NRL 2022: The best buy of the season so far, Wests Tigers disrespect Adam Doueihi

The Wests Tigers continue to mess with their best player, proof Nathan Cleary is a protected species and more in the Crawley Files.

The forgotten man in the Tigers’ decision to backflip on dumping Luke Brooks is Adam Doueihi.

Doueihi was the team’s best player before he was injured last year.

But for the second round in a row since his return from injury he’s been selected on the bench.

Would Souths return Cody Walker off the bench, or Luke Keary at the Roosters?

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Even if Doueihi’s not ready to play a full game, he should still starting and wearing the No 6 if he is fit to play.

If Brett Kimmorley doesn’t want to drop Brooks, he should play him at halfback and move Jackson Hastings to lock.

It’s interesting to note Doueihi is off contract at the end of next season, but says he’s in no rush to start talking about an extension before November 1.

Adam Doueihi needs to be starting for the Tigers. Picture: NRL PHOTOS
Adam Doueihi needs to be starting for the Tigers. Picture: NRL PHOTOS

THE COWBOY WHO TURNED DISASTER INTO TRIUMPH

It was this corresponding round last year when Chad Townsend played his first game for the Warriors after a mid-season transfer.

At that point he’d already signed his monster $2.4m contract at North Queensland, but judging by his performances for the Warriors it looked as though the Cowboys deal would end in disaster.

But 12 months down the track and if you had to pick an NRL buy of the year right now Townsend gets the points decision over Adam Reynolds.

Chad Townsend is leading the ‘Buy of the Year’ race right now. Art: Boo Bailey
Chad Townsend is leading the ‘Buy of the Year’ race right now. Art: Boo Bailey

The two veteran No 7s will go head-to-head in Saturday’s Queensland blockbuster in Townsville.

It’s just as unbelievable to think this time last year the Broncos were dead last on the ladder, while the Cowboys were ninth before dropping to 15th.

Townsend had five games for the Warriors and not a win among them, finishing with three try assists, no line breaks and one line break assist.

Chad Townsend and Adam Reynolds have been superb pick-ups for the Cowboys and Broncos. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images
Chad Townsend and Adam Reynolds have been superb pick-ups for the Cowboys and Broncos. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

This year as Cowboys captain his greatest accomplishment so far has been driving this revolution, while he’s also contributed with 15 try assists from as many games, with 11 wins, two line breaks and eight line break assists.

While Reynolds has also been an outstanding influence on the Broncos, he’s only played 10 games so far.

It’s hard to think of too many better buys, although you could make an argument for Nicho Hynes at Cronulla, while Kurt Capewell has also been great for the Broncos.

At Melbourne Nick Meaney has been terrific although not as dominant, and Matt Burton is on an upward trajectory at the Bulldogs but they’ve only had four wins.

Cameron Murray was left bleeding after a high shot by Queensland’s Murray Taulagi. Picture: NRL Photos/Gregg Porteous
Cameron Murray was left bleeding after a high shot by Queensland’s Murray Taulagi. Picture: NRL Photos/Gregg Porteous

NRL DROP THE BALL ON DANGEROUS TACKLE CRACKDOWN

It’s an absolute farce how the NRL have suddenly about-faced on the dangerous tackle crackdown that has caused so much controversy since Magic Round last year.

The latest incidents over rep weekend prove it beyond any doubt.

How does Nathan Cleary not get charged for the high shot that forced Kalyn Ponga off for a concussion test in Origin, and Ponga is now out of Newcastle’s game against Gold Coast?

The same goes for Murray Taulagi’s high shot on Cameron Murray that also forced the NSW backrower from the field with blood dripping from inside his ear.

Do you reckon Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Victor Radley, Jaydn Su’a or Jack Hetherington would have escaped that one?

THE FIVE MEN WHO CONTROL FINALS DESTINY FOR THEIR CLUBS

Latrell Mitchell v Jack Wighton. If you had to choose one player to fight for your NRL team’s survival, who would you pick?

This not only relates to this weekend’s big audition to see if either Mitchell or Wighton gets called into the NSW team for the Origin decider.

This is also about the other fight that starts to ramp up at this time every season – the one relating to NRL finals survival.

Here we have identified five of the most valuable players in the game, but only two will still be left standing when the top eight is finally settled at the end of August.

The key players for the five NRL teams battling it out for final two finals slots.
The key players for the five NRL teams battling it out for final two finals slots.

WHO WILL MAKE THE CUT

With 10 rounds of the regular season remaining, it looks certain the top six teams will be playing finals.

With 26 competition points expected to be the top eight cut off, the Panthers are on 28, the Storm 24, the Cowboys 22, and the Sharks, Broncos and Eels 20.

All look safe unless there is a major form slump to come.

But behind them is a logjam of five clubs fighting for two remaining spots.

Given the Rabbitohs (7th) and Dragons (8th) are on 16 points, that means they need to win at least half their remaining 10 matches, while the Roosters (9th), Sea Eagles (10th) and Raiders (11th) on 14 points need to win at least six of 10.

