Round 18 of the 2022 NRL season is in the books. Unfortunately for two Roosters, it’s over already. Meanwhile, the Sharks continue to circle the premiership contenders.

Statement Game of Round 18

Statements are made every round in the NRL. In Round 16 it was the South Sydney Rabbitohs. This week it’s the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks.

It came against a depleted North Queensland Cowboys side, but it’s the fact the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks won in North Queensland so convincingly that is encouraging.

The Sharks haven’t travelled well this season. Looking like premiership contenders at home, it’s been a slightly different story on the road. However, with this 26-12 win and relatively comfortable draw to finish the NRL season, the Sharks deserve consideration as premiership smokies at $12.

Craig Fitzgibbon’s side faces the Penrith Panthers and South Sydney Rabbitohs over the next fortnight but it gets easier from there. The Sharks come up against the St. George-Illawarra Dragons, Wests Tigers, Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and Newcastle Knights across the last five rounds. If they’re to be a chance at playing through to the end of September, they need to have won four of their last five games of the regular season.

Roosters Wounded In Big Win

We’ve been waiting for the Sydney Roosters to click since the start of the 2022 NRL season. The squad is stacked and started to play like it in their 54-26 thumping of the Dragons on Saturday afternoon. However, that squad thinned out slightly on game day with two season-ending injuries and a number of other niggles that will be felt for weeks to come.

Currently 9th on the NRL ladder with eight wins and nine losses, the Roosters are still no certainty of playing finals football in 2022. A slow start and regular injuries to key players stalled the start of their season and they’ve only just started to show signs of winding up. Is it too late? They’re way out on the sixth line of betting in the premiership winner market at $20.

Wests Latest Experiment

In the most Wests Tigers of Wests Tigers decisions, they have locked down Tim Sheens as head coach for the 2023 NRL season with Benji Marshall to take over for 2025 and beyond. You’d have to assume that Sheens is already having an impact on the selections given the state of the 17 in their 18-16 loss to the Panthers.

Wests had their moments and led the match late. Jackson Hastings still led the side around the field from the lock position while Adam Doueihi is already looking dangerous in attack shortly after his return from injury. Luke Brooks, on the other hand, must be looking over his shoulder following an uninspiring 80 minutes. He isn’t tasked with much but did a lot of the short kicking near the opposition goal line and didn’t do it well.

Meanwhile, the Panthers played without seven of their first-choice players. It wasn’t pretty. Still, the systems remained in place, the defence held firm and the game plan Ivan Cleary demands every week produced the goods late when James Fisher-Harris exposed more poor defence on the line to score the winner.

Raiders Win, Storm Lose Twice

The Canberra Raiders deserve their flowers for the 20-16 win on Sunday evening. However, all of the talk is about the Melbourne Storm who lost their third game in a row. It’s the first time Craig Bellamy has lost three on the bounce since 2015 and questions are surely going to be asked about them as premiership contenders.

It’s not the three losses in a row as much as it’s the loss of Ryan Papenhuyzen for an extended period – possibly the rest of the NRL season.

The Storm spine came together for the first time since Round 9 but lasted only 20 minutes together before Papenhuyzen left the field. Cameron Munster toyed with the Raiders left edge while Jahrome Hughes did similar on the right. Harry Grant provided excellent service to both and Papenhuyzen chimed in when he could. However, the Storm didn’t look the same throughout the last hour of the match. Nick Meaney is a serviceable replacement but it’s difficult to imagine him wearing the #1 jersey in an NRL Grand Final.

It will be interesting to see what Bellamy does on Tuesday afternoon.

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