The Dragons delivered their most “complete” performance yet but coach Anthony Griffin now faces a huge selection call.
Rabbitohs superstar Latrell Mitchell must change his game to get the Rabbitohs’ season back on track.
Bulldogs cult hero Josh Reynolds is set to play a big role for the Belmore-based club under rookie coach Cameron Ciraldo.
Read on for all the key NRL Talking Points in Round 5.
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BULLDOG’S BIG SEASON AHEAD
Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo said Josh Reynolds could play a significant role for his side this season after the cult hero enjoyed a dream return against the Cowboys on Sunday.
A huge roar went up when Reynolds came on in the 49th minute in his first game for Canterbury since 2017 and the veteran was the first to hug Matt Burton following his match-winning field goal.
The 33-year-old earned a shock top 30 contract on the eve of the season after starting the summer training with the squad just to keep fit.
Reynolds, who played five-eighth for the Bulldogs in the 2012 grand final, was solid in his 36-minute stint in the middle.
“He was pretty good out there. He makes us a better team, from Monday to Friday and on the weekend,” Ciraldo said.
“He played in the middle there tonight but he gives us utility value and the energy he brings on the field makes us a more dangerous team.
“It might not be the same every week, depending on who we play and what team we go with but the way he handled himself tonight showed he is a real asset to the team.”
‘Love who he is’ Reynolds praises Burton | 01:58
An emotional Reynolds spoke to Fox League and said the side has what it takes to do something special under Ciraldo.
“I’m just so proud to be able to put this jersey on because of what the boys just did,” Reynolds said.
“This is what this Bulldogs is going to be, this is what Ciro and everyone at the club has ingrained into us and that’s to just keep hustling.
“We’re not going to blow teams off the park but we just need to keep hustling and I’m proud to do that, that’s what the Bulldogs are all about.
“We just don’t want to let each other down, it’s just so special. There’s not many places that feel like this and I can feel it’s headed in the right direction and I’m so happy I can be a part of it.”
Bulldogs skipper Reed Mahoney said he was “super proud” to see Reynolds, who he idolised as a child, back in the NRL.
“He’s just the type of bloke that brings energy and a guy you want to play footy with and I was the type of kid who grew up watching him,” Mahone said.
“I thought his energy was infectious to the group and off the field as well he’s been so good for the club. He’s brought back the core values for what this club stands for, so he’s a great person to have at this club.”
Burton added: “He’s been unreal, the passion and energy he brings to the side it’s crazy. It’s great to get the win for him.”
Brilliant Bulldogs pull off MIRACLE WIN | 01:10
LATRELL NEEDS TO GET MORE INVOLVED EARLY FOR SOUTHS
Souths’s bid for a top four spot and a drought-breaking title is being hamstrung by Latrell Mitchell’s lack of involvement early in games.
Mitchell had just three runs for 27 metres and one tackle bust in the first half of Souths’ 18-10 loss to the Storm and while he had a big second half it was too little too late.
Yvonne Sampson noted Mitchell was a little off the pace against the Storm and he and Souths played catch up all game.
“When we want Souths to have a big moment, we all look to Latrell Mitchell and he just wasn’t quite there tonight,” Sampson said.
Gorden Tallis challenged Mitchell to believe in himself more and demand the ball early in the contest.
“Latrell was a little bit quiet tonight,” Tallis said.
“I would love Latrell to be selfish. He’s got to be selfish and say bugger my teammates at some stage and think it’s Latrell’s ball.”
Greg Alexander agreed Mitchell can be as dominant as Cameron Munster if he asserts himself.
“Latrell can be the most dangerous player on the field,” Alexander said.
“He can run, step, has beautiful hands. He can do it all.
“Souths need Latrell to impose himself on the game earlier and not allow it to get out of reach.
“Against the Panthers in Round 2 Penrith jumped to a lead and Souths came back because Latrell with 25 minutes to go announced himself to the game and almost got them a win.
“Latrell is that talented that you think he’s capable it of doing it all the time, but he’s got to at least do it early.”
Souths now find themselves out of the top eight and they need to go on a run to keep in touch with the top four starting with the Bulldogs on Good Friday and Mitchell needs to get off to a fast start.
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Storm surges to victory over Souths | 02:05
ROOSTERS SOUND TITLE WARNING AS KEY BLUEPRINT EMERGES
The Roosters have announced themselves as one of the premiership favourites after dismantling the Eels on the back of class displays from Brandon Smith and Joseph Suaalii and they did it without James Tedesco.
Matty Johns believes the scoreline flattered the Eels and the Roosters could have easily won by 30, despite Tedesco’s night being ended in the 24th minute by a head knock.
“The Roosters beat the Eels 28-20, but the score was very deceptive because the Roosters were very dominant,” Johns said on The Late Show with Matty Johns.
