Wests Tigers legend Benji Marshall wants his ex-club to make a big decision on the spine given they’ve “got nothing to lose.”
Meanwhile, Storm coach Craig Bellamy will hit the market after yet another injury in his backline.
Elsewhere, Cody Walker responded to his critics and a Broncos gun’s return game may have solved the Dolphins’ fullback woes.
Read on for all of the big talking points out of Round 17.
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Following a brutal elbow injury to young gun winger Grant Anderson, Craig Bellamy’s outside back troops are wearing thin.
The 22-year-old is set for a stint on the sidelines after the club confirmed he had suffered a suspected high-grade medial ligament tear.
Flyer Xavier Coates, George Jennings and Reimis Smith are sitting on the sidelines and all three are regular first graders.
Dean Ieremia, Marion Seve and Anderson have filled their vacancies, but now Bellamy has conceded the Melbourne club will likely have to look to the market to fill the outside backs for the remainder of the year.
“We aren’t getting anyone back, we thought we’d get Reimis back but he is gone for the season, so not quite sure where we go from here, his looks like a pretty serious injury,” Bellamy said in the post-match press conference.
“I think we have a little bit on the cap left, we certainly have a spot in our top 30, we probably will have to do that at some stage.
“We haven’t spoken too much about it but with Grant getting injured tonight we will have to have a talk about it.”
The Storm will likely have to entice a player to make a mid-season switch, likely sending a player the other way in return — or complete a loan deal similar to that of the Warriors with Jesse Arthars.
Hayze Perham is yet to be re-signed by the Eels and was in superb form on the weekend, scoring four tries in NSW Cup. The added bonus is that he can cover any position in the backline.
The Sharks have Mawene Hiroti who is off-contract and waiting in the wings and likely wouldn’t take much cap space to entice a short-term deal.
Cowboys utility Ben Hampton is another option, having already spent time at the Storm and currently stuck behind an in-form backline.
KLEMMER SEND OFF LATEST INCIDENT IN KNIGHTS’ SORRY SEASON
David Klemmer was sent off for an elbow to the face of Rabbitohs forward Daniel Suluka-Fifita in an incident that summed up Newcastle’s frustrating season.
The Knights lost 40-28 to the Rabbitohs with Klemmer being sent off in the last minute as tensions boiled over in a sign the Knights finals hopes are getting away from them.
Benji Marshall believes Klemmer just let the game situation and his frustration at another Knights loss get the better of him in the heat of the battle.
“He did talk about it last week saying that was the David Klemmer of old coming out when he struck up for one of his teammates in a similar circumstance,” Marshall said on Fox League.
“Today he would probably say the same thing that it was the David Klemmer of old because we haven’t seen this sort of thing from Klem for a long time.
“The frustration of the game being gone and tempers running high off the back of the scuffle he had with Koloamatangi.
“I have played with a lot of players who get like that and in the heat of the battle like that they want something and he went too far looking for it.”
Klemmer escaped a ban over the incident in what was considered a harsh send off, but Cooper Cronk believes the Knights need to start stringing some wins together if they are any hope of making the finals.
“It is hard to get a gauge on a minute to go before full-time and the referee sends him off for a second incident back-to-back,” Cronk said.
“Is it a week? Is it more than that? Direct to the head and reckless. They are strong words from the referee.
“But you talk about the Knights sitting in 12th spot. If they are to push and challenge for the eight they are going to have to put a lot of wins back-to-back.
“Only five wins for the season and that’s their 11th loss tonight. Manly, Roosters, Bulldogs, Tigers next. Manly maybe, Roosters maybe, but Bulldogs and Tigers they are in that contest to win a couple.”
However with a logjam of teams fighting for eighth spot on the ladder, the Knights can’t afford to lose too many more games if they want to feature in September.
WALKER ANSWERS CRITICS IN MASTERCLASS
Cody Walker has had an up and down season, but he well and truly answered his critics with a masterclass performance in the Rabbitohs’ 40-28 win over the Knights.
