Let's all enjoy the footy while we can

Penrith was the standout team of round one, showing that they are capable of making the finals. Picture: NRL Imagery
Penrith was the standout team of round one, showing that they are capable of making the finals. Picture: NRL Imagery

I hate to say it but the NRL competition feels like a ticking time bomb right now with everyone just hoping and praying it doesn't go off.

Unfortunately, there is this real sense of inevitability about the competition having to be suspended at some point despite the efforts of officials and players from all the clubs around the health protocols that have been put in place.

We all hope it doesn't come to that with so much other sport being called off around the world and I can only commend the game's management for the way they have gone about doing everything possible to keep the games on.

The same goes for the players, who I thought really stood up last week despite all the uncertainty surrounding the future.

All the talk around pay cuts this week if the NRL is forced to suspend the competition won't be helping but there is no doubt they will have to carry a significant financial burden like everyone else if there are no games played.

We saw some really good performances with a few teams really standing up and making an early statement and some others showing they have some work to do. I've no doubts we will learn more this weekend.

I can only commend the game's management for the way they have gone about doing everything possible to keep the games on.

For mine, Penrith was the standout team, defeating the Sydney Roosters. To come from 12 behind against the defending premiers shows that they are a team capable of making the finals if they get that chance.

The Storm did what they always do, win their opening round match. They are such a professional team.

It's a remarkable record that Craig Bellamy's side hasn't lost in the first round for 18 years. In my eyes, he is one of the greatest coaches of all time.

What he's been able to achieve with Greg Inglis leaving, with Cooper Cronk leaving, with Billy Slater retiring - it's quite remarkable because he brings other guys in but they continue to get the job done without missing a beat.

The other team that stood out for mine was the Brisbane Broncos. How good is Payne Haas and David Fifita - two of the best young players in the game?

They were very dominant and if the Broncos turn up like that every week, they will be more than competitive. I'm really looking forward to their clash against Souths on Friday night. For one thing, there is absolutely no love lost between the respective coaches.

I don't think there is any doubt Wayne Bennett takes a game against the Broncos a little more personally and who can forget his victory dance in the dressingroom last season after Souths won.

The question mark over Brisbane is going to be their consistency and whether Anthony Seibold's young players can get up for it every week. I reckon we'll see if they are the real deal by the way they back up against Souths.

Jack Wighton and the Canberra Raiders are in for a big year again. Picture: Getty Images

Jack Wighton and the Canberra Raiders are in for a big year again. Picture: Getty Images

Canberra came up with what I expected - a real professional performance against the Titans, who look as though they are in for a tough year.

The Raiders looked sharp and Jack Wighton in particular was sensational. He picked up where he left off last season and I just think Canberra is in for a big year again.

I expect them to get the job done comfortably against the troubled Warriors on the Gold Coast on Saturday.

Newcastle can be pretty satisfied with their first up performance under new coach Adam O'Brien against a poor Warriors side but a far greater test of where they are at will come on Sunday against the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval.

If they can reproduce the sort of energy and commitment to defence they showed against the Warriors and take care of the Tigers, I think we can start to make some confident assessments of how much the Knights have developed already under O'Brien.

While on the Tigers, how good was Benji Marshall in their win over the Dragons last weekend?

Full credit to Benji because he has transformed his game remarkably from that young, brilliantly talented excitement machine well over a decade ago to a now more controlled and measured No.7.

His kicking game, his self-assuredness, his ability to come up with the right options in the Tigers' win - it was a performance that was just full of class from Benji.

The Tigers are a reflection of their coach Michael Maguire - a team of real hard workers who may not be the game's biggest names but they really play for each other and Maguire is going to get good value out of them this season.

As for the Dragons, the Tigers loss was a game that in the end, they threw away.

It makes their Friday night clash against a confident Panthers side all the more important for Paul McGregor and his players.

It will be strange playing and watching games this weekend without any fans at the grounds. But for now, at least we all have something to watch.

This story Let's all enjoy the footy while we can first appeared on The Canberra Times.