Parramatta Eels are looking good, St George Illawarra Dragons not so much

Parramatta players celebrate a try during the match against the Brisbane Broncos last week at Suncorp Stadium. The Eels were among the big winners from Round 3. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Parramatta players celebrate a try during the match against the Brisbane Broncos last week at Suncorp Stadium. The Eels were among the big winners from Round 3. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Brilliant to watch! That was my impression of the footy last weekend. I loved every minute of it.

No doubt a factor in that was how much I'd missed it during the COVID-19 shutdown. But there is no doubt the games were quicker, there were fewer stoppages and the intensity was right up there which led to some fantastic contests.

Am I convinced the new six-again rule in conjunction with going back to one referee has revolutionised the game like some are suggesting?

I'm not ready to answer that yet because I think the jury is still out and we need some time to see the full effects. The danger for me is the quick play-the-balls will see teams decide to just work over the middle without really using the footy and turn the game into modern-day touch footy.

We also need to see how the coaches react to how the game is now being played and what tactics they come up with to combat it because you can bet your life they are already working on new strategies as we speak.

So who were some big winners and big losers from last week?

Winners:

Parramatta, Canberra and Newcastle.

The Eels are finally giving their fans a reason to hope. They are big, strong and powerful in the middle, have measured halves working well together in Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown, strike out wide and a defensive structure that has given up just two tries in their opening three games which is extraordinary.

The Raiders' systems are now embedded to such as extent they are like a well-oiled machine that could not be running much more smoothly than it is. There is an urgency about their defence and power in their attack. English halfback George Williams already looks like an outstanding recruit.

The Knights had every right to fall in a heap against the Panthers given the adversity they faced with Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson going down early but while they had every excuse under the sun, they refused to use any of them. It was a courageous performance which showcased a commitment to defence not seen from a Knights side for quite some time.

Losers:

St George Illawarra and Melbourne.

The Dragons were the major disappointment from last week. There was absolutely no excuse for what they dished up against the Warriors at Gosford. Given the build-up to last weekend and the fact they were 0-2 to start the season, there was no way they should have been out-worked, out-enthused and totally outplayed by the Warriors. Their players should have been jumping out of their skin. Instead, they never got out of first gear.

The Storm have some issues to iron out around how they are going to handle the quicker ruck speed. I don't think they handled the new style at all well. Even Cameron Smith did not seem to be able to adjust on the run to what was happening against the Raiders.

This week:

Roosters v Broncos: The defending premiers were terrific in repelling South Sydney last weekend with Boyd Cordner back with a vengeance, James Tedesco in great touch, and the Morris twins outstanding. The Broncos have too many injuries to key players just yet to win this one.

Panthers v Warriors: Penrith tried hard but without Nathan Cleary, suffered big time in the creativity department against the Knights in a game they should have won. This is a real danger game for them and if the Warriors control the ball like they did against the Dragons, the Panthers could find themselves in trouble here.

Storm v Rabbitohs: This is a fascinating game and I reckon the Storm need to find some improvement to get away with this one because they looked a little pedestrian against the Raiders. Souths are still without Cody Walker though so may not have the attacking firepower to come out on top.

Eels v Sea Eagles: This will be a ripper between two sides who could not have been more impressive last week. Parra's intensity and their application to defence was first class against the Broncos but I also think Manly have the players in key positions to turn this into a real thriller. I'm going with the Eels but not by much.

Cowboys v Sharks: No Jason Taumalolo here for the Cowboys which, for mine, throws the game wide open. The Sharks will be desperate and showed at times against the Tigers what they are capable of but I'm still just leaning towards the home side. Valentine Holmes was outstanding against the Titans so I'm looking forward to seeing what he can produce against his old club.

Raiders v Knights: As much as I admired Newcastle for their gutsy effort in sharing the points with the Panthers last Sunday, I think they will find this assignment a real step up which will prove beyond them. The Raiders' composure in seeing off the Storm last weekend was impressive. They have power up front in Josh Papalii and co, the guile of Josh Hodgson and strike in their halves.

Titans v Tigers: The Harry Grant-Billy Walters hooking combination is a winner for the Tigers and with Benji Marshall still pulling the strings behind a hard-working forward pack, I can't see them having too much trouble disposing of the troubled Titans.

Bulldogs v Dragons: A vital game for both sides and from all reports, for both coaches. I've got no doubt the Dragons have the better team but if they turn up with the same attitude they dished up against the Warriors, the Dogs will get them. If there is no positive reaction to their effort against the Warriors, all hell will break loose at Kogarah.

This story Eels look the goods, Dragons not so much first appeared on The Canberra Times.