“It was 6-2 for most of the first half, but the Roosters were really dominant and it was the try just before halftime to Keary that was the killer.”
Bryan Fletcher believes the Roosters are benefiting from a simple game plan from their middles who are setting the platform for their star halves and outside men.
“The front row again of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Lindsay Collins was just laying that platform,” Fletcher said.
“When the Roosters can complete over 80 per cent they invariably win.
“The halves were brilliant. There wasn’t a bad player on the field and to win and put 28 points on and for Tedesco to not feature in the game is good signs for the Roosters.”
Nathan Hindmarsh believes Smith out of dummyhalf was the difference between the two sides.
“I thought the game came down to the No.9 position,” Hindmarsh said.
“Smith any time there was a player down at marker he went and created go forward for his team where as the Eels were struggling to get a quick play-the-ball all night.”
Johns agreed that the blueprint for success for the Roosters is to win the ruck and the battle of the middle of the field and their outside backs will do the rest.
“The Roosters have so many good ball handlers in their side that they have a tendency to easily fall into sideways football,” Johns said.
“When they revert back to playing through the middle, I think they can build their attack a lot more around Brandon Smith than what they do because when he gets out and goes things start to happen because they have got natural width in their game anyway.”
Johns praised Suaalii for filling Tedesco’s void with ease in a week where he could have felt the heat from his high profile defection to rugby union in 2025.
“I tip my hat to him because with him being a young player and the week that was and all the commentary around his future defection to rugby, it would have been easy for him to feel the pressure and be a bit distracted,” Johns said.
“But he is just class. It is the little things. When he gets a ball on a sweep it is the timing of his three on two pass.
“He doesn’t take it all the way to the teeth of the defence and make it impossible for his outside man. He just has that knowledge and that good instinctive feel for when to let the ball go. He is just all class.”
Rampant Roosters make light work of Eels | 02:23
PRESSURE EASES ON GRIFFIN… BUT BIG SELECTION CALLS LOOM
Anthony Griffin would have had migraines throughout the week as pressure mounted on his future following an ugly loss to Cronulla, but he’s now dealing with selection headaches after a couple of changes to his spine paid off on Saturday night.
The embattled coach described the 38-12 win over the Dolphins as “the most complete performance we’ve had this year” just days after they were belted in the derby.
And the massive turnaround in form may have come down to a few key personnel changes with Jacob Liddle starring in his first start as a Dragon to add some much needed spark around the ruck.
The former Tiger scored a try and set up another one in a really impressive stint before veteran Moses Mbye – who started the first three games at hooker – came on and finished off the job.
Griffin said that Mbye still wanted to play hooker, but having him on the bench as the utility would solve a lot more problems and allow Liddle to do what he does best as he gets more match fitness under his belt in a bid to become an 80-minute player.
“I just think that he’s been playing better than Moses at the moment. It was a good opportunity to get him out there from the start. I thought he did a good job,” the Dragons coach said.
“I think the two are going okay, but we’ll find out in the next couple of months (if Liddle can play 80). He’s got a lot of speed out of there, and I thought Moses’ 30 minutes were probably the best 30 minutes that he’s played for us this year.”
Saturday’s win also marked Talatau Amone’s return to first grade after he was banned under the NRL’s no-fault stand-down policy for an alleged assault last year.
Griffin said it was too early to say whether he would keep his spot for next week or if Jayden Sullivan would come straight back in after missing the game through injury.
“I thought he was really good for his first game,” he said.
“He got called in on Wednesday when ‘Sully’ hurt his shoulder, and I thought he really added something to us. I thought he and Ben combined really well for their first game together for the year.”
Amone finished with a try assist as halves partner Ben Hunt again stood tall with a brilliant performance in attack, and the skipper was full of praise for the young gun who he says benefited from a breakout 2022.
“He played a lot of footy last year so he got a lot of confidence out of that,” Hunt said.
“He’s a confident young kid who likes to take the game on and get his hands on the ball a lot. There were a few occasions where I was calling the ball and he overrode me and called it on his side, which is something I really enjoyed.”
— Martin Gabor, NCA Newswire
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Dragons down Dolphins in big win | 02:12
PANTHERS FINALLY CLICK AS BIG CALL LOOMS FOR CLEARY
After a tough three opening games, the reigning premiers were back to their devastating best in a 53-12 shellacking of the Raiders in the nation’s capital.
Penrith failed to score more than 16 points in each of their first three games, but blew that curse up by laying on nine tries — seven of those in the second half.
Coach Ivan Cleary said it was “nice to get some rhythm and score points,” while also adding: “These guys have been very working hard for a long time so it was just good to see them have some fun out there.”
One of the tryscorers was new recruit Zac Hosking, who has now scored in the two games he’s played for Penrith.
Hosking was called on replace Liam Martin but with the representative star due to return next week, Cleary will have to make a big call on his second row.
