NRL 2023: Talking Points, Round 12, Tom Trbojevic, Manly, Origin, Blues, Luke Brooks, Tigers, Felise Kaufusi, Maroons

There are growing calls for suspensions on Origin eve to be served only at club level after two Maroons players found themselves in trouble in Round 12.

Meanwhile Tom Trbojevic and Luke Brooks answered their critics in emphatic style as the Sea Eagles and the Tigers turned it on.

Read on for all the key NRL Talking Points in Round 12.

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Bryan Fletcher called for changes to NRL suspensions on the eve of Origin after Maroons stars Felise Kaufusi and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui were involved in incidents in Round 12.

Kaufusi is looking at a three game ban for a swinging arm to the head of Christian Welch, while Fa’asuamaleaui is sweating on two incidents with the MRC.

“Tino will have a bit of a nervous wait for a lifting tackle and the forearm on Reed Mahoney,” Matty Johns said on Sunday Night with Matty Johns.

Fletcher believes players should serve their suspensions in NRL games and be free to play in Origin.

“The Mahoney one was probably the worse of the two I thought,” Fletcher said.

“But it is a bit like Felise Kaufusi. I know he is going to miss out, but they say Origin is different and it is. It is a different game and it is refereed differently.

“I just think if he gets three weeks let him do the three weeks playing NRL and let them play.

“As a New South Welshman, I want him out there and I want Felise out there because of the way they hit and the way that they are.

“Not to play Origin for this in an NRL game is a bit tough.”

Making matters worse for Fa’asuamaleaui his side blew another big lead to go down to the Bulldogs in scenes that are becoming Groundhog Day for the Gold Coast.

Nathan Hindmarsh believes the Titans shot themselves in the foot by letting Matt Burton’s kicks bounce.

“That was one of the Titans’ downfalls I thought they were letting the ball bounce,” Hindmarsh said.

“You would rather make the mistake by contesting the ball than just giving it to the Dogs.

“It happened early in the game and the Dogs thought, we have had a bit of success from the bombs.

“The Titans again had a decent lead. I don’t know what it is, whether it is mental or whatever it is, but they had opportunities to put the Bulldogs away and they didn’t.

“They just couldn’t capitalise on all that ball.”

“The thought of Matt Burton’s bombs spooked them,” Johns added.

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Heavy Tino contact divides panel! | 01:29


Luke Brooks has been no stranger to criticism throughout his 200 game career, but in his milestone match he again proved how good he can be when he plays to his potential.

Brooks had a whopping 148 run metres, five tackle busts, an offload, a linebreak, a linebreak assist, two try assists and a try, while his kicking game was inch perfect.

Matty Johns believes it was the best game of Brooks’ career to date and the best could be yet to come for the 28-year-old.

“My performer of the round is Luke Brooks,” Johns said on Sunday Night with Matty Johns.

“Brooksy played his 200th game and I have never seen him play a better game than this.

“I think it is really important for Luke at the start of the game he just felt himself running, which is really good.

“Koroisau has been a revelation for him. He takes responsibility off him, but he just encourages him to play straight and run the football.”

Johns believes Tim Sheens is starting to put his imprint on the team and Brooks.

“It was a great performance from the Tigers. They looked like a Tim Sheens coached side. Just their ball movement.

“There is no doubt at the start of the year they were very clunky and very sideways because they are trying to play this complex attack, but it is starting to click. They looked very good.

“Tim Sheens is an old fashioned coach. He coaches the players and you see them get better over time.”

Wests Tigers Press Conference | 09:10


Manly star Tom Trbojevicpicked the perfect time to put in his best performance of the season in Manly’s 42-14 win over the Raiders.

Trbojevic ran for 173 metres to go with 10 tackle busts, two offloads, three linebreaks, two linebreak assists and three tries.

Matty Johns believes there were signs against the Sharks last week that this type of performance was just around the corner.

“There were some signs last week with Tom Trbojevic, all the talk out of the Sharks game was about when is he going to come good?” Johns said.

“I actually saw a lot of signs in that game that he was about to turn the corner.

“He was great against the Raiders.

“Looking at the highlights from Tom, numerous linebreaks and tackle busts, three tries and a great try saver.

“A big one is Schuster too. Rarely do you see blokes with that size have that touch on the football.”

Bryan Fletcher believes this is the best Trbojevic’s running style and speed has looked all year.

“He looks quick and looks a lot more free in his running,” Fletcher said.

“A lot has happened in a week.

“Schuster frees Tommy up because his timing with his passing is perfect.”

Nathan Hindmarsh noted Trbojevic’s decisiveness in running into the teeth of the defence without hesitation as a sign he is back to his best.

“The way he took the line on against Canberra was much better,” Hindmarsh said.

