Titans vs Sharks
Starters: Kevin Proctor.
Bench/Extended Bench: Jesse Arthars, Moeaki Fotuaika.
Starters: Sosaia Feki, Briton Nikora.
Bench/Extended Bench: Braden Hamlin-Uele/Sione Katoa.
Jesse Arthars makes his way on to the bench for Gold Coast Titans after dominating reserve grade in Queensland for Burleigh Bears. Initially Arthars was selected at fullback for the Queensland Residents but pulled out - probably to make his NRL debut - now he has been graced with a bench utility spot in #14.
The Titans have previously had Phillip Sami in this role, now it's Arthars turn to add some funk to the Titans team. Tall and lean, it'll be interesting to see what kind of impact Arthars can have in the NRL against bigger bodies and I suspect we will see him dabble in centre or wing. Long-term, Arthars is the perfect candidate to take over at fullback from Michael Gordon. Also long-term; born in Auckland, raised in Queensland so I'm not sure where Arthars sits with who he wants to rep.
Tigers vs Panthers
Starters: Esan Marsters, Benji Marshall, Ben Matulino.
Bench/Extended Bench: /Elijah Taylor, Michael Chee-Kam, Russell Packer.
Starters: Caleb Aekins, Dean Whare, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, James Fisher-Harris.
Bench/Extended Bench: Sione Katoa/Jarome Luai.
The #KiwiNRL Panthers crew is back in action with Dean Whare returning to centre, joining Caleb Aekins and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in the Panthers backline this week, while James Fisher-Harris is named to start on an edge. I recently explored the Tonga dummy half situation as Manase Fainu overtakes Sione Katoa in the hooking ranks there and much of the problem for Katoa is a lack of involvement with the Panthers.
Last week's stats were skewed with Viliame Kikau and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak suffered injuries, but the Panthers are 15th in total dummy half runs and while I'm comparing the three Tongan hookers (including Siliva Havili) in a round-a-bout way, it's an intriguing little gauge of their impact. Manly are 6th, while Havili's Raiders are 1st and even Havili is out-performing Katoa in the middle forward battle.
Sea Eagles vs Broncos
Starters: Toafofoa Sipley, Martin Taupau.
Bench/Extended Bench: /Zach Dockar-Clay.
Starters: Alex Glenn.
Bench/Extended Bench: /Jamayne Isaako.
The axe has swung at Brisbane Broncos and with Kodi Nikorima joining Aotearoa Warriors and Jamayne Isaako dropped, Alex Glenn is the lone #KiwiNRL lad left in what used to be a lovely #KiwiNRL situation. Glenn himself isn't exactly in glorious form and his work on an edge is reflective of the Broncos form as Glenn is averaging 7.6runs/61m and is barely averaging a tackle bust and offload per game (0.8 and 0.4). Chuck in 2 missed tackles and Glenn is struggling to maintain relevance in a battling Broncos team.
Bulldogs vs Knights
Starters: Reimis Smith, Jeremy Marshall-King, Corey Harawira-Naera.
Bench/Extended Bench: Fa'amanu Brown/Kieran Foran, Ofahiki Ogden.
Starters: Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Danny Levi.
Bench/Extended Bench: Herman Ese'ese, James Gavet/Mason Lino.
Newcastle Knights are on a nice two game run and there are a couple #KiwiNRL trends emerging in these wins, led by Danny Levi running the footy. Levi had 8 runs for 106m vs Eels and then backed it up with 4 runs for 46m vs Warriors, which is half the output from the Eels game, but the efficiency is crucial here for Levi. As long as Levi is running 4+ times and grabbing 10m on average, the Knights are going to be in a far better position to set up their attacking schemes and give the play-makers better footy to work with.