Walker had 88 run metres, two tackle busts, a linebreak, a linebreak assist, three try assists and two tries, including a long range intercept to lead his side to victory.
Cooper Cronk believes the Rabbitohs are starting to find their blueprint in getting the basics done across the park and allowing Walker and Latrell Mitchell to do the rest.
“It took that left side and a bit of Cody Walker magic to score the last three tries before halftime, which made it 24-16,” Cronk said.
“It was too classy and too powerful from Souths for the overall game.
“Seven tries for South Sydney and five try assists between Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell.
“That is South Sydney. Everyone is role players and do the basics well and give your two star players the chance to come up with the big plays.
“Souths will be a little bit scary if they can put all that together at the back end of the year.”
Benji Marshall commended Souths and Walker for rising to the occasion with so many key players out against the Knights.
“It is a massive win for South Sydney when you talk about the players they had out due to Origin in Jai Arrow, Damien Cook and Cameron Murray and Campbell Graham missing as well,” marshall said.
“Individual brilliance tonight was the difference. Cody Walker did some really nice things in attack.”
Souths coach Jason Demetriou believes the criticism of Walker has been unfair and commended his star player for his special performance not only in the game but in the build-up.
“Cody gets a lot of stick and I don’t think it is fair a lot of the time,” Demetriou said.
“There was going to be nobody under more pressure leading into the start of this season than Cody and I feel like he is coming through that now.
“He is getting to terms with that and starting to play his own game, which is he takes the line on when he is on and doing what he needs to do for the team and his effort areas are outstanding.
“Through the week he was probably calming me down which is unusual. It is usually the other way around.
“He is a pleasure to coach. He is a big part of our club and he was special this week and special tonight.”
MORE NRL NEWS
‘WORN THE FLAK FOR ALL OF US’: Hastings responds to Tigers’ halves logjam
‘MASSIVE OVER-REACTION’: Debate rages over Smith’s referee slur as big ban looms
KEY CALL TIGERS MUST MAKE
Wests Tigers legend Benji Marshall has called on the club to change its halves pairing after a fifth straight loss on Saturday night.
The Tigers slumped to the bottom of the ladder after the Eels won at Leichhardt for the first time since 2001.
The defeat came with Jackson Hastings and Luke Brooks in the halves and Adam Doueihi playing centre despite requesting during the week to play five-eighth.
Marshall wants to see Brooks moved back to halfback, Doueihi to five-eighth and Hastings to lock for the next match, against the table-topping Panthers on Sunday.
“To be honest I’d probably change it up and have a crack at seeing what the other combinations look like, they’ve got nothing to lose at the moment,” Marshall said on Fox League.
“They should look at Luke at 7, Doueihi at 6 and Jackson probably at 13 next week I’d say, but that’s just me guessing. That’s just something I’d try.”
Brooks suggested after the 28-20 loss that he prefers wearing the No. 7 jersey – where he spent the first eight years of his career playing.
“I don’t mind it out there but I also like playing halfback as well but I’ll do whatever is best for the team, wherever they want to put me, I’ll play,” Brooks told Fox League.
Hastings praised Brooks’ performance against the Eels but also said he was fighting for his own future at the club.
“I’m trying to cement myself within the club. All three of us want to play in the halves. That’s no secret, I feel sorry for the coaches picking the team each week,” he said.
“Luke has been a cornerstone of this club for so many years and he’s worn the flak for all of us really that have been a part of this club so he is someone that I love to put my arm around.
“He was really busy tonight but that’s not my call, I’m sort of fighting for my future as the rest of the players.”
The Tigers axed Michael Maguire over a months ago and Marshall emphasised the club must soon announce its next coach.
“There’s nothing to lose at the moment with the club and what needs to be said is what’s happening with the coach, that’s the first part,” he said.
