The NRL Tackle Round 8: Paul Crawley reveals his weekend likes and dislikes

In the space of six weeks, Newcastle has slipped from first to dead last. And it’s not all Kalyn Ponga or Adam O’Brien’s fault, writes PAUL CRAWLEY.

PAUL CRAWLEY reveals his LIKES and DISLIKES from Round 8 of the NRL season - plus the latest Dally M voting and leaderboard.

Scroll down to find out who the Dally M’s runaway leader is.

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The fact Trent Robinson has won three premierships since 2013 buys him complete job security.

But you just can’t ignore that such a quality roster is struggling to gel.

Look through the Roosters’ roster and they don’t have excuses like the Bulldogs or Tigers or any of the teams down the bottom of the ladder.

But right now if you were to take out James Tedesco, who has been absolutely carrying them on his back, their situation would be even worse.

Luke Keary and the Roosters are struggling. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Luke Keary and the Roosters are struggling. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

They have now lost back-to-back games against the Dragons and the Bulldogs.

And compare that to how they played last year when they were smashed by injuries.

Their attitude and especially their commitment to the one percenters, with and without the ball, is just not in the same ballpark.

Just look at the way Dragons prop Frank Molo strolled through for his try on Anzac Day. Or how Josh Addo-Carr exposed them on the short side with a try you see in under 20s.

That’s not Roosters football.

Then there are all these legitimate questions about Luke Keary playing out of position at halfback.

Everyone knows Keary has played his best football as a running five-eighth for his entire career, and Sam Walker has spent his life playing in the No 7 jumper.

Many might think the jobs of a halfback and a five-eighth are not that significantly different so what’s it matter?

But when you speak to those who really know football they will tell you it’s the subtleties that makes all the difference.

Can you imagine Cooper Cronk or Adam Reynolds switching to five-eighth, or Cameron Munster or Cody Walker halfback?

Jake Clifford is in a rough trot. Picture: NRL Photos
Jake Clifford is in a rough trot. Picture: NRL Photos


Jake Clifford is now the public face of Newcastle Knights’ dramatic collapse this season.

Go back to the first two rounds and Clifford’s form was the talk of the NRL.

He’d won man of the match in wins against the Roosters and Tigers to be equal leader on six Dally M points with Penrith’s Isaah Yeo.

At the time we were all cheering Andrew Johns’s return and the impact it was having on the Knights’ attack, but particularly Clifford who seemed to have come of age.

But fast forward six games and the Knights are now dead last, having not won a game since.

And just to rub salt into it for Clifford, the young playmaker had to endure the embarrassment of being hooked during the second half of the 50-2 hiding off Melbourne, only to be forced back into the game after Phoenix Crossland was forced off for a concussion test.

For some time the Kalyn Ponga contract circus stole the attention away from how bad the Knights were going.

But there is no escaping it now, with their next opponents being Clifford’s former club, the inform Cowboys up in Townsville.

And it is not just Clifford struggling. They are so badly out of form that Daniel Saifiti would struggle to keep his place in the NSW Origin team, and Bradman Best isn’t even in the conversation.

The Knights are in a massive slump (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)
The Knights are in a massive slump (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

Sunday’s loss was the Knights’ third worst at home and is only going to lead to further scrutiny on Adam O’Brien’s position, given there is also talk coming out of Newcastle that all is not well within.

It is clearly showing in their performances — they’ve scored a pitiful four tries across their last five games.


Player safety is bigger than TV ratings.

And referee Grant Atkins should be applauded, not bagged, for sending off Karl Lawton for his sickening tackle on Cameron Murray.

It was great that the Manly forward came out over the weekend and said he was sorry.

But that does not excuse the fact Murray was inches away from potentially suffering a catastrophic injury.

Phil Gould and Brad Fittler have been criticised for their reactions to the Karl Lawton send-off.
Phil Gould and Brad Fittler have been criticised for their reactions to the Karl Lawton send-off.

The problem for Lawton is that when he realised he had put Murray in a dangerous position he didn’t back off. He went through with the tackle and drove Murray into the Central Coast Stadium turf.

In the old days that was what they called a copy book tackle.

But not in the modern game.

And this is why the NRL need to stay strong over this.

