Has Storm’s supremacy finally been surpassed?
WITH Round 6 of the competition almost done and dusted, our team of rugby league writers analyse the NRL's talking points in the Monday Bunker.
MALONEY MOUNTS HIS CASE FOR BLUES JERSEY
Sharks v Panthers
What chance James Maloney and Luke Keary for NSW Origin?
While his Penrith Panthers would struggle to beat time on a drum at the moment, Maloney was outstanding for large chunks of the game against Cronulla at Shark Park.
While some have criticised the Panthers halves for not winning it late, you could argue Maloney had effectively won it for them early - passing for one try, kicking for another and booting a huge 40/20 that would've given the Panthers a third touchdown in the next set were in not for a shepherding infringement.
Already Keary, the form Blues halves contender, has proved himself a genuine halfback for the Roosters this year.
And if he debuts, you reckon Blues coach Brad Fittler would prefer it be alongside someone with the experience that is Maloney's 12 Origins appearances. Together, the duo have also won four NRL premierships - which matters on the biggest of rugby league stages.
- Nick Walshaw
SOLUTION TO BENNETT'S REFS COMPLAINT
Bulldogs v Rabbitohs
Wayne Bennett is clearly fed up with the way games are being refereed this season and he has a point.
Bennett raised his frustrations in the wake of the Rabbitohs' 14-6 win over the Bulldogs, that came on the back of the first scoreless second half since round one 2017.
Bennett was not blaming the refs, he was pointing the finger at the players.
As he stated: "I have never been in an era of the game when I thought the players were less compliant."
There is no doubt players from all teams are running roughshod over the rules by using go-slow tactics and it has had a detrimental impact on many matches, not just over the weekend.
Until now it has been ignored because everyone has been too afraid to speak up following the outrage over last season's penalty crackdown.
It all went pear-shaped over the weekend with some shocking decisions marring several games.
But more so than the howlers, it is the constant go-slow tactics in the ruck and players standing offside at the defensive line and jumping the gun that is the key issue.
Players are even standing offside for 20 metre restarts and the refs and touch judges are standing there watching on and doing nothing about it.
It has just become a joke to watch.
Unless it is addressed it is only going to get worse as the weeks roll on.
Bennett was not saying the refs need to go back to the way it was last year when they were blowing the pea out of their whistles just to make their point.
But the refs have to take back control.
As Bennett said: "The solution is ref what is in front of you. It has always been the solution … blow the whistle."
- Paul Crawley
RED-HOT ROOSTERS HAVE STORM'S NUMBER
Storm v Roosters
Premierships aren't won in April, although plenty are ready to crown the Roosters now, but the Melbourne Storm find themselves in an unfamiliar position after their second straight loss to the Tricolours.
For so long, Melbourne have been the colossus that sits astride the ages, the titans of rugby league who were the last and most difficult mountain to climb on the path to a premiership.
How many times in the past were teams not truly counted as premiership material until they met, or matched, the Storm? How many times have Melbourne welcomed a false contender and, in no uncertain terms, ripped their throats out and watched them die?
There were isolated years where the Storm didn't best them all but they never seemed to be truly surpassed, only matched or bettered on the day.
Now, in the year 2019, it's not like that anymore. The Roosters' last two wins over Melbourne haven't been like the old rivalry with Manly, which was bitter and brutal and back and forth until the fight went out of the Sea Eagles, or the new one with Cronulla, which did and does glisten with hate.
It appears the Roosters have their number. Melbourne coming back from 20 down was very impressive but if they can't beat a Roosters side without Jake Friend, Sio Siua Tauikeiaho, Isaac Liu, Joseph Manu and Brett Morris while also losing Luke Keary with 20 minutes to go and handing over possession 40 metres out with 90 seconds left … then hell, what Roosters team can they beat?
The Storm are still the second best team in the comp and backing against Craig Bellamy and Cameron Smith has been a good way to lose money for many years, but perhaps Melbourne have finally been surpassed in a more permanent fashion.
- Nick Campton
GRANVILLE RUNS AND COWBOYS REAP REWARDS
Warriors v Cowboys
Cowboys rake Jake Granville is at his most dangerous when he runs the ball from dummy half and it was on show against the Warriors on Saturday night.