Levi's crucial because of his speed, which in conjunction with the forwards is a dual-threat. Other Knights have been far more impactful than Herman Ese'ese, but I'm chucking the focus on Ese'ese because he's battled back from a tough start to the season to play three consecutive games, the last two of which have been wins. For context, Ese'ese has played four games total and after a decent 5run/47m in 26mins vs Eels, Ese'ese returned to Auckland with 7runs/79m in 27mins. Such production and effiency off the bench is influential and it will be interesting to see how Ese'ese's work aligns with Knights performances moving forward.
Warriors vs Dragons
Starters: All but Blake Green, Lachlan Burr.
Bench/Extended Bench: All but Karl Lawton.
Starters: Jordan Pereira.
Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.
Kodi Nikorima has been named in the halves alongside Blake Green and what interests me here is the number of Aucklanders vs others in this Warriors line up. Of the 17 players named, three are Aussies and then we have Peta Hiku, Patrick Herbert, Jazz Tevaga, Kodi Nikorima and Tohu Harris who are initially from different pockets of Aotearoa - all North Island. That leaves Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, David Fusitu'a, Ken Maumalo, Agnatius Paasi, Nathaniel Roache, Leeson Ah Mau, Isaiah Papali'i, Bunty Afoa and Ligi Sao as the Aucklanders. That's a nice balance considering Issac Luke and Adam Blair are both absent this week.
Storm vs Eels
Starters: Jahrome Hughes, Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich.
Bench/Extended Bench: Brandon Smith, Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
Starters: Brad Takairangi, Marata Niukore.
Bench/Extended Bench: Peni Terepo, Manu Ma'u.
I've felt like Nelson Asofa-Solomona hasn't quite had the impact this season that he has had in previous seasons and that called for a wee check in with his numbers to see what's doing. Averaging a solid 36mins, Asofa-Solomona is only averaging 8.21m/run which isn't ideal for a middle forward like him and that lack of oomph comes with his offloading ability effectively canceled out by his errors.
Averaging 1.4 offloads, Asofa-Solomona also averages 1.3 errors per game and that error-rate has Asofa-Solomona 2nd for the Storm in errors. Jesse Bromwich is playing more minutes (48mins), so we can't compare the two in terms of production, but Bromwich is averaging 9.29m/run as well as 0.3 errors/game. That puts Asofa-Solomona's work into perspective, against the benchmark of Jesse Bromwich and everyone should be aware that as long as Asofa-Solomona is rolling out these numbers, Melbourne Storm have a low key area of improvement to bank on later in the season if Asofa-Solomona can hit a nek level.
Roosters vs Raiders
Starters: Joseph Manu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Isaac Liu.
Bench/Extended Bench: Zane Tetevano, Sitili Tupouniua.
Starters: Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jordan Rapana.
Bench/Extended Bench: Siliva Havili, Bailey Simonsson, Iosia Soliola.
Let's take a look at the three starting Roosters #KiwiNRL forwards...
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves: 53.5mins, 14.5runs/134m (9.27m/run), 0.5 tackle busts, 0.8 offloads, 0.5 errors.
Sio Siua Taukeiaho: 51mins, 15runs/166m (11.06m/run), 3 tackle busts, 0.6 offloads, 0.4 errors.
Isaac Liu: 48.3mins, 9.3runs/86m (9.3m/run), 0.7 tackle busts, 0.2 errors.
Rabbitohs vs Cowboys
Bench/Extended Bench: /Mawene Hiroti.
Starters: Jordan Kahu, Jason Taumalolo.
Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.
What does a strong Cowboys win vs Titans look like? Jordan Kahu had arguably his best game for the Cowboys so far with 11runs/125m and 4 tackle busts fro fullback, while Jason Taumalolo hit South Auckland Rhino mode and got through 21runs/217m in 60mins. What interests me most about Taumalolo though, is his number of tackles and against the Titans he only had to make 20 tackles which from an opposition view isn't close to being enough.
Against the better teams like the Rabbitohs, I'm eager to see the difference in output from both Kahu and Taumalolo. Kahu will have to deal with Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds' kicking game, while the Rabbitohs will focus a lot of their middle running at Taumalolo and I'd expect Taumalolo to make at least 30 tackles this weekend.
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