Latrell Mitchell is yet to play a finals match for the Rabbitohs. Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
Latrell Mitchell is yet to play a finals match for the Rabbitohs. Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

WHY LATRELL OWES SOUTHS, NOT NSW

As much as the Rabbitohs’ showdown with the Eels on Saturday night is being hyped up as Latrell’s Origin audition, this is also when payback to Souths must start.

And two big questions to be answered in the weeks ahead is will Latrell’s body hold up, and just as importantly, his discipline?

While you can’t blame the star fullback for the hamstring injury that has sidelined him since round five, there’s also no forgetting the six-match suspension that wiped him out of last year’s finals series (potentially costing Souths a premiership).

Let’s also remember, Latrell is yet to play finals footy for the Bunnies, after missing the previous year with another hamstring injury.

Everyone knows that at his best Mitchell is capable of inspiring the Rabbitohs to go deep into the finals.

But to do that he needs to stay on the field.

And what’s still a concern is that at the start of the year Latrell vowed not to change when he was preparing for his return from suspension for that sickening shot on Joey Manu, after also accusing the NRL of going soft.

Let’s hope with this extra time out with injury he’s now had a rethink.

This is the time of the year when marquee players really need to earn their keep. Right now you could argue no player has a bigger debt to settle with his club.

Ben Hunt has been in terrific form for the Dragons in 2022. Picture: NRL PHOTOS
Ben Hunt has been in terrific form for the Dragons in 2022. Picture: NRL PHOTOS

TIME FOR DRAGONS’ $6M MAN TO DELIVER

Ever since Ben Hunt arrived at the Dragons on a bumper $6 million deal, the star halfback has copped it about his salary.

Though this year all that talk has gone reasonably quiet because there hasn’t been many more consistent players across the game.

That said, now’s the time Hunt really needs to deliver for a club that hasn’t played finals football since his first season at the Dragons in 2018.

In a side boasting a big and experienced pack, an exciting young backline, but let’s face it, not one of the NRL’s top spines, Hunt is the one player capable of making this team able to compete with the premiership heavyweights.

And that last round bash up of the Bunnies could really be the line in the sand moment the Dragons have been searching for.

But it will mean nothing if they don’t go on with it against the Raiders in Wollongong on Sunday.

The Roosters have missed Victor Radley’s ability to spread the attack. Picture: Albert Perez/Getty Images
The Roosters have missed Victor Radley’s ability to spread the attack. Picture: Albert Perez/Getty Images

ROOSTERS’ SECRET WEAPON RETURNS

You could easily name James Tedesco or Luke Keary as the Roosters’ two most important players, throw in Joey Manu.

The thing about Victor Radley is that he provides a point of difference very similar to Isaah Yeo at Penrith, with his ball playing ability taking huge pressure off the halves.

Throw in his bone-jarring defence, and this is why Radley could be the key to unlocking the Roosters’ real potential after a season where they have struggled to kick into gear.

Radley’s just one of those players that you don’t always fully appreciate until he’s not there, kind of like when Yeo got banged up in Origin I and it impacted the entire Blues team.

Friday’s clash against Yeo’s Panthers will be Radley’s first game since suffering an ankle injury in round 10.

Like Latrell, Radley also needs to keep a check on his emotions.

You want him to play as tough as the rules allow, but it’s a fine line that can be easily crossed.

The Roosters have a really tough run home, with only three of the remaining 10 games against teams currently below them on the ladder.

Can Daly Cherry-Evans carry the Sea Eagles into the finals? Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Can Daly Cherry-Evans carry the Sea Eagles into the finals? Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

CAN DCE FIRE UP MANLY WITHOUT TURBO?

Are Manly still a one-man band – or can Daly Cherry-Evans lift the Sea Eagles into this year’s finals without Tom Trbojevic?

We are about to find out.

The moment Manly lost Turbo for the season it was always going to be hard for a team that finished top four last year.

But you’d imagine that type of talk would really get under the skin of one of the game’s highest paid players, who also happens to be the Manly and Queensland captain.

The Sea Eagles would be filthy they threw away their last game against the Cowboys by letting in three late tries.

But what it also showed is that they are still good enough to compete with the best.

Their run home still has four games against teams below them on the table.

Jack Wighton will be out to make a statement when the Canberra Raiders play the Dragons on Sunday. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Jack Wighton will be out to make a statement when the Canberra Raiders play the Dragons on Sunday. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

WIGHTON’S BATTLE FOR RESPECT

The fact it’s even a discussion whether Wighton regains his starting spot for the Origin decider is all the proof you need the Raiders’ star doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

Wighton was easily the Blues’ best in game one before Covid forced him out of the match in Perth.

Yet after the thumping victory some would have you believe Wighton should consider himself lucky if he now gets back a spot on the Blues bench.

Raiders fans should be happy about that. You just know it will light a fire inside Wighton who will be running out against the Dragons on Sunday ready to make a statement of his own.

Wighton might not have as big a reputation as some of the game’s most fashionable stars, but when it comes to big match performances not many are more reliable than this bloke, who was also Clive Churchill Medal winner in 2019 in a losing grand final team.

If the Raiders beat the Dragons they could finish the round in the eight (that’s providing games between the Sea Eagles v Storm and Panthers v Roosters goes to script).

Originally published as NRL 2022: The best buy of the season so far, Wests Tigers disrespect Adam Doueihi

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