WHAT YOUR TEAM NEEDS TO IMPROVE ON WHEN THE NRL RESUMES
After a 2-0 start before the COVID-19 crisis, the Broncos will be seeking to hit the ground running when they resume against fellow high-flyers Parramatta. Coach Anthony Seibold will look for his team to stiffen up in defence after conceding 39 points in those opening two wins. The departure of Andrew McCullough to Newcastle also puts a lot of burden on youngster Jake Turpin.
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No sign of a grand final hangover for the Raiders, who smashed the Titans and Warriors in their opening matches before the shutdown. Making Campbelltown Stadium their home until at least round nine is the Raiders’ biggest challenge in the revamped schedule.
No team committed more handling errors than the Bulldogs over the opening two rounds, which included seven from fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. Dean Pay’s side ranked last in tackle breaks, equal-last in offloads, and fourth in penalties conceded prior to the league’s suspension.
Matt Moylan’s return alongside Briton Nikora and Bronson Xerri could add some spark that was missed in tight losses to Melbourne and South Sydney. Blayke Brailey is settling into his role as starting hooker but barely ran in the opening two games with the Sharks’ ranking last in that category out of dummy-half.
Life under Justin Holbrook didn’t start well for the Titans with two heavy losses quickly shattering optimism for the perennial strugglers. The revised draw is a bit kinder for Holbrook’s team but unless a defence, which has already conceded 70 points and missed 101 tackles, stiffens up it could be a long season ahead.
Will be happy to go into round three with one win and one loss after games against Melbourne and Sydney Roosters. Points have been their issue with just one try in their opening two games. Will likely want more from their pack - they’ve lost the territorial battle in both matches and had the least play-the-balls in their opponents’ 20-metre zone.
Craig Bellamy’s team made their usual winning start to the season against Manly before coming through a tight battle against Cronulla. There’s not too much to worry about at the Storm though a reduction in errors, after making 25 in those first two matches, would probably be high on Bellamy’s to-do list.
While the Knights are unbeaten under new coach Adam O’Brien, a lax defensive effort against Wests Tigers in round two did not sit well after holding the Warriors to nil in week one. Taking on an undefeated Penrith, albeit without Nathan Cleary, will be another test of their defensive energy.
A narrow loss to Brisbane and a 24-16 win over the Bulldogs was neither too good, nor too bad for the Cowboys’ start to 2020. Coach Paul Green will be eager to get Valentine Holmes firing on all cylinders while Scott Drinkwater’s move to the halves to partner Michael Morgan needs to build on an impressive start.
Complacency may be the Eels’ biggest threat to ending the premiership drought, with an injury to hooker Reed Mahoney the only serious concern at they racked up two emphatic wins before the shutdown. They will also have to make do without suspended lock Nathan Brown for two weeks.
The Panthers will simply be looking to survive the next two weeks without star halfback Nathan Cleary. His coach, and father, Ivan will be eager to see how fullback Dylan Edwards returns from injury after replacement No.1 Caleb Aekins was substituted in both games over the opening two rounds.
Without suspended livewire half Cody Walker for rounds three and four, Souths need Latrell Mitchell to start realising his potential at fullback. The 22-year-old had a mixed start to the season but needs to make rapid improvements, starting against his former club the Roosters on Friday night.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA
Defence will be top of the menu for a side that gets some starch back in their middle through Cameron McInnes as well as Korbin and Tariq Sims. The Dragons conceded the second-most points in the opening two rounds and will be concerned that the tries leaked came in batches against Penrith and Wests Tigers.
The premiers started the season with a limp, running out of puff against Penrith before they were felled by Manly in the dying minutes at Leichhardt Oval. To regain ground they lost on the ladder, the Roosters need to make a statement against the Rabbitohs to show they’re still the biggest force in the competition.
It was a horror start to the year for the Warriors who were thumped by Newcastle, forced to move to Australia indefinitely and were outplayed by grand finalists Canberra in round two. A win against the Dragons on the Central Coast will instil belief in the team that all of their sacrifices have been worthwhile.
The Tigers were opened up for 42 points by Newcastle prior to the shutdown, when they missed 43 of their 72 tackles over the opening fortnight of the competition. The injection of loan signing Harry Grant at hooker will help, as will the healthy return of star halfback Luke Brooks.