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THE WEEKLY: The rarity and portentousness of a comet passing
Dolphins lose, Titans lose, Broncos win, Cowboys win, Cutters win and Maroons win TWICE
Over in New Zealand, the Dolphins who play one (1) good half made a reappearance. Redcliffe, to their credit, managed to keep the half time score to just 6-4 in the home team’s favour but let that blow out to 30-8 by full time. Anthony Milford used his trademark nous to get himself binned, providing the Warriors with the opportunity to put two tries on the board. New Zealand didn’t look back from there. The Red Fish can toss this game into the same bin as their performance against the Dragons in Wollongong, their loss to the Rabbitohs at Suncorp and probably next week’s game against Manly in Sydney.
While the Gold Coast’s loss to South Sydney didn’t quite have the characteristic cataclysmic collapse that we’ve come to associate with the Holbrook Titans, it did have a lot of the hallmarks of a team that just cannot get it together in the third quarter of the game.
While the headlines and highlights tend to reolve around the Ponies’ offensive capabilities, the Broncos crushing of the Sharks was a perfect demonstration of their defensive credentials. Cronulla came in as the “top” attacking team in the league with the reigning Dally M medallist at halfback1, against a Brisbane side whose best players were backing up from Origin three days earlier. Other than a try in garbage time that was allowed because The Bunker wanted to get home before the traffic and not review the potential knock-on, the Broncos conceded a grand total of six points. Brisbane put in an efficient and workman-like performance that will get a lot of talking heads hot under the collar about their premiership aspirations.
While I wish that the Storm took their North Queensland opponents as seriously as they do their metropolitan Brisbane counterparts, I did find myself cheering the Cowboys on to 50 late in the game. There was no particular malice towards Melbourne but watching the Storm cop that kind of hit has the rarity - and portentousness - of a comet passing.
Jonny over at Storm Machine will no doubt have the stats to hand for the exact frequency of this astronomical event to save me looking up the same.
Chad Townsend applied his typically savvy reading of both my vibe and that of the stadium and put over a disrespectful field goal instead of ringing up the half century. We’ll need to see a few more games of that before we firmly declare the Cowboys to be Back but it seems the Maroon bovines have improved the quality of the team mightily, simply by hanging around better players than their Blue teammates.
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Moment of the Weekend
The Cutters of Mackay make the ball sing with a series of perfect passes to go from sideline to sideline and run around the Falcons of the Sunshine Coast. Joshua Smith just happens to be the right place at the right time, as Luke Polselli can only put up the most rudimentary defensive effort. Mackay wins their first game of the year, down 10-0 at half time and finishing with this try, 16-10.
Dyad of Blue defeats
Queensland were fined $30,000 for having 14 players on the field for approximately 30 seconds. Sure but when do we get to levy our financial penalties against the NRL for their referees not being able to follow standard operating procedure?
Anyway, apparently Nathan Cleary is in doubt for game 2. I was already very confident that the Blues were going to win by 20 but without Cleary, it might be 30 or more.
With men’s game the day before, coverage of the women’s game seemed to get smothered. Even on the day of, the focus was on analysing the night before instead of preparing for the second bout between the states. I think there’s some scheduling fine-tuning to be done.
Having no club games in between means that it’s going to be difficult to retool the teams. As we saw in the 2020 men’s series, Origin benefits from having a couple of weeks between games, as the losing side works out what to do to come back in the next one and players can find themselves as Origin contenders with the right bout of form. Who’s going to play themselves into form here?
PNG is definitely* going to be the 18th team
We got two articles out of Pete Badel on the weekend. Both read exactly like perfect press releases, rather than news journalism, which I guess is a pretty impressive rate of producing marketing copy for the chairman of the ARLC. If only that was Badel’s job.
Putting aside the inanity of Australia Week headlining the NRL’s trip to Vegas2, Badel spun a half dozen actual quotes from Peter V’Landys into a breathless article about how PNG is on the precipice of becoming the NRL’s 18th team.
If you look past what Badel wrote to what was actually said, almost nothing new has come to light. The only item of interest is that the new team might come in for 2026, “if time permits” because the ARLC is about to go into “Turbo Charge mode”3.
