Robert Dillon: Seven Days in League

AN EYE FOR AN EYE: Dylan Walker sports a shiner after his disagreement with Melbourne centre Curtis Scott. Picture: AAP

AN EYE FOR AN EYE: Dylan Walker sports a shiner after his disagreement with Melbourne centre Curtis Scott. Picture: AAP

THURSDAY

A TRUSTED spy informs Seven Days of a chance meeting in Sydney with a large, opinionated bloke who introduces himself as Nathan Tinkler.

Tinkler? Tinkler? The name rings a bell.

Anyway, the big fella makes a fearless prediction: “Bellamy to the Broncos. It’s a done deal.”

Hmmm. I’m not sure what to make of all this. I wasn’t buying what Tinks was selling five years ago, so I’m a bit reluctant to do so now.

Meanwhile, Queensland coach Kevin Walters suggests that Cameron Smith’s retirement from rep footy has boosted Kalyn Ponga’s chances of making his Origin debut.

“He [Ponga] is a goalkicker, so that certainly does put him into the frame if that’s the line we go along,” Walters says.

Good thinking, Kevvy. Now you just have to teach him how to play hooker.

FRIDAY

I NOTE with a raised eyebrow a match preview of the Gold Coast v Newcastle clash on the nrl.com website, which states: “It's probably not often the Titans go into a game believing they might be better than the other team.”

I find myself feeling slightly depressed, and worried, about a team of young men so devoid of hope and inspiration they might as well forfeit the rest of the season.

In the Friday night game at Suncorp Stadium, Roosters prop Dylan Napa takes his head-to-head clash with Korbin Sims a tad too literally. Napa cops 10 minutes in the sin-bin but is left with one less competitor for a Queensland jersey, given that Sims will spend the next few weeks eating food through a straw.

SATURDAY

THERE are those who believe rugby league scrums are such a laughing stock we might as well get rid of them.

True, 99.9 per cent of scrums are just a chance for weary players to have a bludge for 60 seconds or so.

But once every two or three seasons, a team will flum a win against the feed and traditionalists will rejoice.

Today it’s Gold Coast who deliver the on-field equivalent of Halley’s comet at the expense of Newcastle.

What’s more, the Titans proceed to beat the Knights 33-26. It’s not a bad effort from a team with an ingrained inferiority complex.

 In Melbourne, the Saturday night clash descends into mayhem when Storm centre Curtis Scott is sent off after doing his best to bring back the biff. Manly duo Dylan Walker and Api Koroisau cop eight minutes in the bin for their roles in the brawl.

 As my former Herald colleague Brett Keeble observes on Twitter: “This is what happens when Cameron Smith isn’t allowed to ref, er, sorry, play. Absolute. Chaos.”

SUNDAY 

DYLAN Walker bears an uncanny resemblance to Rocky Balboa, after copping a flogging from Clubber Lang, as Manly reveal he has a fractured cheekbone that will sideline him for up to six weeks. “Talk shit, get hit. Well done sir,” Walker posts on Instagram.

Walker has long accepted that being a professional niggler/trash talker comes with its occupational hazards. 

“It's a competitive sport,” he said last year. “If they want to put one on me, I'm more than happy to ... some things happen. If you're definitely going to dish it, you've definitely got to take it.” 

I guess that’s what you call a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

At Shark Park, Andrew Fifita declares: “There's nothing more in the world I want [than] to win a State of Origin series.” Nothing, that is, part from playing for Tonga against Samoa in a Pacific Test in Campbelltown, the night before game two in this year’s Origin series.

MONDAY

UNLIKE Dylan Walker, the old fox of the north, Broncos coach Wayne Bennett, does not subscribe to the law of the jungle.

Benny is filthy that Dylan Napa has not been cited for his well-documented Liverpool kiss on Korbin Sims. "Why hasn't the game made Napa accountable?” he asks. "I know there will be a shitfight coming my way but I'm not backing away from it. I am not going to watch my players get broken jaws and remain silent.”

I can’t help reflecting on an incident when Wayne was coaching the Knights in 2013 and prop Kade Snowden was suspended for kneeing Penrith lock Adam Docker in the head.

“The NRL talk pretty tough about coaches not commenting on judiciary … what we all do know is the NRL is influenced by the media, and by coaches and their comments,” the master coach said at the time.

Good old Wayne. He’s never been inclined to worry if the pot is blacker than the kettle.

"There is a bias against the Broncos," he adds.

I’m not sure exactly what he’s getting at here. Presumably not the 16 games in a row Brisbane have won under referee Gerard Sutton at Suncorp Stadium.

Benny’s outburst prompts a response from Napa’s father, Stan: “Bennett – he's always going to whinge. He's just a hypocrite … he says he doesn't like the media but he seems to like to ring them with stories.”

TUESDAY

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg agrees with coach Bennett’s assessment of the Napa incident and fires a broadside at the match-review panel.

“Player safety always comes first, and if you’re going to err on the side of caution, I thought it warranted a charge,” Greenberg declares.

This is unprecedented. Everyone knows you can’t just go criticising the NRL judicial process, willy-nilly.

Greenberg has no option except to fine himself at least $10,000, otherwise anarchy will prevail.

WEDNESDAY

NEWS breaks that the Broncos have offered Storm coach Craig Bellamy a massive four-year deal.

Bellyache and Benny both hold press conferences, the former looking in slightly happier mood than the latter.

All of which brings me back to the hot tip from the aforementioned Nathan Tinkler. Don’t know why I ever doubted him.

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