair to say that there wasn’t a passenger for the Roosters. For Souths, Damien Cook was his whole-hearted self while Adam Reynolds did well behind a beaten pack. Bench players Tevita Tatola and Ethan Lowe put in good efforts but it was too little too late for the Bunnies. The Roosters get a week off while the Rabbitohs front Manly Sea Eagles in a Preliminary Final next weekend.


In a significant upset, Canberra Raiders beat Melbourne Storm in Melbourne for the second time in a month – no mean achievement. The Raiders started well and dominated much of the first half without getting too far ahead on the scoreboard. Storm came back early in the second half and looked to be too strong. But, again, they didn’t put too many points on the board. Canberra weathered numerous attacks and, when the unexpected opportunity came, pounced on a Melbourne error to score a late converted try to snatch the game by 12-10. Full credit to them for hanging in, surviving the onslaught and capitalising on a rare chance when it came. Best for Canberra were Papalii, Bateman, Hodgson and Sezer but the whole defensive unit also deserves praise. Melbourne will be very disappointed that they turned down an easy second half penalty kick to go six points up. Their best were Papenhuyzen, Munster, Olam and Smith. So Canberra gets a week off while Melbourne will host Parramatta Eels in a Semi Final next weekend.


Manly Sea Eagles pulled off the second upset of the weekend when their cobbled together team raced out of the blocks to dominate and eventually overcome the Cronulla Sharks by 28-16. Playing in front of their adoring Brookie home crowd, the Sea Eagles were far too focussed and energetic for their more fancied rivals. Cherry-Evans and Walker built on their forwards’ drive with good running, passing and kicking. Up front, Addin Fonua-Blake barrelled his way forward all night. Lloyd Perrett made a rare appearance, his bulk reminding me of another Manly favourite of recent times in George ‘Huggy Bear’ Rose. Lloyd did his fair share of hard work as part of a very committed outfit. I’ve said it before, but Des Hasler is some coach! How he got this ragtag mob up I don’t know, but he did. On paper, the Sharks are a very good team but they lacked cohesion for most of the night. Shaun Johnson kicked poorly early on to relieve any pressure on Manly although he did play better in the second half. Wade Graham was one of the better Sharks, Josh Morris gave his all and Aaron Woods had his moments off the bench. So it’s farewell to the long-serving, tough-as-teak Paul Gallen after almost 350 NRL matches.


On Sunday afternoon, Parramatta annihilated the Brisbane Broncos by a massive 58-0, the biggest winning margin ever in an NRL final. One team came to play while, seemingly, the other team rolled up to watch them. Brisbane only scored zero because they were given that to start. It was a disgraceful performance by Brisbane and must surely have consequences for the playing roster and, possibly, the coaching staff. Kotoni Staggs and David Fifita tried hard. Parramatta put on a team effort for the ages. Mitchell Moses will get the plaudits but that diminishes the dominance of the forwards as well as the skill and pace of the backline. There wasn’t a weakness in their 17. I’ve mentioned Maika Sivo many times this year – today you saw why. What a unit! Well done, Parra, on a most entertaining performance!


So next weekend, Melbourne Storm host the Parramatta Eels while South Sydney Rabbitohs take on Manly Sea Eagles.


In the NRLW Round 1, it was clear that the level of performance has risen appreciably from last season. Players look stronger, fitter and more mobile. Kicks in general play were more penetrating and the level of physicality in the forwards was greater than previously. But these came at no cost to the excellent spirit and no nonsense approach we came to admire so much last year. This was particularly the case in the Sydney Roosters v NZ Warriors game on Saturday which was won by the Warriors by 16-12. After a good start, the Roosters were on the board first before the Warriors worked their way back into the game and became dominant. Georgia Hale led her Warriors team by example but their best player was halfback Charntay Poko, a strong, scheming player. Apii Nicholls and Atawhai Tupaea were also key contributors. For the Roosters, Kirra Dibb was a standout in all facets of the game, one try-saving tackle being the highlight. Others to perform strongly were Simaima Taufa-Kautai, Isabelle Kelly and Corban McGregor.


Defending premiers the Brisbane Broncos remain undefeated in the competition after grafting out a 14-4 win over the St George Illawarra Dragons. The Dragons went into the game as favourites on the basis of their strong off-season recruiting and got off to a fast start but, in the end, could not match the strength of the Broncos up front. The Dragons appeared the faster and potentially more expansive side but surrendered that advantage by strangely choosing to play up the middle where Brisbane were considerably stronger. As the game went on, the dominance of the Broncos forwards reaped rewards with Rona Peters, Amber Paris-Hall and Lavinia Gould making good yardage. Brisbane’s back three were very solid while Ali Briggenshaw played a restrained hand, choosing her moments well to inject herself into the game. The Dragons were best served by the scheming Kimiora Nati, Kezie Apps and Brittany Brearley.


If these games are an indication of what’s to come, we’re in for another good season of NRLW.





Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.


  1. Ian, I loved your “Brisbane only scored zero because they were given that to start” line.
    It will be interesting to see if Parramatta can makes amends for being thrashed 64-10 by the Storm earlier in this season.
    I think the Eels would’ve much preferred to face the Raiders next week.

  2. FP, I can’t claim that the line is mine. I first read it somewhere several years ago. But I do think that it encapsulates the rare occasion where a team’s performance is so poor, so inept, so absolutely cringeworthy that they don’t even deserve to be given zero to start with. Such was the case with the Broncos NRL team yesterday. They could have learned a lot by watching their Broncos female counterparts earlier in the afternoon – a whole-hearted, fully committed effort to give their all, as was the case with all four teams in the NRLW Round 1 games.

  3. Another ‘under the radar’ effort from Dessie. What an act! Manly might not go much further into September but it doesn’t matter – already been a successful ‘rebirth’ year. Sets the club up for the next ‘successful’ period.

  4. The thrashing is hardly likely to endear Anthony Seibold to the Broncos faithful, Ian, particularly after the messy coaching swap involving Wayne Bennett linking up with the Rabbitohs.

  5. Adam, Dessie sure is an ‘under’ man – ‘under the radar’ generally, and ‘under the skin’ of several other clubs (Melbourne Storm in particular). One thing is certain – never ‘underestimate’ him or any team he coaches.

    FP, it will be a real test of the character of the whole Broncos footy club to see how they handle and respond to the mess they find themselves in presently. This afternoon’s story of players at the pokies late on Saturday night will add to the misery. Does the club’s hierarchy have the spine off the field to make the hard decisions that the spine on the field has so spectacularly failed to execute?

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