WE’RE only halfway through the 2017 home-and-away NRL season and we’ve already experienced a little bit of everything.
Dizzying highs and deflating lows. Electrifying football and snooze-fests.
And for all the pre-season predictions and punts, there’s inevitably going to be some things that fall a little flat.
These are the biggest disappointments of 2017 to date.
Prowling Panthers or pussy cats?
There’s no doubt Penrith have been the biggest disappointment of the year in terms of on-field performance.
The pre-season premiership favourite has looked little more than an also-ran at times over the opening 13 rounds of the competition.
Big losses to the Dragons, Storm, and Sharks early on did not bode well for the young team from the foot of the mountains.
They’ve won their last three, including a thumping win over the Bulldogs, but Penrith have a long way to go to live up to the hype.
Tui’s time to move on
From the outside looking in, not many people could understand exactly why Tui Lolohea was out of favour at the Warriors.
A tenacious young talent who could fill a number of positions on the field, Lolohea most often found himself on the bench or out of the team altogether.
Sadly for Warriors fans, the constant snubbing forced Lolohea out of the club and to the Wests Tigers.
Ricky’s Raiders fail to rally
Another pre-season fancy who have failed to live up to the expectations put on them from commentators and fans.
Canberra are ninth on the ladder at the midway point of the season and have lost more games than they’ve won.
Their right flank hasn’t looked as lethal as it did last year and narrow losses to the Broncos, Sea Eagles twice, and Bulldogs could be costly at the back end of the year.
Young Panther put on ice
Te Maire Martin has been billed as one of the most exciting young playmakers in the game.
This year he’s hardly been able to get a run in Penrith’s NRL side.
The five-eighth has been shafted from the team in favour of Bryce Cartwright and now Matt Moylan.
There’s rumours he is being courted by any number of rival clubs, and he apparently wants out of the Panthers ASAP.
The ‘Big Four’ are no more, Tigers fans revolt
It was always going to be a big talking point when a club’s four best players were all off-contract at the same time.
The Wests Tigers tried to keep all of Luke Brooks, Mitchell Moses, Aaron Woods, and James Tedesco, and ended up left with just one.
That was on top of sacking coach Jason Taylor three rounds in to the season.
Tigers fans are a testy bunch at the best of times and they’ve been given plenty of reasons to revolt over the past couple of months.
Des’ dire Dogs attack
Canterbury’s attack was one of the most discussed topics towards the end of the 2016 season, and things haven’t improved a great deal.
The 14th-placed Bulldogs have scored just 178 points over the first half of the season.
That’s the second worst attacking aggregate in the competition, ahead of only Wests Tigers and behind even bottom-placed Newcastle.
Some of their last-tackle options close to the tryline are still baffling.
Old Knights lose their armour
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Not so much Newcastle — who are running for a third straight wooden spoon — but a couple of experienced playmakers in Trent Hodkinson and Jarrod Mullen.
To lump them together under the one subhead is purely to save column inches — their situations are vastly different.
Mullen’s career is over after testing positive to a prohibited performance enhancing substance.
Hodkinson, meanwhile, has struggled with a chronic knee injury and is wallowing in reserve grade despite being the club’s highest paid player this season.
Troubling times for old boys in the Hunter.
Talented Tiger ruins his career
Tim Simona ruined his football career after getting caught betting on NRL games — against his own side — among other troubling mischiefs.
The less said about the entire case the better.
The rep weekend from hell
The first weekend in May should have been remembered for the plethora of representative rugby league games being played around Australia.
Instead we’ll look back on it as four days from hell thanks to a handful of individuals all getting busted for illicit drug use.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Jesse Bromwich, Kevin Proctor, Sharks boss Damian Keogh, and Cronulla junior Jesse Savage were all busted in separate incidents over a four-day period.
Touchies take us for a ride
The NRL referees cop their fair share of flak, but the two judges running up and down the sidelines in every game must come under the microscope at some point.
On more than one occasion this season, fans have been left shaking fists and hurling superlatives at the television set thanks to some truly bizarre calls from the touchies.
A horrendous forward pass from Tom Trbojevic that set up a Manly try is clearly the top of the lowlight reel — it travelled more than FOUR metres forward and was picked up by everyone but the one person who could judge it illegal.
Then poor old Newcastle are robbed of a try when a flat ball is called back against the mighty Melbourne.
The worst part is the NRL bunker doesn’t have the power to overrule these touchie howlers.
Billy bumped from Origin
It’s fair to say most rugby league supporters — yes, even those painted blue — have been delighted to see Billy Slater return to top form after two years riddled with injury.
The little master has been in sensational form at fullback for Melbourne.
But it was somewhat baffling when the Maroons left him off their teamsheet for Origin I.
Thankfully he’s short odds to be recalled for game two.
The diving dilemma
When Paul Gallen flopped to the ground in round nine from minimal contact from Aaron Woods and successfully robbed the Wests Tigers of a try, he set the stone rolling.
Since Gallen’s dive we’ve seen Ray Thompson and Daly Cherry-Evans — among others who this reporter has since forgotten — mimic the flop.
The hands of referees on the field and in the bunker are tied by the laws, but it’s the strict interpretation of the obstruction rule that tends to divide fans.
City-Country gets the chop
No matter your view on the annual City-Country fixture, there’s no doubt it helped football in the bush.
And it’s an area of the game the NRL could spend a little more time nurturing.
The representative Origin game faded into history with the final event of its kind in Mudgee last month.
It was a long time coming, but a little disappointing nonetheless.