All the key stats, breakout players and talking points from Round 3 of the National Youth Competition.
A lot has been made about Melbourne's perfect start in the NRL but their NYC side has been equally impressive, flying under the radar to be the only team on eight competition points after four rounds. The Thunderbolts were untouchable as they thrashed the Wests Tigers 62-24 on Sunday, equalling their highest score in the Holden Cup set back in 2010. Could we see a repeat of the 2009 season when the Storm won both grades on grand final day?
Worrying signs for New Zealand
The Warriors were once the pride of the Holden Cup competition, making the finals for eight straight years and collecting premierships in 2010, 2011 and 2014. How the mighty have fallen. They missed the finals for the first time last season and are rooted to the bottom of the table following four losses to start 2017. They are last in terms of points scored and second-worst when it comes to defence.
Snakes and ladders start to the year
It's been an interesting first month of the season with a few trends starting to appear four rounds into the new year. The Storm, Panthers, Cowboys and Dragons look like the teams to beat in 2017, while the Warriors, Tigers, Raiders and Rabbitohs could be in for a long year. That leaves eight teams fighting for the remaining finals spots. The Sharks have the best attack in the competition but are only 2-2 after falling to a resurgent Parramatta side that have won two on the trot. The hardest teams to read are the Roosters and the Sea Eagles who started the year with a couple of big wins but have each lost their last two. They meet on Friday night in what could be an early-season litmus test for their top-eight credentials.
Players of the round
We'll be tracking the best performances every round this year with a good old-fashioned 3-2-1 points system.
3 – Initially named on an extended bench, Scott Drinkwater emerged as the star of the round with a hat-trick and two try assists for the Storm. He looked likely to score with every touch of the ball as he terrorised the Tigers with his speed and support play.
2 – Reed Mahoney made the most of his first start of the season to inspire the Eels to an upset win over Cronulla. The 18-year-old had registered big numbers – including two tries – off the bench in the first three rounds, and added another four-pointer to go with 60 tackles on the weekend.
1 – Such was Melbourne's dominance they deserve two players in this week's list. Skipper Harry Grant was a machine out of dummy half, destroying the Tigers around the ruck with his running game. Grant finished with a try, an assist, 118 running metres and seven tackle breaks to go with three offloads.
Rabbitohs 40 – Roosters 8
Panthers 40 – Knights 16
Broncos 24 – Raiders 16
Sea Eagles 22 – Bulldogs 30
Titans – Cowboys (postponed)
Eels 22 – Sharks 12
Wests Tigers 24 – Storm 62
Dragons 48 – Warriors 24