NRL Real or Not: The Rabbitohs made a big mistake

We were finally treated to Adam Reynolds leading the Broncos against the Rabbitohs, but, does the emphatic thumping mean that Souths made a terrible mistake? Are injuries having a major influence on ladder positions and should the NSW State Government spend more money on suburban stadiums?

We tackle some of the big talking points in the latest edition of NRL Real or Not.

The Rabbitohs made a big mistake letting Reynolds go

Not real - for now: The Broncos rode into town led by their new veteran halfback who was primed to take on the club he loved, the club he gave his heart and soul to, the club that decided last year that he wasn't worth keeping. Adam Reynolds had a point to prove, but so did the entire Broncos team and coach Kevin Walters. Brisbane were ready to resume their place as a Top 8 team and to prove their credentials by cutting down one of the premiership hot shots. They did so, magnificently.

South Sydney Rabbitohs and Reynolds parted ways due to a pragmatic rugby league business decision. Sometimes in sport there is no room for sentiment. The club decided that its future would be best served by using the salary cap space that was allocated to veteran Reynolds on retaining and developing a stable of promising youngsters. They could not see the value in locking Reynolds in for another three years, and instead offered him one year, and then wished him well when the Broncos came knocking.

Reynolds is a champion and a bull-headed competitor. He was always going to be a great buy for any club needing immediate direction and leadership. The Broncos have been crying out for a player gifted with these talents for years. They are now benefiting from a new standard of competitiveness and we are witnessing their well-deserved rise up the NRL ladder.

So does last nights' 32-12 flogging by Reynolds and his Broncos prove that the Rabbitohs made a terrible mistake in letting him go? No, not really. We will have to wait until next year and the year after to see how the Rabbitohs youngsters develop and how the club progresses to see whether they should have allowed Reynolds to play out his career with the famous club.

- Darren Arthur

Injuries have played a big role this season

Real. It's the go-to excuse of the struggling coach, but there is pretty good evidence that clubs who are filling their casualty ward are the biggest strugglers so far in 2022.

Here are the top four teams on the NRL ladder right now, and the number of players at each club currently unavailable through injury or suspension: Panthers (2), Storm (6), Cowboys (1), Sharks (3).

Here are the bottom four clubs, and their number of missing players: Wests Tigers (10), Raiders (6), Bulldogs (8), Knights (10).

Coincidence? Maybe, but there is a pretty clear trend that the teams that have had more of their top-line players available have won more games.

The outliers in the above numbers are Melbourne -- the best-coached team of the modern era -- and the Raiders. Each of those clubs have six players missing. But Canberra's six includes two of their most important: star hooker Josh Hodgson and first-choice halfback Jamal Fogarty. In their absence they are currently starting back-rower Adam Elliott and rookie Brad Schnieder.

Penrith and Melbourne have already shown they can thrive even with star players out of action, but the other 14 teams could see their fortunes change rapidly over the course of the season, depending on how their injury list looks.

- Dominic Brock

New South Wales needs to spend money on stadiums

Not real: Rugby League boss Peter V'Landys has caused a stir suggesting the NRL Grand Final would be moved away from Sydney if the money promised to upgrade Accor Stadium wasn't reallocated to suburban ground upgrades.

"We just want our suburban stadiums in NSW, we want that tribalism," Peter V'landys told Nine's Today Show.

"We had a deal. The deal was they would spend $800 million on stadiums, but rather than spending it on Accor Stadium (Stadium Australia), we want it spent on suburban stadiums.

"We want those promises honoured by the NSW Government, and if they don't, we'll take it (the grand final) elsewhere."

It seems like a petulant threat made in a complete vacuum, considering the economic situation facing the State Government at the moment. With the rising cost of living hitting everyone hard in a climate of stagnant wage growth, the Premier has a wall of public employees demanding a bigger cut of the pie. Mr. V'Landys might not personally be in a position to appreciate just how financially difficult it has become for people, but the Government faces teachers, medical services staff and train drivers all in the midst of industrial action, all seeking a decent wage and improved working conditions.

Under these circumstances it is more than a bit rich for V'Landys to call on the State Government to spend money upgrading sparsely utilised stadiums. Parramatta are enjoying their second brand new stadium in 30 years, while the new version of the Sydney Football Stadium is due to open in the middle of this year. Plans are underway to redevelop Penrith Stadium, Brookvale Oval and Shark Park have both recently undergone upgrades, while a perfectly good stadium on the Central Coast goes largely unused by the NRL

If the game was going well enough to warrant lavish suburban stadium upgrades, then perhaps it would be able to finance the work itself.

- Darren Arthur