“I think in previous weeks he has been a little bit hesitant to mix it with the defence and get roughed up a little bit.

“But tonight he just put the foot down when it came to contact and that showed in his first try when he barged through two or three of them to score in that corner.

“He is back to his best and a very good win by Manly.”

Canberra Raiders Press Conference | 03:03


The battle for the NSW No.9 jersey was well and truly on leading into Round 12 — but one man may have edged his competition with a dummy-half masterclass.

Apisai Koroisau, the incumbent hooker, was excellent for the Tigers and pulled the string brilliantly to steer his side to their highest-ever total.

The merger club beat the Cowboys 66-18 in a scoreline nobody saw coming and Fox league’s James Hooper said Koroisau’s performance was a “perfect reminder” to NSW selectors Greg Alexander and Brad Fittler.

As it stands, Koroisau and Rabbitohs gun Damien Cook lead the selection battle to play at hooker and in the utility role.

Cowboys gun Reece Robson is an outside shout, while Sharks superstar Nicho Hynes could also wear the No.14 jersey if Fittler decides to select Jarome Luai at five-eighth.

In their last 80-minute audition, Koroisau is clearly the man who stood up after the Rabbitohs were bested by the Eels on Friday night.

South Sydney’s rake struggled to have an impact on the game, recording only 47 running metres with two tackle breaks.

He did however make 49 tackles with only one miss.

Meanwhile, Koroisau recorded a staggering statline — three try assists, three line break assists and one tackle break to go with 27 tackles.

When asked who he thought would be named as NSW’s starting hooker, legendary dummy-half Michael Ennis had clear answer.

He believes Koroisau is the better option, having previously played with the likely starting halfback and lock in Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo.

The trio delivered back-to-back premierships to the foot of the mount in 2021 and 2022, going down to the Storm in the 2020 grand final.

“They are both great options… that Koroisau connection with Cleary and Yeo, on this performance tonight, it has to be Koroisau,” Ennis said.

Tigers triumphant in biggest ever win | 01:52


Kalyn Ponga may have passed his HIA and finished the game against the Sharks, but the reality is the chances of him copping another knock are high if he stays at five-eighth.

The Knights may need to consider playing him at fullback in defence and five-eighth in attack because defending in the front line is clearly making him vulnerable to further concussions.

Corey Parker believes Ponga’s HIA scare was a huge concern for the Knights even though he passed it.

“We all know the ramifications Kalyn Ponga has had with HIA’s and concussions,” Parker said.

“There was a deep breath taken in by the whole crowd. He laid there motionless for a period of time.

“He did run off the field and got assessed and passed the assessment. But there is a huge concern for Kalyn Ponga.”

Parker believes there is a psychological issue for Ponga when he defends in the front line because of the constant traffic teams are sending his way in the five-eighth role.

“There has to be a psychological concern for Kalyn,” Parker said.

“The fact that when he is parked in the front line of defence. That was always going to be the risk coming into season 2023.

“With Kalyn moving from fullback up into the front line he is going to get back-rowers that he is going to have to stop and put his body on the line.

“He had one of the best in Briton Nikora running at him when he was trying to make that tackle.

“He got his head in the wrong position, so there has to be concerns for Kalyn. It has to play on his mind.

“While he is saying it may not, he has to have an issue because he has left the field so many times with a HIA.”

Parker believes if Ponga excels for the Maroons at fullback, the Knights may need to consider a permanent positional switch, at least in defence.

“The reality is you can’t pick Kalyn Ponga based on the fact that you think he is going to get a HIA,” Parker said.

“You can’t because he is not playing that way, but if it does happen it is a huge cost for everyone.

“Kalyn Ponga will get picked for Queensland. He will be their fullback, but for the Knights he is playing at No.6.

“The advantage Kalyn has playing fullback is that he is not going to make near as many tackles as he is playing in the front line.

“I think that is more the talking point for Adam O’Brien is where Kalyn Ponga is defending because we see more often than not when he is defending in the front line he has got big, aggressive edge forwards running at him.”

The Knights also played some of their best football in 2023 with Tyson Gamble at five-eighth and Lachie Miller had a poor game against the Sharks at fullback.

‘What on earth happened with Ponga?’ | 00:37


Craig Bellamy believes Storm hooker Harry Grant has earned the right to start for the Maroons in the No.9 jersey.

Grant put in another solid 80 minute performance for the Storm in their 24-16 win over the Dolphins and while incumbent Ben Hunt has been in great form, Bellamy believes the No.9 jersey should be Grant’s.

“I’d be starting him,” Bellamy said.

“He can play 80 minutes every week.

“I don’t know who they’d be thinking of starting at hooker if Harry was in that situation.

“The only reason I think he’d be thinking of that is to have Harry come on fresh after 20 minutes, then he might do more damage. That might be a good reason.