They can’t be swayed by emotion, or some of the outrageous criticism from the likes of the Channel 9 commentary team who feel they had their Friday night ruined by a referee with the balls to take a stand between right and wrong.

Blokes like Phil Gould, Brad Fittler and Cameron Smith should all know better, especially after what happened to Alex McKinnon.

But for Gould in particular to take umbrage at the fact the “prime time TV show” was somehow ruined because of it was just so out of touch it was ridiculous.

“So you want your prime time TV show now to be 12 on 13. If that’s your product I give up,” Gould moaned.

We couldn’t be so lucky.

Yet over at Fox to a man Greg Alexander, Benji Marshall, Braith Anasta and Cooper Cronk all agreed with Atkins that the tackle did warrant a send off, as did 72 per cent of fans who voted on our online poll.

It was only days ago a ref was sacked for not sending Daniel Tupou to the sin bin on Anzac Day.

Fair dinkum, who would want to be a ref?


There is no excusing the way the Canberra Raiders just can’t close out a game.

That golden point loss to the Warriors was the 10th time since 2020 the Raiders have given up an eight-point lead.

And if they lose this Friday night against the Bulldogs they are a big chance to be last on the ladder.

That said, surely the NRL also needs to do more to stamp out the gutter tactics that continue to reward bad sportsmanship in our game.

And the Bunker as well as Matt Lodge should be equally embarrassed for the disgraceful decision that helped get the Warriors out of jail with that shocking milking penalty that locked the scores.

Everyone who watched the game saw that Lodge took a dive and there was absolutely no force in the tackle from Corey Horsburgh.

But for the Bunker to step in and award the penalty regardless after reviewing the incident was just unforgiveable.

To his credit Stuart refused to use it as an excuse post game because he knew his team had made other costly errors that led to their downfall.

But in this instance it was also another sad reminder of what some players are prepared to do to get the result.

Just compare what Lodge did to Cameron Murray, who jumped back to his feet after getting speared. It shows the obvious difference in what they consider fair play.


Speaking of weakening a strength to try and strengthen a weakness …

Cooper Cronk gave Brad Arthur some free advice post match after the loss to the Cowboys, saying Arthur better switch Dylan Brown back to five-eighth for this round’s monster match against Penrith.

While Arthur has been playing his son Jake at six and Brown in the centres to cover injuries, Cronk explained why it would be a mistake to do it against the premiers.

“The idea to get past Penrith is you have got to get past their backrowers and Kikau and Martin are very good defensively,” Cronk said.

“So the threat of Dylan Brown, being a big body, a big left foot step, breaking those lines open, I think Parramatta need Brown (at five-eighth).”


It was sad news on the weekend seeing Ash Taylor retire at the age of 27 because of a hip injury.

It’s easy to forget Taylor once beat Latrell Mitchell and Nathan Cleary for the Dally M rookie of the year award.

Yet no one will ever know how good he could have been if he didn’t get handed his mega contract before he was ready for it.

And this is where a club like Gold Coast has to take some accountability, because look at what is going on now with David Fifita.

Same club, very similar issue.

Fifita is now expected to be out for a month with a knee injury.

Perhaps the spell on the sidelines will at least give him a reprieve from the constant scrutiny and criticism.

You are entitled to ask if the Titans are doing enough to help his development.

It would be such a shame to see another wonderful talent go by the wayside.


Kotoni Staggs was a clear winner in his head-to-head showdown with Cronulla wrecking ball Siosifa Talakai.

But in fairness to Talakai he hardly got a chance to get himself into the game.

Every time he got near the ball he had Broncos defenders all over him.

And it seemed every time the Sharks attacked in good field position Nicho Hynes wanted to go right instead of left where Talakai was.

Perhaps it was their plan to try and take some of the pressure off Talakai who had been in the headlines all week.

But if it was premediated it backfired.