Hosking and fellow new recruit Luke Garner were in a shootout for Viliame Kikau’s old spot in the second row with the latter getting the nod.
Garner was rested on Friday and now Fox League expert Michael Ennis believes Hosking has gotten the jump on him.
“When you get an opportunity in first grade sometimes you’ve got to just shut the door on the opposition and that’s exactly what Zac Hosking has done,” Ennis said.
“The timing of his lead runs have been superb the last two weeks. He’s going no where, he is about to establish himself as a regular starter, I believe in this side. I think he holds down that left side.”
Hosking finished the game with a linebreak, an offload, four tackle busts and 92 running metres to go with his try. He also made 19 tackles with just one miss.
That backed up his Round 4 performance where he score a try, got two linebreaks, two offloads, five tackle busts and 82 running metres, while making a team-high of 47 tackles with no misses.
Panthers DEMOLISH Raiders on their turf | 00:49
MUNSTER’S ‘TOUGH STUFF’
For anyone who had doubts about the Storm after their hot-and-cold start to the season must have forgotten they have Cameron Munster.
The Queensland and Australian representative was terrific for the Storm with his try early in the second half proving crucial in his side’s gritty 18-10 win over the Rabbitohs.
Munster was everywhere for the Storm, constantly causing headaches for the Rabbitohs defence as he galloped for 141 metres and a line break.
He also recorded 28 tackles, contributing to an excellent defensive performance by the Storm which was spearheaded by hooker Harry Grant’s 50 tackles.
Fox League’s Greg Alexander was effusive in his praise for Munster, labelling him “the best big game player in the competition”.
“When his side needs him, he regularly stands up….he’s alive every single play,” Alexander said.
“He’s always at you, he always wants to be in the play, he always wants to be involved and he’s always asking questions,” Fox League’s Gorden Tallis said.
“Every single play you just have to put him on the ground.”
Munster’s toughness has never been questioned (see Round 1 vs. Eels) nor has is impact on attack but what was pleasing was his application on defence.
Fox League’s Yvonne Sampson pointed out that Munster relishes the tough stuff and quickly bounced back even after being on the receiving end of a couple of bulldozing runs.
“He got worked over a couple of times but he’s always physical, he’s happy in the physical stuff and doesn’t mind doing all the rough and ugly work” Sampson said
Alexander added: “He’s physically stronger than anyone imagine, he’s bigger than most people would imagine and that’s why he can stand in tackles with three blokes hanging off him and offload.”
Munster and the Storm will attempt to string together two wins in a row for the first time this season when they battle the Roosters in a blockbuster next Thursday to kick off Round 6.
Magic Money Munster shreds Bunnies | 00:41
DOLPHINS’ DEPTH SET TO BE TESTED
Coming into their debut season, Wayne Bennett’s squad was heavily criticised with many tipping the Dolphins to win the wooden spoon.
The 17th franchise missed out on countless marquee players and it seemed almost every week Bennett was being knocked back by a new man.
The Dolphins attempted to recruit key playmakers including Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes, Adam Doueihi and Cody Walker.
However, they ended up starting the season with Sean O’Sullivan and Isaiya Katoa, who both performed admirably to deliver three straight wins.
Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima sat waiting in the wings as replacements — but now Bennett has a playmaking crisis on his hands.
O’Sullivan suffered a torn pectoral muscle against the Broncos and has been ruled out until Round 17.
Meanwhile, Nikorima sat out of Round 5 under the NRL’s mandatory concussion stand down policy.
Katoa also was sidelined for the Brisbane derby with an elbow blow — and in isolation, these injuries aren’t a major issue.
However the club’s freshest injury could prove to be crucial to their success and one more in their playmaking stocks could cripple Bennett’s side.
Milford will now be sidelined for three to four weeks with a hamstring injury, which will likely see Nikorima slot into halfback.
Beyond that, Jeremy Marshall-King, who is a hooker by trade, is the club’s next best option at halfback.
Fox League’s Andrew Voss labelled the club’s injury crisis a “disaster” and Bennett will be holding his breath hoping his No.6 and 7 can stay on the field in the coming weeks.
While a move for Jack Wighton will only see him arrive at the club for the 2024 season — the Dolphins will now have to ramp up their search for playmaking options.
The Dolphins reportedly have cap space to burn and Bennett confirmed the club would speak with the Raiders playmaker, who shocked the NRL by announcing he would hit the open market.
Wighton has until Round 10 to exercise an option for 2024 and Bennett explained he would only offer him a hefty contract if he is the “right fit”.
“If we thought he was the right fit for the club and brought the things that we need then we would probably pay more than $1 million,” Bennett said to AAP.
“That’s not the issue. The issue is, ‘Does he fit our needs? Do we suit him?’ They are the things that we’ve all got to talk about and work out.
