While the 2018 #NRL Pre-Season is still a few weeks away, there's a bunch of warm-up clashes happeni...
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The Armchair Expert is back for another week of peerless analysis of our great game.
Each week leading into the finals, our Armchair Expert runs his lazy eye over the weekend that was. He'll look at the happenings of the previous weekend, and keep you up to date with the big issues like refereeing, social media and the current controversies.
This week, our Guru looks at the fallout from the Henry-Hayne saga & the former's sacking, an ugly off-field incident, and finds the answer to the fake crowd drama which made headlines late last week.
All those, plus a wrap up of all the injuries and suspensions from the weekend. Let's get into it....
This one's not going to who readers might expect.
Sacked Gold Coast Titans coach Neil Henry has been in the headlines along with star player Jarryd Hayne for a few weeks now, and it's only been 48 hours at the time of writing since the club confirmed his exit with just two premiership matches remaining.
But the grace with which Henry appears to have taken the news, which is reported to have been relayed to him as early as Saturday, is something special. In a mark of the man, he was spotted in the stands of Piggabeen Sports Complex on Sunday afternoon as Titans' feeder outfit Tweed Heads lost narrowly to Northern Pride in the Intrust Super Cup.
Henry also issued a statement to the ABC thanking the club's fans for their support over the previous three seasons, and rather than throw barbs at the club who ended his contract, insisted the diehards stick with the side and support the players. There's no right way to be sacked, but this seems like a pretty good way to go about it.
The entire Manly side have put their hands straight up for this one. Apparent complacency and atrocious left edge defence exposed the Sea Eagles on Sunday against a lowly Bulldogs side they were expected to comfortably towel up. In the past fortnight the Silvertails are 0-2 against teams from the bottom four (although the Bulldogs jumped to 12th with their win), and have plenty to work on before they meet another one - the Warriors - this Sunday across the Tasman.
With Trent Barrett surprising many by guiding the Eagles into the top eight over the first half of the season, he and his charges need to stop the rot quickly or they actually risk missing the finals altogether if the Dragons are able to get their act together and mount a challenge for the last available spot.
It goes without saying Canterbury stunned not only the Sea Eagles but their own fans with an enterprising performance at ANZ Stadium on Sunday as they bid a home ground farewell to several players. In accounting for Manly they became the 16th and final team to reach the 30-point mark in a match this season, a remarkable feat given their inability to trouble the scorers in recent months.
Whether a spirited showing in the final weeks of the competition is enough to save Des Hasler's job at the blue-and-whites is anyone's guess, but at the very least fans will be glad to see the side enjoying their footy once more.
There wasn't too much in the way of specific on-field decisions that made headlines this week - sadly the talking point for the match officials across Round 24 was an ugly incident involving a Canberra Raiders fan at halftime in their side's contest with Penrith at GIO Stadium on Sunday.
The Raiders were quick to identify and remove the fan who spat in the direction of referee Ashley Klein and his entourage as they left the field following the conclusion of the first half, and have since issued a statement confirming the offender will be banned for at least a year from attending matches.
Broncos: Andrew McCullough (knee)
Raiders: Dunamis Lui (knee)
Sharks: Tony Williams (knee)
Titans: Ryan Simpkins (knee), Chris McQueen (neck), Karl Lawton (shoulder)
Sea Eagles: Jorge Taufua (knee)
Storm: Christian Welch (ACL), Cheyse Blair (ankle)
Knights: Rory Kostjasyn (throat, retired), Brock Lamb, Dylan Phythian & David Bhana (knee), Pauli Pauli (fibula), Luke Yates (ankle)
Cowboys: Josh Chudleigh & Matt Scott (ACL), Johnathan Thurston (shoulder), Patrick Kaufusi (foot), Ben Spina (biceps)
Eels: Clint Gutherson & Kaysa Pritchard (knee), Beau Scott (biceps)
Panthers: Leilani Latu (jaw)
Dragons: Yaw Kiti Glymin (shoulder), Siliva Havili (pectoral), Euan Aitken (shoulder)
Rabbitohs: Greg Inglis (ACL)
Warriors: Jacob Lillyman (biceps)
Wests Tigers: Matt Ballin (knee, retired), Jamal Idris (ACL)
Bulldogs: Josh Reynolds (calf), Sam Kasiano (sternum)
Titans: Chris Grevsmuhl, Dan Sarginson & Ryan James (shoulder), John Olive (elbow)
Sea Eagles: Brad Parker (knee)
Knights: Jack Stockwell (shoulder), Anthony Tupou (knee)
Cowboys: Justin O'Neill (elbow), Kalyn Ponga (indefinite)
Eels: Isaac De Gois (concussion), Bevan French (hamstring)
Dragons: Drew Hutchison (knee), Euan Aitken, shoulder)
Rabbitohs: Connor Tracey (ACL), Siosifa Talakai (ankle), Alex Johnston (hamstring)
Warriors: Matt Allwood (ribs), Nathaniel Roache (hamstring), Bodene Thompson (pectoral)
Wests Tigers: Josh Aloiai (knee), Jacob Liddle & Elijah Taylor (shoulder)
Round 26 or Finals return
Broncos: Tevita Pangai-Junior (hamstring), Jordan Kahu (groin)
Sharks: Jack Bird (shoulder)
Titans: Konrad Hurrell (hamstring)
Sea Eagles: Curtis Sironen (pectoral)
Storm: Brandon Smith (wrist), Tim Glasby (shoulder)
Knights: Sione Mata'utia (concussion)
Cowboys: Lachlan Coote (ankle), Gavin Cooper (calf)
Panthers: Matt Moylan (hamstring)
Roosters: Daniel Tupou (groin)
Warriors: Albert Vete (arm)
Manu Ma'u (Eels) - Grade 1 Shoulder Charge (early plea, 150 points)
David Nofoaluma (Wests Tigers) - Grade 1 Dangerous Contact, other (early plea, 75 points)
Jared Waerea Hargreaves (Roosters) - Grade 1 Dangerous Contact, head/neck (early plea, 75 points)
Brett Morris (Bulldogs) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw (early plea, clean record, 50 points)
Channel 7's Sydney news last week launched a report taking a look at the very real problem the NRL faces with scheduling, with poor crowds in Sydney plaguing in particular the Thursday night and early Friday timeslot.
Broadcasters sprung using old video to make @NRL crowds look bigger. #7News https://t.co/BjpF3hNY6E
— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) August 19, 2017
Interestingly, they chose to sideline the story to focus on the more (seemingly) sensational angle that the game's broadcasters were "sprung using old video to make crowds look bigger".
You'd think there'd be a fairly straightforward explanation for this - and you'd be right. DeciderTV today got to the bottom of the footage furore - and traced it all the way back to Round 15 - some seven weeks prior to the news story.
Check back next week for more expert analysis from the seat of my pants.
- The Armchair Expert