Judge: Roy Masters

3: Kotoni Staggs (BRI)

2: Adam Reynolds (BRI)

1: William Kennedy (CRO)


Judge: Andrew Johns

3: Dylan Edwards (PEN)

2: Nathan Cleary (PEN)

1: Isaah Yeo (PEN)


Judge: Paul Whatuira

3: Cody Walker (SOU)

2: Cameron Murray (SOU)

1: Blake Taaffe (SOU)


Judge: Brett Kimmorley

3: Adam Elliott (CBR)

2: Jack Wighton (CBR)

1: Reece Walsh (NZL)

James Tedesco took home the three points in the Roosters loss to Canterbury. Picture: Getty
James Tedesco took home the three points in the Roosters loss to Canterbury. Picture: Getty


Judge: Greg Alexander

3: James Tedesco (SYD)

2: Matt Burton (CAN)

1: Paul Vaughan (CAN)


Judge: Jimmy Smith

3: Scott Drinkwater (NQL)

2: Kyle Feldt (NQL)

1: Jason Taumalolo (NQL)


Judge: Luke Lewis

3: Cameron Munster (MEL)

2: Harry Grant (MEL)

1: Nelson Asofa-Solomona (MEL)


Judge: Greg Inglis

3: Ben Hunt (STI)

2: James Tamou (WST)

1: Moses Mbye (STI)


15: R Papenhuyzen

13: I Yeo, B Hunt

12: M Moses

10: D Cherry-Evans, N Hynes

9: S Walker, D Edwards, J Hughes, S Talakai

8: S Drinkwater, N Cleary, J Wighton

7: J Tedesco, C Munster, D Cook



Before a ball was kicked this year Todd Payten was among the favourites in the market to be first coach sacked.

But if we were handing out the coach of the year award after eight rounds it would be Payten being awarded the prize.

Any questions about the Cowboys being the real deal were well and truly put to bed when they pounded Parramatta 35-4.

It is just amazing to think when the experts were handing out their tips at the start of the season the majority had the Cowboys favourites for the wooden spoon.

In our predictions alone eight of the 13 had the Cows running last.

Yet the quality of their performances in recent weeks has been phenomenal, especially since Scott Drinkwater came in at fullback.

He has just brought them to life and everyone is playing with a belief like they haven’t had probably since that wonderful run to the grand final in 2017.

They are now sitting third on the ladder and it is no fluke.

Cowboys coach Todd Payten has proven the doubters wrong (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
Cowboys coach Todd Payten has proven the doubters wrong (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)


Make no mistake, the Broncos are another team who are not without a hope of making a charge into this year’s top eight.

And we all saw again with that wonderful win over the Cronulla Sharks what a difference Adam Reynolds and Kurt Capewell have made to this club.

Now Reynolds gets the chance to show Souths what they are missing this Thursday night in what promises to be one of the highlights of the season so far.

It’s going to be strange watching Reynolds and Cody Walker going at it one-on-one.

Reynolds of course missed their meeting back in round one but he will be pumped for this.

Meanwhile, Jason Demetriou won’t say it but he has a lot riding on this after that round one loss — his first in charge after taking over from Wayne Bennett.

Don’t forget Demetriou was overlooked back when the Broncos brought in Anthony Seibold.


It was hard not to feel sorry for Trent Barrett as he sat on the sidelines riding every moment of what was heart-stopping 80 minutes against the Roosters.

Right up until that no try decision went against Joseph Suaalii in the dying minute when the Roosters winger put his foot on the line, there was absolutely not a moment when he would have felt safe.

What great theatre it was.

Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett rides the highs and lows from the sideline (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett rides the highs and lows from the sideline (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

But that victory could be the spark this team needs to get their season back on track.

They showed they have the strike and defence to be competitive when they do it for the full 80 minutes.

Josh Addo-Carr’s leadership was inspiring in the absence of Josh Jackson, and some of the plays young Matt Burton produced just show what an exceptional talent he is.

Now they take on the 14th placed Raiders, who haven’t been helped with Jack Wighton now facing a two week ban for a dangerous throw.


What about the position Ivan Cleary is in?

The Panthers just created history by becoming the first team to ever win eight straight to start a season in back to back years.

Now they are expected to get Brian To’o back this week for the big clash against Parramatta.

The Panthers were by no means at their brilliant best against the Titans but they have just mastered how to win football games.

It sure helps having Nathan Cleary who steps up and delivers every time his teams needs him.

His battle with Mitchell Moses this Friday will be a ripper.

Originally published as The NRL Tackle Round 8: Paul Crawley reveals his weekend likes and dislikes

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