Each week ESPN's resident NRL experts will take a look at the burning issues in rugby league and try to come up with the answers. Their opinions might not match yours, but they should certainly spark further debate on the latest conundrums facing the game we all love.
Have Cronulla pulled the trigger too early on replacing coach John Morris?
Lucie: John Morris has been hard done by. He deserved the chance to continue at the Cronulla Sharks until the end of the season based on what he's been able to achieve under the circumstances, having led the club to consecutive finals despite inheriting a salary cap mess. Imagine what Morris could have done with the right roster and the ability to bring in new blood. There would have been the chance to improve it with 14 players due to come off contract at the end of the season. Without Morris the risk is Cronulla could drift through the remainder of the year, with 19 rounds left to play before finals. But arguably the club had little choice other than to show Morris the door once signing Craig Fitzgibbon for 2022 and beyond, with each round presenting a new opportunity to draw the saga out. Nothing is wrong with the Sharks looking beyond Morris to find the right coach they believe will take the club to another title. But their treatment of him has been callous.
Darren: It has been said many times before that professional sports teams are results-driven businesses. The running of a rugby league club is a complex tangle of player contracts, salary caps, talent identification, retention and a coaching staff capable of putting it all together on the field. For whatever reason the board at Cronulla didn't see premiership success coming with John Morris as head coach, despite him taking the team to the finals in his first two years. They have identified Craig Fitzgibbon as the coach most likely to add to their sole premiership trophy. Whether they are right or not is yet to be determined, but it is their decision to make, knowing that players, fans and more importantly sponsors, hunger for premiership glory. Having said all that, the Sharks could not have handled the whole process in a more heartless, clumsy and unprofessional way if that had been their whole intention. Morris should have been advised directly that the club was signing Fitzgibbon and that he had this last year to achieve as much as he could with the team. As it stands, with the future of half the squad also in doubt, it's hard to imagine the Sharks being much of a force this season.
NRL boss Andrew Abdo has ruled out a change in State of Origin eligibility rules, is this the right call?
Lucie: Absolutely, what makes State of Origin special is its restrictions and changing those would create a different dynamic. As former Queensland coach Wayne Bennett said a fortnight ago; "Origin works because it's genuine, it's not something we've manufactured, played with and changed. It's state versus state, mate versus mate. The rules are the rules." There's other formats like All Stars and international matches for Jason Taumalolo to shine, contests that will only grow in popularity as rugby league's demographic evolves. Anyway, the current rules already come under contention when the lines of state eligibly crossover for the likes of Greg Inglis. Cue, That's in Queensland.
Darren: Yes, State of Origin doesn't need International superstars lining up for the state of their choosing. The mythical power of the Origin series is built on the passion that pulling on their state jersey evokes in players. You only have to look at last year's series where a decimated Queensland squad was completely written off, only to raise that Queenslander spirit and upset the cocky Blues. Jason Taumalolo is a superstar, well paid and widely admired whether he's playing for the Cowboys or Tonga. His desire to play Origin is understandable, but would only open the floodgates and damage the entire concept. If anything, the current eligibility rules need to be tightened and more precisely defined.
What can Tigers coach Michael Maguire do to pull the Tigers out of their ongoing slump?
Lucie: Madge needs to find the right approach to igniting the Wests Tigers' flame because after two seasons at the helm, there's no signs of improvement in the third. How, in front of a sold-out Leichhardt Oval on what was meant to be a tribute to Tommy Raudonikis, could the team play such uninspired football? Perhaps the chorus of taunts at half-time will be the wakeup call Maguire's side needs to bounce back, because surely it's only going to get better from here. In the short-term, the Tigers need to address their defensive issues again and step up to support under-fire Luke Brooks in the middle. Although the club has struggled to get the best of the No.7 for almost a decade, he should not be the fall guy. It's the team's responsibility and attitude. Brooks has talent and ability, but the team is far from his. Perhaps the long-term answer lies across the field in Saturday's clash with the South Sydney Rabbitohs: Adam Reynolds. The club needs to lure a high-profile player to the team to build around, what's missing in Tigerland is that star factor. A player swap between Brooks and Reynolds could be beneficial for both clubs, in turn giving the former a much-needed new identity.
Darren: Whilst I'm not completely sure what the answer is for Michael Maguire and the Wests Tigers, I can tell you James Roberts and James Tamou were not the solution for this year. Maguire inherited a lot of the club's dead weight and is in the process of clearing it out, but he has to be careful when bringing in the cast offs of other clubs as short-term fixes. He needs to find more hidden gems like Daine Laurie, but of course the reason gems are so valuable is because they are so scarce. The Tigers have a combined junior development area the envy of most clubs and yet have very few local juniors in their senior ranks. That has to change, and Maguire has to be the driving force, demanding better from the whole club. Short term he needs his forwards to play low mistake, high aggression football. He should grab a couple of tapes of what Anthony Griffin has the Dragons forwards doing, and start from there.