At 23, Reuben Cotter’s rugby league career could already be over.
The rampaging prop suffered through the agony of three knee reconstructions in three years in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
A lesser player would have given the game away – but Cotter is a determined young man and worked and worked on his rehab and is now one of the shining lights of the Cowboys pack.
READ MORE: Heat on Keary to reverse Roosters’ fortunes
READ MORE: Relegation candidates spring huge upset
READ MORE: Wallabies return to scene of world record mauling
So much so that his name is being quietly whispered up north as a bolter for Queensland State of Origin selection.
Cotter was superb as the Cowboys out-muscled the strong Eels pack in steamy Darwin on Saturday night, playing the full 80 minutes, running for 137 meters and making 54 tackles.
“Reuben’s had a tough journey – but he’s what our team is all about,” coach Todd Payten said.
Panthers with one eye on Melbourne
The Storm continues to throw down the gauntlet to premier Penrith in the lead-up to their big clash in Magic Round.
In last week’s massacre of the Warriors, followed by yesterday’s demolition of hapless Newcastle, the Storm at one stage scored 70 straight points in what may well be a record run.
It’s a sign of the relentless hunger and ruthless attitude of Craig Bellamy’s men.
The Panthers are playing pretty well too – but Ivan Cleary would be a nervous man as he watches the Melbourne Machine as the teams fine tune their game leading to Magic Round.
Are the Broncos finals bound?
There are few stories that warm the heart as much as Te Maire Martin’s comeback to football after his career seemed over due to head knocks three years ago.
Martin has really sparked the Broncos over the past couple of weeks and showed what a talent he is.
Injury to Tesi Niu gave him his chance and when Niu returns, coach Kevin Walters will have a pleasant headache.
But there is room for both in the team – Martin has played much of his first grade football at five-eighth and what a combination he could form with the veteran Adam Reynolds.
The Broncos have now won four of their eight matches.
If they keep up that 50 per cent win rate they could well find themselves playing finals footy in September.
Gold Coast fails to fire, again
So much was expected of the Titans this season – but after eight rounds they look one of the real disappointments of 2022.
Gold Coast have won just two of their eight games and have never reached the finals after being in this position two months into the season.
Stream the NRL premiership 2022 live and free on 9Now.
Friday night was typical of the Titans’ year – they started well and held a shock 4-0 lead over the Panthers at halftime.
But the second half was a meek surrender, with the Panthers cruising to an 18-4 win.
Knights in crisis
The proud Newcastle club has resembled a rabble over the past two weeks, thrashed by both the Eels and Storm in front of their loyal home crowd.
The Knights failed to score a try in either game – but defense is a much bigger problem than attack.
Newcastle missed 34 tackles against the relentless Storm attacking machine and were deservedly punished 50-2.
Sea Eagles welcome back Schuster
It was an unhappy night for Manly on the Central Coast on Saturday night, going down 40-22 to Souths.
But there were plenty of positives for Manly, who were down to 12 men after just eight minutes following the send off of forward Karl Lawton for an ugly tackle.
The Sea Eagles still matched it with Souths for much of the game, with the final score flattering the Bunnies.
But best of all for Manly was the performance of the classy Josh Schuster in his first game of the year.
Schuster played 69 minutes – more than Des Hasler would have wanted but necessary after the send off – and had a line break assist and a try assist.
The big back-rower or five-eighth is a special talent and will be a huge plus for the Sea Eagles in the run to the finals.
Vaughan eyeing new contract
Paul Vaughan only signed a one-year deal with the Bulldogs this season – a considerable gamble for a 31-year-old.
But Vaughan is ticking all the right boxes to get himself a new, upgraded contract at Belmore for 2023.
The former Dragons and Raiders forward was outstanding in the shock 16-12 win over the Roosters on Saturday night, running for 141 meters, more than any Bulldogs forward.
And he did it in just 45 minutes of field time. 2022 is very much a make-or-break season for the veteran forward after the infamous ‘barbecue-gate’ saga at the Dragons last year but the way he is going, a new deal isn’t far away.
Headaches for Robbo
The Roosters are in arguably the worst slump of Trent Robinson’s long tenure at the club – and it will be interesting to see how the veteran coach reacts to the crisis.
In the past month, the Roosters have had clunky wins over the lowly Broncos and Warriors followed by shock losses to the Dragons and now Bulldogs.
That’s four teams that aren’t expected to play finals football – heaven help the Roosters when they play some of the big guns in coming weeks.
What’s the problem? It’s hard to know where to start.
The players seem to be relying far too heavily on James Tedesco – and the superstar fullback can’t get them home every week.
Halves Luke Keary and Sam Walker are still working on forming an effective combination and the forwards have lost their clout.
The Roosters showed more spirit and determination last season when they had a shocking injury list – this season with all their big names on deck they have rarely got it right.
What’s wrong with Canberra?
If the Roosters are in a slump, the Raiders are at rock bottom.
Saturday’s defeat to the Warriors was the fifth loss in a row for Ricky Stuart’s men – and it had a sickeningly familiar feeling to it.
Once again the Raiders blew a good lead to go down on golden point.
Canberra dictated terms in the first half and looked to be coasting to victory.
But they failed to score in the second half as the Warriors chipped away at their lead to tie up scores 20-all at fulltime.
The Raiders’ body language in extra time wasn’t good – they knew what was coming and sure enough Shaun ‘Magic’ Johnson slotted home the field goal to snatch victory for the Warriors.
It was a fine turnaround by the Warriors, who were beaten by 60 points by the Storm a week earlier.
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!
The backstories and controversies that have ignited feuds involving athletes
#Shock #Queensland #State #Origin #bolter #emerges