Andrew Voss dissects the changes to the Maroons side for Origin II and takes a closer look at the Cowboys, Panthers and Raiders as we head past the mid-way point of the season.
Did Queensland need to make seven changes?
I don’t believe they did.
However Kevvie Walters has a stronger squad to work with for the second game of the series, but the inclusion alone of Billy Slater and a fit again Johnathan Thurston was always going to deliver that in my opinion.
I was genuinely shocked at the axing of Sam Thaiday and Corey Oates. That seems to go against the grain of everything the Maroons have stood for in terms of loyalty.
What I do like most about the line-ups now is that both teams look capable of posting 20-plus points. That guarantees we are in for an Origin classic next Wednesday with the series on the line.
Did the judiciary get it right in clearing Jarrod Wallace?
I’m so confused.
I think we all need to attend a ‘shoulder charge seminar’ in light of Jarrod’s great escape. And good luck to him I say. I hope he kills it in Origin. His selection is thoroughly deserved, but …
Buy a lotto ticket before next Wednesday, Jarrod. The perception and opinion of most fans today will be that you got lucky.
How are the Cowboys shaping up in a bid for a second title?
Could be better, could be worse.
I know they are not sitting top four currently, but they look like a top-four side to me if they remain at full strength in 2017.
After their latest win over Parramatta, I was keen to compare how they rated this season against the grand final winning year of 2015.
In some key areas they are actually going better. That include run metres, tackle busts and forced dropouts.
However, while the Cowboys' defensive record is almost on par with 2015, they are scoring four points less a game, their handling errors have increased a little, and they are down on the line break count.
One statistic where their fans shouldn’t be alarmed is offloads, despite the fact they are ranked last in the NRL.
In 2015 they ranked 15th and won the competition. To use some popular league vernacular, offloads are "not their go."
Will the Raiders prove to be the hard luck story of the year?
They are the favourites for that tag at the moment.
Canberra could have been eight competition points better off and sitting second on the ladder if the results were different in their three golden point losses this year and last Saturday’s dramatic last minute defeat to Penrith.
As it is, they sit 10th on 12 points.
So here’s the positive spin. One factor in their favour is that they are the only side in the bottom eight with a positive points differential. As a matter of fact their +46 is better than the Cowboys and the Panthers who are both in the top eight.
And a comparison with last year reveals that at the same point of the season they were only three competition points better off.
It was after Round 14 in 2016 that Canberra began a winning streak of ten straight matches. That will obviously be a tough act to repeat, but there is no question the talent is still in the side.
What are we to make of the Panthers?
There is quite some story to tell from their current four-game winning streak. They could have lost three of them.
But the points are now in the bank, and the draw for the remainder of the season looks promising.
They have only one game to come against a current top-four side and that’s the Dragons in Round 25.
For the final 11 rounds, they play six sides currently outside the top eight. If they were to only win those games and you add the two points for this weekend’s bye, that will give the Panthers a tally of 28. That’s the figure widely recognised as being the mark to qualify for finals football.
Who is the leading try-scorer in rugby league this year?
Well obviously in the NRL it is Canberra’s Jordan Rapana who has posted 14 tries in 14 games this season.
But if you haven’t caught up with the Super League season lately, let me tell you about Greg Eden at Castleford.
What an endorsement for UK players coming to Australia to further their skills. Eden played a lot of Intrust Super Cup last year but managed to nab one try in his six NRL appearances with the Broncos.
Wind the clock forward and, after his latest five-try haul at the weekend, Eden has taken his Super League tally to 30 tries in 18 games. He is on course for a record-breaking season. 40 tries is the number to beat.
If you include a recent Challenge Cup fixture, Eden has five hat-tricks in his last six games. Wow!
I’m off to Melbourne this week for Fox League to see if the Storm can maintain a four-point break at the top of the ladder with a win over the Cowboys.