“It’d be tough for some of those young kids coming through at a club that hasn’t had a lot of success but that’s what bring the energy, those kids bring the energy and it’s up to the guys to (go with them).”
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MOSES THE MAN FOR THE EELS
Mitchell Moses delivered one of his most complete performances of the 2022 season, steering his side to a 28-20 win over an improved Tigers outfit.
The 27-year-old recorded two try assists and a four-pointer of his own to lead from the front, shrugging off criticism following a quiet night by his own standards against the Rabbitohs.
Fox League’s Michael Ennis, who is a consultant under Brad Arthur, revealed he could see Moses was primed for a huge performance during the week.
“I thought Mitch probably had one of his quieter games last week, just seeing him this week and talking to him I felt like he was right up to turning it around,” Ennis said post-match.
“Tonight might be that night where they can really inject themselves towards the finals and Moses is a huge part of that.”
Ennis also believes that Moses is the key to unlocking the full potential of the Eels.
When their talented halfback fires, the Eels roll forward off the back off him and are able to pile on points.
“Dylan (Brown) said afterwards, when Mitch plays well, we all play well,” Ennis said.
“They feed off Mitch Moses, while Gutherson is the captain, and Paulo is the captain, you know that Mitch Moses is their most important player.
“He is the one that all the players look to in those big moments, his last 18 months have shown that he is thriving in those.
“Mitchell Moses was outstanding tonight, he really owned those key moments.”
Hooker Reed Mahoney also believed Moses took his game to a new level in Round 17.
“He was really good, we know how good he can be, he really stepped up tonight and that is why he is on the big bucks,” Mahoney said.
Moses is also on track to go past his record for try assists.
In 2019 he recorded 31 and as it stands he is on 23, leading the competition by five over Cowboys fullback Chad Townsend.
“Last year he had 28. His career best is 31 in 2019. At this pace he should go past that in what is proving to be a stellar season for Mitch Moses,” Fox League’s Matt Russell said.
NIU’S STUNNING RETURN COULD SOLVE
Reece Walsh’s Broncos signing could leave Tesi Niu forced into the centres — or looking for a new home — but he showed on Sunday that he’s at his best in the No.1 jersey… which is why Wayne Bennett should give him a call.
Walsh will walk into the No.1 jersey when he returns to the Broncos so where does that leave Niu? The Dolphins were livid after missing out on Walsh, but ironically the solution to their fullback problem may have just emerged as the very man Walsh will overtake at Red Hill.
Niu missed over two months of footy with a hamstring injury which required surgery. He returned to the field in Round 16 via reserve grade but only played 40 minutes as part of the Broncos’ return to play schedule.
However when Te Maire Martin suffered a rib injury, Broncos coach Kevin Walters had to fast-track that plan and rush Niu back into the side.
The 20-year-old would have been excused for having a modest return but instead he was one of the best players on the field.
He finished with a try, two try assists, eight tackle busts, two linebreaks, four linebreak assists, an offload and 154 running metres.
“He’s been everywhere,” Fox League commentator Andrew Voss said.
“He was very good earlier in the season and now returning to first grade and he’s been the dominant playmaker for Brisbane.”
“The No.1 Tesi Niu, I’m picturing Wayne Bennett somewhere mumbling to himself ‘have I got Tesi Niu’s number… how do you spell Niu?’”
“I dare say he’s already got it,” Cooper Cronk added.
“How good is he going?” Voss responded.
“It is so impressive to come into the side, they’ve got a ready-made excuse, you’re disjointed, there’s new players but they’ve gelled so well.”
The only NRL-ready fullback Bennett has signed to the Dolphins next season is Jamayne Isaako, who was below Niu on the Broncos’ pecking order before securing a mid-season switch to the Titans.
Bennett could do a lot worse than offering Niu an attractive deal and the No.1 jersey guaranteed. But there’s one big hurdle to overcome first — Niu is signed to the Broncos until the end of 2023.