First tackle: JT proves Brandy is right
When former halfback Greg Alexander criticised Johnathan Thurston's form ahead of the Cowboys home clash with the Bulldogs, not many people expected Thurston to come out and prove him right. Alexander said that Thurston looked like a player who had signed on for one season too many, that he had lost a yard of pace and that he was finding himself tackled a whole lot more than he used to.
Former Queensland teammate and New South Wales favourite Justin Hodges came to Thurston's defence, suggesting it was a risky undertaking to criticise a champion like JT. The rugby league world expected Thurston to play a blinder in thrashing the struggling Bulldogs in front of his adoring Townsville crowd. Instead he only added credibility to Alexander's comments.
Thurston's timing is out, he is missing the mark with passes, his kicking game lacks its usual accuracy and he is being hit by defenders a whole lot more. It would be crazy to suggest that he can't turn things around, but it seems we are seeing an incredible career head towards its inevitable end.
Second tackle: Chooks simply awful
I never thought the Roosters would win the 2018 premiership, but plenty of good judges did, once they had added Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco to their ranks. After what I saw from them on Thursday night, I am willing to say that they will definitely not be lifting the Cup this year.
Premierships are built on defence, on forward toughness, on presenting an impenetrable wall of pain in and around the ruck. The Roosters forwards presented a tissue paper banner through which Damien Cook and the lesser Burgess brothers ran all night. It doesn't matter how great your halfback is or how much money you spend on your backline, if your forwards are performing like that, you cannot win a premiership.
The Roosters' problems aren't confined to the forwards either. Out wide Blake Ferguson showed why he should definitely not be wearing a Blues jersey this year. During the Rabbitohs first half try, Ferguson was caught flat footed and ball watching as the backline play headed his way. It's a fault in his game that has raised its ugly head at club and representative level. It's not good enough for a first grade winger to be standing five metres out from his own line as his opposite winger crosses untouched. It's not as though he comes in to take the inside runner, he takes absolutely no one.
The Roosters are in real trouble, and the Rabbitohs have shown the rest of the competition the best way to beat them.
Third tackle: Fifita on fire
The unbeaten run of St George Illawarra Dragons looked under threat from a one-man wrecking machine in a Sharks jersey on Friday night, as Andrew Fifita turned on quite a show in the early exchanges.
The Sharks prop and Tongan international turned up to play and was at his destructive best, until he limped off before halftime. As distressing as it would have been for Dragons fans to see him tearing through their ranks, how frustrating would it have been for Sharks fans?
In that mood, he is close to the greatest front rower to ever play the game. He did the same thing for New South Wales in State of Origin I last year, almost single-handedly beating the mighty Maroons. The year before he turned it on to destroy the Storm in the grand final. Sharks fans just want to know where he disappears to during the countless other games each year.
Fourth tackle: Tipping madness continues
Footy tipping is a painful pursuit at the best of times, but when you have a season like this, and form lines are all over the place, it becomes almost unbearable. How can you reliably make a decision on how the Bulldogs or Broncos are going to perform from one week to the next?
There was no way any fair judge of rugby league could tip the Broncos to topple the unbeaten Warriors in Auckland or the Bulldogs to travel to Townsville to beat the Cowboys. What about the Sea Eagles? Only good at home, right? Well that was until the Tigers towelled them up at Brookvale.
The Roosters were just taking some time to fit Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco into the team. Once they clicked, like they did against the Sharks last week, they'd be on their way. This week they were set to continue that run against the Rabbitohs, until their forwards decided that tackling was not on the menu.
One thing is for certain, no matter how tempting the match-up might be, there'll be no tipping the Eels to break their duck. I have learnt a hard lesson there.
Fifth and last: Time to stop doubting the Tigers
Coach Ivan Cleary has something special going at Wests Tigers. Any coach that has taken the Warriors to a grand final during his career, must possess a set of skills that include incredible man management and motivational abilities.
When he took over at the Tigers last year he was confronted by a core of star players who threw down the contractual gauntlet, calling on the club to pay up or they'd find greener pastures. Cleary looked them square in the eye and wished them luck in their future endeavours.
He signed up some hard-headed, proven performers in Benji Marshall, Ben Matulino, Russell Packer, Chris McQueen and Joshua Reynolds. And around them he built a belief, a conviction that the Tigers' bus was going somewhere special and the young players only had to climb on board.
The Tigers sit in fourth position on the ladder, having lost only once in the opening six rounds. They play the Knights next week and should make it six wins for the season.
Handover: Top of the ladder clash loses something
It was meant to be the clash of the unbeaten, to determine which team truly deserved to sit atop the NRL ladder. Unfortunately the Warriors were upset by the Broncos on the weekend, lessening the promotional value of their Friday night game against the Dragons.
It still promises to be one of the matches of the season, with the Dragons humming along nicely and the Warriors looking to make a statement. Mt Smart Stadium will be packed again and the Dragons will have to be at their best to win.
There is a lot of early season confidence to be gained from this one, with the Dragons ever-wary of previous late season collapses. Let's hope we see a lot of open, fast-flowing rugby league mixed with the middle of the ruck brutality that the Warriors and fans love.