Zac Lomax of the Dragons attempts a tackle on Jamayne Taunoa-Brown of the Warriors during the Round 3 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, Saturday, May 30, 2020. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
Zac Lomax of the Dragons attempts a tackle on Jamayne Taunoa-Brown of the Warriors during the Round 3 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, Saturday, May 30, 2020. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

From the Grandstand: Rugby league the real winner

THE game of rugby league is riding the crest of a wave at the moment.

Everything is going so well for a change and, again, full credit must go to the authorities who introduced some specific changes.

Whatever team you follow, I’m sure you will agree that the game itself was the winner at the weekend.

Whether you were part of the record number of viewers on TV or one of the cardboard cutouts in the stand, the games were a showpiece for how the game can and should be played.

I think the standard was better than expected because players had not had any matches for 10 weeks and we weren’t sure of fitness levels.

The rules changes proved to be a winner.

As I said in this column last week, I never expected any different. Is it too early to pass judgment? Not for me.

Sure, the referee will make a blunder sooner or later but that can happen when there are two refs, as was the case in last year’s grand final.

It didn’t take long for the “six again” call to be invoked. In the first match on Thursday, in one of the early sets the referee made that call (twice, in fact) and Parramatta scored soon after.

All the coaches and players who still had to play got the message from the No.1 referee – it’s here to stay.

What I really liked was the speed of the game. Not only was the ruck area opened up quickly, the game itself didn’t have those stoppages that can ruin the flow of the match.

It seems to me the sides with the nippy halves will take advantage of that and plays up the middle late in the set will become more common. The bigger sides, like Brisbane, may struggle.

Sad to say but I think Cameron Smith will not be at his best. This will be his last year. I say that because he’s never been that quick around the ruck but the Storm’s slowing the game style suited him particularly. Now he will still play well but not dominate.

Something else I enjoyed was the “canned” spectator noise. Never a fan of new technology, I have to applaud whoever devised this and particularly the fact it was not overdone and was “real”.

Apparently there are more than 50 buttons you can press to orchestrate the sound you want when you want it. More please. I’m not so sure the zoomed images from supporters at home will be a winner though.

And finally some more good news from the weekend. The NZ Warriors (everyone’s second team?) had a good win and played with such control.

They went almost the entire match without dropping the ball.

Full marks to the Dragons, who showed good grace in ­applauding and thanking their opposition after the match. Good show.



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