As a new season of NRL action gets underway, we at Lazy Fan Sports thought we’d pick out five telling storylines from round one. It’s far too early for some of our opinions, but we’re not about sitting on the fence. So sit back and enjoy the five things we learned in round one.
Newcastle Are Better Than You Think
Coming off 11th in the ladder in 2018, Newcastle are looking for phenom Kalyn Ponga to lift them up. But the thing is, he may not be alone. While the Knights struggled inside the 20 against the Sharks, they showed a much improved attacking prowess. If Ponga can raise his game back to where he was last term, they can expect to convert many more of those chance into tries.
Former Shark Edrick Lee secured the victory in round 1 with an 85-meter intercept try, and David Klemmer was a monster in the middle in his Newcastle debut. It was a far more physical performance than we usually see from the Knights and bodes well for the season ahead. We see a finals-series appearance coming.
Parramatta Will Not Finish Bottom This Time
After an ignominious season in 2018, the Eels were looking to get their season off to a good start. New signings Junior Paulo, Shaun Lane, Maika Sivo, and Davey are joined by one of last seasons Premiership winners Blake Ferguson. It’s safe to say Ferguson didn’t just sign for the money, he wants to win.
Ferguson led the NRL with 5,039 meters gained, and add 18 tries. He will add much-needed firepower to a team with a -186 points differential last year. Re-signing Greg Jennings was another huge step for the Eels, amply demonstrated with his two-try performance in week 1.
They may not be finals materials yet, but expect the Eels to put a lot more pressure on the top 8 this season.
The Warriors Will Be Fine Without Shaun Johnson
Much has been made of the departure of lynchpin Johnson for the fate of the Warriors this term. But the Warriors are, well, Warriors, and they showed that with round one’s most dominant victory. A 40-6 beating of the Canterbury Bulldogs on home turf was just what the doctor ordered for the Warriors.
Blake Green took over the lead role from Johnson and led the team impeccably. Rookie half Adam Keighran looked to make everyone forget about Johnson and his NRL leading 20 points in round 1 certainly make a point.
There are bound to be troubles along the way for Green and the Warriors, who had just a 20% win-rate when Johnson was out of the line-up. But as the Warriors have pointed out all off-season, it’s time to move on and the early signs point to them being on the right trajectory.
It might be too much to ask for another finals-series appearance, but I think they’ll be knocking around the 8th-10th spot and may just sneak in.
Jason Taumalolo Is A BEAST
As the North Queensland Cowboys looked to move on from the iconic Johnathan Thurston, another JT stepped into the limelight and flattened everyone in sight. Rumbling his way to an incredible 272 meters in the round, Jason Taumalolo looked nearly unstoppable.
He racked up an incredible 93 post contact meters to lead the NRL, had 7 tackle breaks and 2 line breaks. It’s almost impossible to see this happening every week, but anyone who sees Taumalolo running towards them will likely be a little more terrified after his round 1 performance against the Dragons.
It’s Just Good To Be Back Playing
After a summer of seemingly endless scandals, it’s just good to be talking about rugby again. From the salary cap cheating of Cronulla, albeit a special degree of incompetence as they still ended up under the cap, to the ongoing sex-tape scandal encircling Penrith, it’s been a painful time.
The NRL’s new no-fault stand down policy has already taken its first victims as players were caught up in a number of violent and/or sexual scandals that have undoubtably tarnished the game. However, round 1 at least got us watching some footy again.
Although this is certain to rumble on, the quality of action on display, even in some absolutely dire weather at times, there is finally light on the horizon.