10 November, 2017, 12:00 am
NRL.com columnist Andrew Voss on Jarryd Hayne’s stunning Fiji form, England’s attacking woes, a trio of Rugby League World Cup success stories and Brisbane’s controversial signing of Matt Lodge.
Is the Hayne Plane back?
Let me say this. In my opinion, Jarryd Hayne is still a superstar. He is not the player of the heights he reached in 2009, but hey, that was 8 years ago.
I watched him play for Fiji last Sunday against Wales, and he looked a free spirit. Admittedly he was against opposition vastly inferior to what he confronts in the NRL, but I reckon the talent is still there if he can settle whatever perceived problems or issues he has elsewhere.
I’ve never coached rugby league, but if I did I would want the ball in Jarryd’s hands as much as possible. That has to be either fullback or five eighth, and not centre. I loved seeing the “Hayne Plane” taking flight again. More please!
Is the Kiwis’ form the real deal?
I reckon it is, and if they excel against Tonga, I feel their threat to Australia’s Cup favourites tag will also be genuine.
Mind you, I did watch them first-hand at the 2013 Cup tearing through the pool games, only to be swamped in the final at Old Trafford.
I have liked their positive attitude right from the opening forty minutes of their campaign against Samoa.
They appear to have more than just tremendous attacking potential. Their actions are speaking louder than words. It’s good footy to watch.
How far can Tonga go?
The semi-finals have to be their aim now after two big wins to open the tournament.
At the past two world cups it has been Fiji that has filled the last spot alongside Australia, New Zealand and England in the final four, only to be well beaten.
With the greatest of respect to the achievements of those Fijian sides in 2008 and 2013, I reckon this Tongan squad is stronger.
The two players under most pressure to help this team reach its destiny are young halves Tuimoala Lolohea and Ata Hingano.
There is no shortage of experience around them, but they have to put a strong stamp on the remaining games, beginning with Saturday’s clash with the Kiwis.
Where should Gareth Widdop play for England?
Based on his form this year with the Dragons It has to be in the halves. He is the first picked. But the world cup is a tournament over a number of weeks.
You have to give everyone in your squad a chance if they were good enough to be picked in the first place.
Kevin Brown was a controversial selection, but if coach Bennett has faith in him, then let’s see what he’s got against France this weekend alongside the Super League Man of Steel Luke Gale. Widdop to fullback may prove to be a masterstroke. The England attack needs help. It won’t be threatening Australia or New Zealand at the business end of the Cup based on the opening fortnight.
What has been the biggest success story of the World Cup so far?
It has to be Papua New Guinea.
What awesome events their two games in Port Moresby have been so far. It does make you wonder what NRL matches played every few weeks there could be like if a team based in PNG progresses from the Intrust Super Cup to the next level.
Their success must also be helping those involved with the Fijian rugby league in garnering support for expansion and inclusion in competitions based in Australia.
Dare to dream? The ‘rewards’ could be great for the sport.
What should our reaction be to the Broncos signing Matt Lodge?
This is a tough one, however the sport cannot proudly boast of its life redemption stories such as Russell Packer and Manu Ma’u, and then not allow Lodge back in some shape or form. Packer and Ma’u are to be commended for how they have turned their lives around.
What Lodge did was criminal, vile and disgusting. If I am at the Broncos, I am steering clear of him as a result. That is my personal view on this case in isolation. Matt will need to respect people having that opinion as he goes through life. Actions have consequences. However I respect the law. And as he has served his time, he is entitled to get on with his life and his career if he has met whatever standards and form of rehabilitation the NRL has requested he reach. Looking forward to another big weekend of World Cup action highlighted by the battle between New Zealand and Tonga.