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NRL Round 14 talking points: Back to business

Another justified send-off, the Eels ruin their top-four hopes, the ladder shapes up a little more, and yet another player brutally attacks poor Felise Kaufusi’s elbow. Here are your NRL talking points for Round 14.

Business as usual after Origin

On the whole, teams with rep players returning kept on doing what they’d been doing by crushing opponents with ease.

Penrith waltzed past Newcastle with their eyes closed, Melbourne and the Roosters fought out a tough one and North Queensland were great in a convincing won over St George Illawarra.

Wests Tigers’ centre Brent Naden was sent off for a shocker of a tackle on Manly’s Jake Trbojevic, with no argument anywhere about the decision to send him off. Naden has a four-week suspension coming, which seems a tad on the skinny side, but apparently the NRL judiciary now hates suspending players.

Parramatta fans are not amused

What a performance by Canterbury, who paid their respects to Australia’s head of state by scorching the Eels 34-4 on the back of State of Origin discard Josh Addo-Carr and his new partner in crime, Matt Burton.

Let’s not forget a great piece of work off an intercept by Jake Averillo and more impressive play by winger/centre/try-scorer Jacob Kiraz, so many were the highlights for long-suffering Bulldogs fans.

To the angst of Parra fans, their team lived up to the stereotype they can deal with the good teams – they’re the only team to beat Penrith and Melbourne this year – but then fall apart in games they’re expected to win.

They’ve had some dicey wins against lower sides but this loss is a massive problem. They now sit sixth, cop a -30 ding in their for-and-against, and are now a genuine shot to miss the finals unless they can shape up.

Kaufusi’s elbow claims another victim

Last year Melbourne’s Felise Kaufusi knocked out Parramatta second rower Ryan Matterson and copped just a two-week suspension. Matterson was out for almost two months as he struggled to recover from the concussion he received.

On Saturday evening, Kaufusi’s elbow again found its way to the head of an opponent, this time Roosters five-eighth Sam Walker. Walker was forced off the field for a head injury assessment, which he passed.

While he wasn’t penalised at the time, Kaufusi was charged with a Grade One dangerous contact offence and to the surprise of some, pleaded not guilty and will seek to remove the charge and the accompanying $1800 fine at the judiciary on Tuesday.

Did he do it deliberately? You be the judge.

But Greg Alexander and Andrew Voss, working the Fox League broadcast, were pretty frank in their assessment.

Alexander: “He does have history. Do you think he moved that elbow? Okay, I’ll say it, I think he meant what we saw. He knew exactly what he was doing.”

Voss: “He knew what he was doing. He knew where his forearm was in relation to the defender. That’s one again for post-match review.”

This also brings into sharp relief the short notice, short-sighted changes made to the NRL’s judiciary on the eve of the season.

Already we’ve seen Kaufusi’s teammate Nelson Asofa-Solomona escape with a fine for a high, late swinging arm to the head of an opponent, now Kaufusi gets a feather slap for a pretty damn dirty act that sends the opponent from the field for concussion check. This is no good at all.

Ashley Klein and Felise Kaufusi

This isn’t Kaufusi’s first rodeo (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Broncos won the battle, but what about the war?

Brisbane’s 24-18 holdout against Canberra was a magnificent victory, made so meritorious by their ability to fight through the losses of Payne Haas, Herbie Farnworth and Adam Reynolds. Pat Carrigan backed up from his monster Origin performance on Wednesday and was again immense, with Tom Flegler and Teui Robati playing big roles.

Kevin Walters would be ecstatic with Ezra Mam, who was only playing his third NRL game but has been fantastic so far.

Brisbane had been quietly consolidating themselves in that 4-7 range on the standings and their next three are Melbourne (away), the Cowboys in Townsville then the Dragons, a far from easy run but with a week off for Origin 2 before the North Queensland game.

All eyes will be on how quickly their injured trio of stars can return and how Carrigan, Cobbo and Capewell can cope through Origin too.

Quick hits

– With Nathan Brown sacked as coach, media and pundits have returned to blaming Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson for the team’s poor efforts.

– Manly’s barnstorming 23-year-old back rower Haumole Olakau’atu was great against the Tigers before committing himself to Tonga ahead of New South Wales for the Origin/international weekend – good for him.

– Why is the Fox League channel showing greyhound racing?

– Interesting comments by Knights coach Adam O’Brien after his mob got towelled up by Penrith: “It is not a quick fix – there’s some stuff here that’s been ingrained for, I wouldn’t say years, I’d say closer to two decades, that we need to get on top of and they’re not quick fixes.”

– Looks like Parramatta are going to sign multiple-club discard prop Matthew Lodge on the cheap for the rest of the season.

– Xavier Savage is growing into the fullback role for Canberra, but his errors are far too numerous. If he gets those straight, he could be anything.

– Nice day at the office for Sharks winger Sione Katoa, with three tries and seven busted tackles.

– More concussion concerns for Roosters’ halfback Luke Keary, which could mean serious thought about how he goes forward in rugby league.

– Make the time to read up on Melbourne’s Grant Anderson, who scored a double on debut. It’s a fantastic story.

To the next

More fun next week with some good match-ups according to ladder position.

The Dragons host Souths on Thursday, with the Bunnies a chance to stretch a long gap to the finals for Anthony Griffin’s mob.

Manly get a chance to shed their flat-track bullies reputation when they shape up to North Queensland at Brookvale. Parra-Roosters will be a beaut with a lot on the line.

Melbourne host the shorthanded Brisbane, Cronulla have a home game in Coffs Harbour against the Titans, and Penrith head to Redcliffe for the Warriors.

Canberra have a chance to improve on their horrendous recent form against Newcastle (2-7 since 2017), and the round finishes with a modern day classic as Wests Tigers welcome Canterbury.

What did you think of the weekend’s NRL, Roarers?

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