The NRL season moves quickly once it gets going and with the first weekend now in the books, it’s time to look at 5 reasons to watch round two.
1. David Fifita against his old side
The Titans have long been the forgotten Queensland side, but that all changed last year when they finished above the Broncos and Cowboys.
They came into this season with a certain level of expectation after big name signings of David Fifita and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui but were well beaten by the Warriors in round one and now come into this game against the Broncos under some pressure.
The big story line is undoubtedly Fifita playing against the side he left to take up his lucrative deal on the Gold Coast.
The Broncos were impressive in defeat against the Eels and possibly could have won if not for injuries.
They will be determined to get one back over the Titans after falling to them twice last season and losing Fifita to their nearest Queensland rivals.
While there doesn’t seem to be much bad blood between Fifita and his former club, expect a few of the Broncos enforcers to pay him a little closer attention this week.
2. Can the badly beaten teams stand up?
Round one saw plenty of disappointing teams on the receiving end of heavy defeats including the Bulldogs, Sea Eagles and Tigers.
The Bulldogs lost 32-16 to the Knights and now come up against last year’s minor premiers, the Panthers.
There was some optimism around the Bulldogs heading into the season and while nobody would expect them to beat Penrith, they need a better defensive performance to help their fans keep the faith.
The Sea Eagles were the worst team in round one, copping a 46-4 belting to the Roosters with captain Daly Cherry-Evans saying it was one of the worst games he’s ever played.
They have another tough assignment in the Rabbitohs this week, but will need to compete harder than they did in round one or it could be a long season for Manly fans.
The Tigers defence was fantastic in the first half against the Raiders but fell away dramatically after half time, conceding four tries in the second 40.
They lacked potency in attack with too many players running across field rather than playing direct. If they produce another poor performance, expect pressure to mount on coach Michael Maguire and their experienced players.
3. Warriors vs Knights
They might have been given the graveyard spot of Friday 6pm, but this Warriors vs Knights clash shapes as a beauty.
Both sides were impressive in round one with the Warriors’ brilliant defence helping them to an 18-6 upset over the Titans, while the Knights easily accounted for the Bulldogs 32-16.
The Warriors have long been a thought of as a team that’s either hot or cold, but over the past 12 months, they have improved their consistency dramatically.
They defended so well last week and it took until the 73rd minute to concede their first try. They also completed 40/44 sets to illustrate they are no longer the flashy side they used to be.
The Knights were without a couple of key players but their forwards were exceptional.
Daniel Saifiti, David Klemmer, Mitchell Barnett and new recruit Tyson Frizell led the way for the Knights last week which enabled their backs to play off of their hard work.
They come up against a much better forward pack this week with the matchup against the likes of Addin Fonua-Blake and Tohu Harris something to look forward to.
4. Wade Graham vs Hudson Young
This matchup has a bit of the young stallion taking on the old bull about it with 22-year-old Young taking on 30-year-old Graham.
Young made a brilliant start to his life on the right edge against the Tigers, picking up three Dally M votes going up against Luciano Leilua.
While Leilua announced himself as a star last season, it’s fair to say Graham is a class above as he has proven himself over a number of years.
Young made a point to go after Leilua last week as he was clearly the Tigers most dangerous player and it worked to great effect. Don’t be surprised if he tries a similar tactic against Graham this weekend.
Not only was Young strong defensively, he also had an impact in attack. He ran for 117 metres, had one line break, five tackle busts, and scored a try.
Graham has multiple appearances for NSW and Australia throughout his career and is still playing at a high level.
He has all the tricks in the bag and will need to be at his best to help the Sharks cause an upset over the Raiders.
5. Will Toby Rudolph do another interview?
Toby Rudolf showed some personality and cracked a joke during his post-match interview on the Matty Johns Show. He was subsequently sent an official warning from the NRL.
Rudolf was asked by Bryan Fletcher to reveal how he would celebrate the win and his answer showed something we don’t often see from footy players these days.
“Probably about 1,000 beers. Go to (Cronulla bar) Northies, try and pull something. Anything will do,” Rudolph said.
“No, honestly, it’s all about recovery these days. I’ll be going straight home, straight to the ice bath and staying very, very quiet.”
While the NRL condemned his actions, many have come out in support of Rudolf including Fletcher, Andrew Johns, Paul Gallen and director at the Rugby League Players Association, Daly Cherry-Evans.
The Sharks are again playing the final game of the round against the Raiders, and if they win, it will be interesting to see if Rudolf puts his hand up for another post-match interview with Matty Johns.
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