• James Roberts of the Rabbitohs scores a try at Bankwest Stadium. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images) (Getty Images AsiaPac)Source: Getty Images AsiaPac
The Dot's Timana Tahu casts one eye forward to the NRL round ahead and the other to review the notable moments of the past weekend which included big wins from the heavyweights and some knock-out blows for the contenders.
By
Timana Tahu

Source:
Over the Black Dot
15 Jul 2020 - 4:36 PM  UPDATED 15 Jul 2020 - 4:41 PM

What a great win for the Roosters last round in beating the North Queensland Cowboys by 40 points. A win made more impressive considering the travel involved under COVID-19 restrictions and how that would have shortened the team's preparation time.

To put 40 points on the Cowboys was a great win for them, but it also demonstrates what great depth they have got in their roster, as well as the systems that coach Trent Robertson has put into the team.

It's just gonna be hard for other teams coming up against them for the remainder of the season. For mine, they are grand final favourites again and there's a strong chance that they will get the three-peat.

The last time we saw a three-peat was back in the early 1980s when Parramatta went around with players by the names of Peter Sterling, Mick Cronin, Bob O'Reilly, Brett Kenny, Ray Price, Steve Ella, Eric Grothe, Ron Hilditch and others. Players remembered as greats of the game today.

One current Roosters player I do want to highlight this week is Matt Ikuvalu. He was a late ring-in for Brett Morris after the veteran winger tweaked a groin in the Rooster's warm up. Ikuvalu got the call up and went on to score five tries. They weren't easy tries or walk-in tries either, with each requiring a lot of athletic ability.

He was probably the player's player for the Roosters and it's just good to see him out there on the paddock. He was a fixture last year in the Rooster's starting team but because of Morris coming in and with Daniel Tupou a certainty for the other wing position until recently, Ikuvalu has had to wait patiently to get the opportunity to shine in 2020.

Green Woes

The Roosters take on the Canberra Raiders this weekend with the Green Machine coming off a comprehensive loss to the Melbourne Storm last round. Canberra's captain Josh Hodgson went down for the rest of the season in that game and he is a big loss as their number nine.

Hodgson brings so much to the Raiders. He is a leader and controls a lot around the ruck, and now with him gone it's just gonna be so hard, week-in and week-out, to find the wins required to make a second grand final appearance in as many years.

Players like Jack Wighton and Josh Papalii really have to step up this weekend and show their experience. Both of those fellas have got State of Origin experience now, and they both have grand final experience too, so there might yet be a glimmer of hope for the Raiders.

The match-up with the Roosters is the replay of last year's controversial grand final too, so will likely be an interesting and entertaining game.

Biosecurity scare

A significant issue faced by the NRL this week has been a breach of its biosecurity protocols.

The Eels' 20-year-old rookie Stefano Utoikamanu had about 10 seconds on the field on Sunday in his first grade debut and in the excitement post-game, wandered over to embrace family and fans in a moment of celebration that was captured by the television cameras.

The breach has caused a bit of concern and tension and the young fella has been placed in a bit of a quarantine situation to seperate him from the rest of the Eels' players and staff until test results for COVID-19 are returned. 

It would be hard for Utoikamanu as a young kid not to go over and say hello and celebrate his debut with his family, but at the same time, it's too great a biosecurity risk to dismiss.

If he picks up the virus and then heads to the showers, which is a real possibility, and if the other players get it, then the NRL shuts down again. None of us want that. We seen what happened when the game shut down earlier in the year: people lost jobs; money started dwindling; players didn't know whether they were gonna have contracts honoured or not, or if the salary on those contracts would get reduced.

Eels coach Brad Arthur spoke about the incident in the press conference after the game and said he wasn't really too worried. Well, I think he should be worried. If the NRL shuts down, his job could be on the line.

At the end of the day, the protocols have got to be in place and people have got to respect the restrictions that are in place. 

Especially with Peter V'landy's and the other NRL commissioners working day and night on this to get the game back up and keep it going. Hopefully this is a lesson learned for everyone and we can move forward safely.

Game of the Week

Now, we do have the Roosters and the Raiders, but I've also been looking at the Knights taking on the Rabbitohs.

Souths coach Wayne Bennett didn't really have much success when he was coaching the Knights back in the early 2010s and I think he left on bad terms with the club. So, I think both the Knights and Souths would be looking to get one up on each other.

Current Knights coach Adam O'Brien has his football team playing some really good football, though they have lost their way a little bit just in recent weeks. I think that comes down to experience, and his side just learning how to play consistently in big pressure games.

I'm really looking forward to this one and think it could be tight. Especially with Latrell Mitchell suspended after his brain snap against the West Tigers last round.

I think for Latrell, he will learn from that incident, but it is hard as a player on the field in the heat of the moment. You see a mate down and you just try and protect him as much as you can.

That's the good thing about playing rugby league: you form that bond with your teammates. He could have went about it another way, but he's gonna learn from it and move on again and the Bunnies will be looking forward to him getting back. 

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