“He is a very competitive player, highly skilled and has been a great servant of the game. He plays a number of positions.”
With the spotlight on the club’s playmaking depth, the Dolphins may go all in for Wighton who is reportedly seeking a move to Queensland.
Is Wighton a $1M player? | 02:27
TIGERS’ DESPERATE RESHUFFLE FAILS
Tim Sheens made a desperate move in Round 3, trailing 20-6 in the 51st minute against the Bulldogs.
The experienced coach pulled David Nofoaluma from the field, shifting Adam Doueihi to fullback and off-season recruit Brandon Wakeham into the halves.
That move inspired the Tigers to deliver their best 30 minutes of football all season, going down by only four points in a 26-22 thriller.
The merger club showed positive signs in that contest and Sheens quickly made permanent changes to his spine for the next two games.
Then, it took only 160 minutes to completely unravel.
The Tigers went down to the Storm 24-12 before being flogged by the competition’s in-form team, the Broncos, conceding 46 points.
Doueihi, who is a five-eighth by trade, was slammed by Fox League’s Mal Meninga who said his performance at the back was “pretty ordinary”.
“Adam Doueihi’s defensive effort was pretty poor,” Meninga said.
“I’m with Mal, Doueihi’s energy and commitment and intensity needs to improve because if their big guns are going to fight back and give them any chance, Doueihi needs to improve,” Fox League’s Cooper Cronk added.
Sheens’ fullback experiment looks set to come to an end and he will now likely resort back to his original halves pairing.
However, speaking in the post-match press conference, he denied he would make an rash decisions.
“I’m not going to make a decision on our spine at the moment on the back of that loss,” he said.
The Tigers also sit dead last and are the only team in 2023 who are yet to record a victory after winning their first wooden spoon in 2022.
Sheens, alongside assistants Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah, were tasked with turning the club’s fortunes around, but instead Cronk couldn’t believe just how little connection there was between players.
“The Tigers’ inability to be on the same page both with and without the ball is mind-blowing at the moment,” Cronk said.
“The Cobbo try in the first half summed them up. The disconnection from the Tigers and Selwyn Cobbo runs the length.
“Any time the Tigers make an error or ill-discipline, the Broncos pounce and there is just no resilience in the Tigers’ defensive line.”
While it is easy to point fingers at the coaching staff, Meninga believes it is time for the playing group to stand up for Sheens who he labelled a “perfectionist”.
He also explained there is enough players in the squad with winning experience who can be called upon to shift fortunes.
The Tigers recruited several big name players, including Apisai Koroisau and Isaiah Papali’i, however they are yet to deliver for the merger club.
“I don’t know what Sheensy can say to them really. It is about individual effort and getting clarity around your role,” Meninga said.
‘NOT FAIR!’ Haas humilates Tigers | 00:40
WARRIORS OF OLD JUST A DISTANT
Down 20-0 against the Sharks after 19 minutes, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Warriors were in for a long afternoon.
The New Zealand side of old would have folded, leaking the most points of any NRL side in 2022.
But under rookie coach Andrew Webster, the Warriors have evolved into a different beast.
“This is not the Warriors of recent years you are watching today,” Andrew Voss said on Fox League.
“If it were…this game is already gone.”
After the stunning comeback victory the Warriors now sit second on the ladder with four victories, only behind the unbeaten Broncos.
That’s certainly a welcome start to the season in the eyes of their fans, who haven’t had much to cheer about in recent times.
The Warriors only returned to their Auckland base in Round 16 last year after spending the Covid period in their makeshift Redcliffe home.
Their sacrifice hasn’t been lost on the Warriors rookie coach Andrew Webster, who has been credited as the reason behind the club’s turnaround.
But Webster pointed the focus to the players and the organisation as a whole before himself.
“That’s one of the best wins I’ve ever been a part of,” Webster said.
When asked how his side have become so resilient, he said: “I don’t think it’s me I think it’s everyone. Our staff our unbelievable, I’m so happy for them.
“I know everyone talks about the past and past sides and it’s fair enough, but we’re a different club now.
“After 15 minutes today there were probably people out there who thought we’d fall over in a heap, but the boys had different ideas.”
The Sharks win was the Warriors’ second straight in Australia. Prior to that, they had lost 11 in-a-row outside of New Zealand.
Webster said he didn’t provide a “Churchillian speech” in the sheds at half time, instead he told his side to keep it simple and stick to their plan.
“No one’s going to write an article this week that we (the coaches) ripped the doors of the sheds or anything like that,” Webster explained.
“It was exactly the same halftime as previous weeks other than talking about what we needed to fix on defence which was so obvious.
“What we have been so good at just wasn’t there.
“We thought ‘do we believe?’.
“If we continue to build pressure when we have the ball, defend like we know we can we thought ‘boys, we’re honestly a big chance’.”
Johnson the hero in crazy final seconds! | 01:34
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