Just when we were starting to doubt the Craig Bellamy magic, he turns around and gets his team to produce one of the most commanding displays of the year against Penrith last Thursday night.
The Storm held the Panthers scoreless for the first time in four years but the most impressive aspect was how he got bad boy Brandon Smith to repay his teammates for letting them down.
Suspended for a month for abusing a referee and on the move to the Roosters next season, Smith could easily have been excused for checking out early.
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But doubtless Bellamy had stern words to the powerful utility over his enforced layoff and the results were there for all to see at Penrith.
Despite starting on the bench, Smith ran for more meters than any other Storm forward and scored a stunning solo try.
In part, he made up for letting his mates down – and Bellamy will be pushing him for more of the same next weekend.
Sharks looming as final threats
Could Cronulla be the dark horse in the race for the title?
I really like the balance of the Sharks’ side, with classy outside backs, smart halves and an awesome pack.
It was the big men who did the damage in the 36-12 victory over the Wests Tigers in Tamworth on Saturday, simply steamrolling the smaller Tigers pack.
Props Royce Hunt and Braden Hamlin-Uele both scored tries and were too powerful for the Tigers forwards to handle while Cameron McInnes and Dale Finucane both put it strong shifts.
If the Sharks can stay injury free, I see them causing a few upsets in September.
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Roosters big boys turn back the clock
League in the PVL era has become a young man’s game, with speed and skill never more important.
But as we head into the big end of season games, the Roosters are showing that there is still a place for the old bulls against the young ‘uns.
Despite another injury-plagued season, Trent Robinson’s men made it five straight wins with an impressive – and somewhat surprising – win over in the in-form Cowboys at the SCG on Saturday afternoon.
Suaalii scores opening try for Roosters at home
And it was two very much old bulls – props Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Matt Lodge – with a little help from another veteran in the ageless James Tedesco, who led the way.
JWH and Lodge got the better of the hot shot Cowboys pack, steaming up the middle and both scoring tries through the teeth of the defence.
Tedesco was again superb in his 200th career games, shining in attack and defence.
The Roosters have a good blend – the old hard heads in key positions and whiz kids Joseph Suualii and Sam Walker always ready to pounce.
They will be a much feared team in the finals and after looking like they had the staggers mid-season, they are coming good at the business end of the year.
I thought Brent Naden had been one of the Tigers’ better players since joining the club mid-season but the big winger had a horror game to celebrate signing his new deal against Cronulla.
Naden made just 81 run meters and came up with five errors.
Hopefully for the Tigers, it was just a one-off…
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Cobbo decimates Newcastle
Selwyn Cobbo showed he will be one of the real danger men of the finals with his hat trick against the Knights.
Cobbo is reveling on the good work of his inside men, halfback Adam Reynolds and center Kotoni Staggs, and has the power of pace to add plenty more to his 15 tries this season.
Big, fast and strong, Cobbo has been one of the finds of the year and given an injury free run, he will worry plenty of teams in coming weeks.
Cobbo picks up hat-trick
Newcastle’s defense exposed
It will be back to the tackling bags for the defensively challenged Knights yet again this week.
The Knights missed a mammoth 41 tackles – more than one every two minutes, and were lucky to only lose 28-10 to the Broncos on Saturday night.
Out wide is where the Knights have really struggled getting their man – Dane Gagai and Adam Clune came up with five misses each.
Broncos hit straight back
Souths poised to strike
The smiles are back on the faces of Souths’ magic men Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker on the eve of the finals – and that spells trouble for the premiership’s big guns.
Both tremendous competitors, Mitchell and Walker are born winners and take losses personally more than most players.
But when Souths win – and win well as they did in the 26-0 shutout of the Eels on Friday night, the pair are usually dominant… and delighted as a result.
Mitchell continued his good run of form with 211 running meters and 10 tackle breaks, terrorizing the Eels all over the park.
Walker has had an up and down year after his heroics of 2021, but regained some of his old spark with two tries and a line break assist.
With their forwards giving them time and space in which to operate, the dynamic duo could be about to propel the Bunnies to another grand final appearance in coming weeks.
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Johnson stars for Warriors
When the opposition isn’t in the mood to tackle, there are few more dangerous attacking players than Warriors veteran Shaun Johnson.
The Warriors’ pin-up boy turns 31 next month, but showed against the tackle-shy Bulldogs that he has retained the zip and evasiveness of his youth.
Johnson scored a stunning solo try that brought the house down at Mount Smart Stadium, and also came up with two try assists, two line break assists and a line break.
He was dynamic simply – but the challenge for Johnson now is to play that sort of footy against the teams at the top of the ladder who target him in defence.
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The Bulldogs have made massive strides since Mick Potter took over the reins a few months back, but showed they still have the odd ‘shocker’ in them against the Warriors.
Going into the game as favourites, the Bulldogs missed 31 tackles and came up with a host of simple errors to hand the Warriors a 42-18 win.
Once every couple of months, the Warriors produce an 80-minute effort that would beat any team in the comp – sadly for the Bulldogs they decided to come good on Friday night and handed out a real mauling.
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