We’d already surmised that there’d been discussion with the Australian government - the PNG government does not appear to have been consulted because why would they be? - and that PNG is the preferred candidate - “Papua New Guinea is certainly high on the cards for NRL expansion” - and the powers-that-be are more than willing to compromise the vision of a PNG team by painting it in Pasifika - “there won’t be separate bids” - or bringing in the Bears - “we have to investigate whether a PNG team could be part of a joint venture with other entities like North Sydney Bears” - or locating it in Perth - “you would give it to Perth, because they have been so determined to get a side in the NRL”, if any of that helps4.
There’s a bunch of fluff about the Power of Sport™ to help people in these countries. Having a NRL team will apparently “make PNG a safer place”, a thing that was printed verbatim without challenge. There’s nothing about how the carbon emissions from flying this new team around will increase sea levels for the people of the Pacific, inundating their lands and forcing them to become climate refugees, a class of people Australia has famously treated well throughout history, or how having a NRL team can address that.
As I’ve said before, the ARLC still isn’t sure what they want to get out of this 18th team nor what they can get out of this team. There are plenty of commercial hurdles for a PNG-Pasifika team to clear5, although if the ARLC decides that’s what want to do, they may well just bulldoze their way through those hurdles and leave the mess for someone else to sort out.
The Cowboys have finalised their NRLW roster. The Titans finalised theirs some time ago. The Broncos appear to have one slot left in the top 24. Each squad has some star signings to recommend it, as is true for most of the league, but the trick will be how teams come together. It won’t be enough for teams to simply put good players on the pitch, the coach and club culture are going to have as much impact as ever. Naturally, I think this means that the Broncos will be good, the Titans bad and the Cowboys somewhere in between but we won’t have a good idea until we’re a few weeks into the comp.
With the Cutters’ win, the Ipswich Jets remain the only winless team in the Queensland Cup. Their 12 point loss to the Pride is the closest the Planes have gotten to winning a game this year (equal with their 12 point loss to the Hunters in round 8).
In the rare occassions I tune into a Blackhawks game, they seem to be scoring a pretty cool try on the way to a big loss. This weekend was no exception. Thomas Duffy scored off a chip and chase to put the Choppers up 12-6 after 36’. They lost 38-12.
The Townsville Blackhawks are 3-7, only two wins clear of the Mackay Cutters and FOUR behind the Northern Pride. This somewhat embarrassing for the Cowboys’ flagship program.
Completely not rugby league but Texas high school competitive BBQ.
Shaniah Power, we salute you.
Burleigh went down to Souths Logan, who have now established their premiership credentials, while Tweed lost to PNG in Port Moresby. The Capras missed a conversion on the siren that would have drawn their match against the Tigers. The Falcons went down, somewhat embarrassingly, to the Cutters. Redcliffe were not troubled by Western, Wynnum Manly destroyed Townsville and Northern held on in the rain against Ipswich. The Devils had the bye.
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The last time the Sharks went through a season without beating any of the top eight teams, finishing a perfectly respectable 12-12 with even points difference, they fired the coach.
“The NRL will host ‘Australia Week’ - a week-long festival in which rugby league takes over Las Vegas.” If you pay attention to the weasel words, this may or may not include U2, Hugh Jackman (who I am still waiting to actually confirm any sort of interest in doing anything with the NRL on the record), boxing and/or UFC, “a dedicated entertainment precinct will showcase Australian bands, artists and performers” and “the nation‘s best chefs will be hired for an Australian food-and-wine spectacular”. All of it sounds suspiciously expensive for Peter V’landys, especially for an event that will pull 15-20,000 people. On the scale of Vegas conventions that can pull in six figure crowds, I don’t know if any of this will be enough to actually attract any attention through the clouds of weed smoke and the piles of cards for escorts, let alone “take over” Las Vegas.
Still not as funny as worrying about international cocaine smugglers owning the Titans but not bad.
It does not.
Badel claiming that the Australian government is going to put up $20-25 million per year is about as reliable as any quantitative claim he’s ever made. Presuming it hasn’t been made up whole cloth or just repeating an off-hand comment from an anonymous someone, it may be accurate to the order of magnitude. Let’s hope the broadcasters finally do us a favour and knock this on the head or at least shape it up to make some sort of sense.