“The other starting hooker would have to be able to play another position, I’d say.”

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga used Grant and Hunt in tandem in the Kangaroos’ World Cup triumph and believes their one-two punch is too good to ignore.  

“Benny Hunt starting, Harry comes on after 20 (minutes), Benny goes to play 13 … it does work.

“It works for Queensland, it worked for Australia. Harry can play 80 minutes though.”

Cooper Cronk believes Grant and Hunt must work in tandem no matter who wears the No.9 jersey.  

“I don’t want to throw Craig under the bus, but I dare say Billy does lean on Craig at different stages for a bit of coaching advice,” Cronk said.

“There’s no doubt Harry could play 80 minutes, but (Meninga) has proven that that combination is pretty lethal.”

Bellamy bests Bennett again in Storm win | 02:21


The Broncos were brave in their 14-4 loss to the Panthers without Adam Reynolds, but Penrith’s defence again proved why they are deserved title favourites.

The Broncos may have gone down to the third title contender in a month after losses to the Rabbitohs and Storm, but there were signs some wins are around the corner.

Matty Johns believes the Broncos are playing well despite not getting the results against some quality opposition in recent weeks, but he marvelled at the dominance of the Panthers, particularly in defence.

“The Broncos were right up for this one,” Johns said.

“It just shows you what good form the Penrith side is in because they absorbed that early enthusiasm and pressure and countered.

“But it was a very strong performance from Brisbane. There was a lot to like about their performance last week.

“Although they are not winning it shouldn’t diminish their confidence because at the moment Penrith are in peak form.

“You see that with Penrith and their defence. Some of their defence during periods was really physical. They really took it up to the Broncos.”

Gorden Tallis believes the Broncos are playing better than their three losses in their last four games says on paper and their defeat to the Panthers should give them plenty of confidence.

“The amount of ball that Penrith had at certain stages of that game for Brisbane to keep them to 15,” Tallis said.

“It was a big loss against Souths and obviously last week against Melbourne and there were reasons for that.

“But they needed to go out there without Adam Reynolds and put in a performance and they will walk away form that with a lot of confidence.

“They played the heavyweights of the competition and I thought Brisbane were great defensively.”

Bryan Fletcher believes the Panthers defence is proving too hard to breach for a lot of teams this season and it has put them back to the top of the title favourites.

“The Penrith Panthers their defence I think last year they were averaging 14 points against,” Fletcher said.

“They are even going better this year. They are very hard to score against.”

Both sides will be affected by the gruelling Origin period, but they have set themselves up for a deep run in the back end of the year.

Peak Panthers on display against Broncos | 02:54


The Eels were dealt the short-end of the straw to start the season.

Brad Arthur’s side faced the Storm, Sharks, Sea Eagles, Panthers and Roosters to start the year and also played three teams coming off the bye.

Prior to Friday night’s huge win over the Rabbitohs, Parramatta were languishing with only four wins from 11 games.

Doubts emerged over the Eels’ ability to compete for the title after falling to the Panthers in last year’s grand final.

Arthur’s side lost a host of names including Isaiah Papali’i, Marata Niukore, Reed Mahoney and Ray Stone, and made several signings in an attempt to fill the holes.

Their attack wasn’t clicking and their defence was flimsy — until the Eels arrived at Allianz Stadium for their Round 12 clash.

Coming up against the red-hot Rabbitohs, who were flying with a six-game win streak, Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown starred.

The Eels piled on the points in what could be a huge turning point that may have “restored hope” that the famous blue and gold could compete for a premiership.

“They’ve absolutely smashed South Sydney and restored hope for the rest of the season,” Yvonne Sampson said.

“No doubts the two points were crucial but it was the way they went about it was very impressive, got off to a hot start but I thought they were even better in the second half,” Cooper Cronk said.

Rugby league legend Greg Alexander held grave fears for the remainder of Parramatta’s season — but his faith has now been restored.

“Very impressive win, time was running out, it really was and you mightn’t have said that was it, if you don’t beat South Sydney they don’t make the finals,” Alexander said.

“Because their run over the next six weeks looks quite good, especially when you come off the back of what they did tonight.

“No game is a given in this competition… but the way they played tonight I think restores some confidence and some faith back in the blue and gold.

“Mitch Moses was great, Dylan Brown was great. The players they needed to be good tonight were just that.”

Now the Eels fortunes are set to turn around with a strong schedule looming for Arthur’s men.

Over the next six weeks Parramatta have the bye twice and face the Cowboys, Bulldogs, Sea Eagles and Dolphins.

With a performance like they delivered against the Rabbitohs — the Eels should be confident they can take all eight points.

Eels dismantle Bunnies in big upset win | 02:47

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