End game: Why rugby league fans should prepare for the worst

There is a real chance this NRL season may not last more than a few weeks.

The moment players start to test positive to coronavirus – and it’s only a matter of time – the federal government and leading sports will have no alternative but to suspend competitions until the situation is under control, or until a suitable vaccine has been developed.

This is a very real possibility.

The players know there is always an audience.Credit:AAP

The ones I worry about are the referees. How will they possibly know that one team has been offside all day, that someone has thrown a forward pass, or that someone has held back a support runner etc? Without the crowd there to referee the games, how will our referees cope?

I jest of course, but it will be a challenge for all concerned. It would be great to think we can keep the football going, at all levels, until grand final day. In reality, though, that might end up being impossible.

Talent not enough for Eels

Parramatta were not at their best on Thursday night, however, the positive was that they managed to graft out a win. In previous years Parramatta could easily have frustrated themselves into a loss.

The Eels have talent, but they are well short of being a premiership-winning team. They don’t have a premiership-winning mentality. They don’t place enough value on excellence. They have the ability to beat any team on their day. However, they don’t have the mentality to beat the best teams on the big day. They are still very much a work in progress.



The Bulldogs were very spirited. They’ve certainly been confronted with several setbacks in recent times, but full credit to coach Dean Pay and the players who busted their backsides for him on Thursday night. Football-wise, they are obviously limited in attacking creativity and strike power, but no one could ever question their commitment to the cause.

I’m not sure how much football is left to be played in 2020 but, going forward, they need some strategic recruitment and development to return the Bulldogs to former glories.

Broncos fans can get excited

I was very impressed with the Broncos. I will temper my enthusiasm somewhat because I’m just not sure whether we can assess their ability based on one victory against a struggling Cowboys outfit. More on the Townsville boys in a minute.

There were some real positives for Anthony Seibold’s Broncos team. Despite missing key forwards Matthew Lodge, Alex Glenn and Joe Ofahengaue, the Broncos pack simply outmuscled, outworked and outplayed their rivals. That’s a great sign.



Front-rower Payne Haas was again extraordinary. What a player. Back-rower David Fifita just keeps adding to his spectacular highlights reel.

The loss of key recruit Jack Bird for the season has given Jamayne Isaako a chance to lock down the fullback position and make it his own. I thought he was terrific.

The real shining light for Brisbane was the performance of former Melbourne halfback Brodie Croft. Once considered next in line to replace Cooper Cronk at the Storm, Croft made an off-season move north to Brisbane and this could be the real making of him as a player. He was terrific on Friday night. His control and organisational skills have filled a real void at the Broncos. He has also allowed five-eighth Anthony Milford the time and space to play his more instinctive running game. It’s been a win-win for both players.

Again, I won’t go overboard about the Broncos until they beat a better-credentialed team than the Cowboys. However, I think Broncos fans can feel very excited about the season.

I know it’s only one game, but I’m prepared to say North Queensland are in real trouble. Talking on my Six Tackles With Gus podcast this week, I explained how I was not expecting much from the Cowboys in season 2020. Over the past couple of years they’ve looked like a very tired unit in desperate need of a player roster overhaul. I’ve seen no strategic recruitment; little or no development of young hopefuls.

I stated that season 2020 looks as though it will just be a repeat of everything we’ve seen in previous years. I was not expecting any real improvement. My worst fears were realised. On such a huge night for the club and their city, to be opening their sparking new stadium, the Cowboys were flat and uninspiring. It’s not going to improve anytime soon.

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