There are many things I can give up for lent, chocolate, take-out, going out with the boys on the weekend, you get it. Instead the latter is now reversed and staying in with the boys will feature heavily over the next 30 weeks. See Rugby League isn’t something any League fan would give up as we witness a multitude of League stars “doing it for the boys” on their return to the field. Boy didn’t the Knights and Sea Eagles do the boys (and girls) around the country proud with a brilliant game on Friday.
This time it was the Knights coming away with the Golden Point win after the Sea Eagles were successful twice last season, being humbled on this occasion. Both coaches hit the nail on the head though, as they saw the courage and determination of both sides in this cracking contest.
1 Knights fans may just be the best
Newcastle has had their problems on the field in recent times but their home crowd was never one. So with nine new players debuting in the Knights shirt last night, the raucous crowd acted as their 18th man, willing the new and old boys over the line with it all eventuating in a clutch Pearce field goal.
The crowd typified the genuine excellence of the game itself, chanting in numbers and hardly receding into their shell, exemplified on the field with every player giving all they had. Taufua returning from a lengthy stint to Ponga having plenty of traffic coming his way, none shirked their duties and it all made for an enthralling contest.
The 23,516 fans that showed up to witness their side topple the Sea Eagles and claim the two competition points, showed just as much class and enthusiasm as the previous three years however with a rejuvenated roster expect much more of the same when the Knights return to McDonald Jones Stadium in three weeks time.
2 Ponga/Knights Fire but still a work in progress
Over the previous three years, the Knights have struggled immensely with on-field performances yielding three consecutive wooden spoons. On Friday's performance, the Knights look all but assured to avoid the spoon for the next three years and beyond.
One man largely responsible for this is Kalyn Ponga, Brown's man of the match he came up with 113 running metre, 1 line-break, 3 goals and a stunning try-saver on Uate. Whilst some of his defensive positioning was questionable it was a courageous outing for the lean fullback.
The same could be said of the rest of the team, their combinations didn't always work but some of the performances would be very encouraging Ese'ese ran for 181 metres and Guerra played out of his skin, an Origin recall is not out of the question should he find consistency.
For the Knights to make the top eight this season, they definitely need to play a little smarter, and fix up some of their last tackle options. Although with Pearce leading the side around, the smarts of Griffin and an experienced pack, the Knights progress should be swift, bring on the rest of the season!
3 Croker deserves to be Manly's five-eighth for now
Whilst it wasn't the happiest of times for Croker on his club debut for the Sea Eagles, ending the game with five errors I thought there were positive signs. Some of his play looked particularly incisive and instinctive and with a star half alongside him, was not afraid to get his hands on the ball.
Despite the errors did not go into his shell and could see his confidence was still there as he attempted to pull off a couple of set moves, one ending with a forward pass to Tom Trbojevic, however, the quick pair of hands from Croker a positive sign.
Over the coming weeks, once the rust of the early rounds has worn off, I expect Croker to show his value and prove why the Sea Eagles didn't need to buy a half after losing Blake Green in the off-season.
4 Pearce/DCE not done with Origin
Both men have been much maligned in recent years particularly Mitchell Pearce although after DCE came off a lean couple of years in 2015 and 2016 many were left doubting whether he would sneak back into Origin contention.
Both players kicking games were on show with Pearce at one stage halfway through the second half piloted an inch-perfect grubber kick down into the Eagles corner, allowing his side an invaluable 60 seconds for a breather as they were coming over the Sea Eagles.
Then DCE with just 2 minutes to go having just nailed a 39 metre penalty, sent a bomb swirling through the air and landing just inside the field of play where a swarm of Eagles defenders were waiting to kick off a brilliant defensive set in an attempt to steal the game.
Two moments of class from two class players who both have big seasons ahead of them for possibly both club and state.
5 Referees to crackdown on offside players
RIght throughout the games spread across this opening weekend teams across the NRL have been hammered and penalised for being offside or inside the 10 metres when defending.
On Thursday the Broncos defeated themselves with repeated infringements over the new, strictly enforced ruling. On Friday it was Manly.
With the new rule imposed it sure keeps fans happy in the sense that in years gone by the rule has not been as strictly adjudicated. However, it makes for a slower contest, I hope that teams learn their lesson early, so that the fluidity of games isn't continually ruined.
Highlights: Newcastle Knights vs Manly Sea-Eagles - Round 1
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