North Queensland's No. 9 copped criticism before the match about his quiet start to the year and his inability to add any attacking pressure.
However, the 30-year-old showed he still has the talent to crack the defensive line with his dummy-half runs and help his side grind out a win.
In the Cowboys' second win of the season, Granville only played 46 minutes but built much-needed momentum down the middle of the field.
e ran for 73m on five occasions from the play-the-ball and broke through two tackles.
In comparison, his highest running metres so far this season was 60m in 80 minutes during their Round 1 win against the Dragons.
Since then, he has been quiet in the No. 9 jersey, including a zero-running-metre-effort in their loss to the Storm in Round 5.
Back-up hooker Kurt Baptiste allows Granville to play his natural running game and will be a huge boost for the Cowboys going forward this season.
- Chris Honnery
HUNT GIVES WALTERS PLENTY TO THINK ABOUT
Dragons v Sea Eagles
All eyes were on Queensland halfback rivals Ben Hunt and Daly Cherry-Evans heading into this match and the result was … kind of a draw.
Cherry-Evans and Hunt were both in great touch, particularly with their kicking games which is a big deal for Hunt, who doesn't always have his kicking boots on.
Given Cherry-Evans is the surprise frontrunner for the Maroons captaincy and was Queensland's best player in their Origin III win last year he must be counted as the champion and therefore retains the title due to the tie.
But Hunt has given Kevin Walters plenty to think about.
A berth at hooker would be a bold call given Jake Friend will be waiting in the wings and has been primed for Cameron Smith to retire from rep footy for close to a decade now.
Right now, Hunt appears the frontrunner for the Queensland utility spot at the very worst and his increased command of the Dragons since Gareth Widdop's injury has been very impressive.
A good performance on Anzac Day against the Roosters will go a long way towards convincing Walters of his suitability to feed the scrums for Queensland and the rest of the league of the Dragons title credentials.
- Nick Campton
SAMI SURGES BACK INTO NRL RELEVANCE
Titans v Knights
Anyone remember Phillip Sami or even have him on your Supercoach team? If you do, then hat's of to you because this kid's on fire.
Sami has been on the outer this year with Dale Copely and Anthony Don Garth Brennan's preferred wingers but his Easter Sunday performance might just have resurrected his career.
Sami's stats against the Knights were Biblical - the winger racked up 231 metres, two line breaks and a try to spearhead the Titans' mammoth win at home and he did it all with a big grin on his face.
The 21-year-old Ipswich product played his role to perfection and despite lacking a little defensive polish was a constant threat in attack.
He famously left Dally M medallist Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in his wake last year after a side-stepping run that went viral but we get the sense the best is yet to come from Phillip Sami.
It's his fourth year in the NRL now - will we see him break the shackles and lock down a starting berth in 2019?
- Lachlan Grey
RED-HOT RAIDERS ON A ROLL
Raiders v Broncos
Canberra have started the season 5-1 for the first time since 2005 and the capital is positively dancing.
The Raiders boast the best defence in the league, they've won four in a row and have two more winnable games coming up before they meet the Roosters on the Magic Weekend.
If you're in the Green Machine business then cousin business is a-booming.
Sure, the Raiders weren't streets ahead of the battling Broncos on Sunday afternoon. They coughed up a 14-4 half-time lead and had to rally with two pretty basic tries before withstanding a late Broncos fightback.
But given the late-match horrors the Raiders faithful have suffered in recent years do you think any one of them cares? Canberra could get up 1-0 via a field goal from 10 metres out that goes over by accident and it wouldn't matter.
With Canberra third on the ladder (and it would have been first were it not for Jack Bird's try in garbage time) and packed out more grizzled English hardarses than a Guy Ritchie movie they'll fancy their chances of adding another win this Sunday at Brookvale.
Special mention must go to one of those hardarses, lock Ryan Sutton. John Bateman has received so many plaudits this year and deservedly so but the other Wigan man has really taken to the NRL, impressing with his workrate and physicality.
- Nick Campton