Round 19 of the 2022 NRL season is here and so is Your Edge. This week we’re looking into Jackson Hastings at lock, Nick Meaney at fullback and Sam Walker at halfback.
It became clear early into the NRL season that Jackson Hastings would be playing a major role in how the Wests Tigers use the ball. Upon making his return from suspension in Round 6, the 26-year-old touched the ball over 90 times in four consecutive games, including 102 touches against the Rabbitohs in Round 7. Anything the Tigers did, it went through Hastings and they looked better for it.
However, Hastings has been switched to lock with Adam Doueihi now healthy and needing to be in the halves if the Tigers are to play at their best. Plenty argued it should be Luke Brooks making way – ideally out of the side. That hasn’t happened, and Hastings’ 66 touches in Round 18 may indicate why Brooks has kept his spot.
Hastings might have been wearing the #13 jersey, but he was the halfback. He will be again this week, too. Like the best lock forwards in the NRL right now, Hastings is set to play an on-ball role around the ruck where he will take the line on often enough to be a running threat but do a lot of his most dangerous work as a link man to Brooks and Doueihi out wide. What Hastings is doing differently from other #13’s comes early in a set. He effectively played as a halfback with the way he passed and pointed his teammates into different areas of the field last week.
Locks are getting their hands on the ball more and more, but none come close to the 66 touches Hastings finished with in Round 18.
Most didn’t think Hastings would back up his 90 touches in Round 6 before he cleared the number in four of his next five games. It will be interesting to see whether he hits 60+ touches again in Round 19 or comes back to the pack and fits in as a more typical lock forward.
Meaney At The Back
The Melbourne Storm will be without Ryan Papenhuyzen for the rest of the NRL season so Craig Bellamy needs to lock down his new fullback as soon as possible. Reece Walsh’s name has popped up but the rumours are baseless at this stage. Instead, Nick Meaney will take the #1 jersey for Round 19 and is likely to keep it for the rest of the season.
Meaney has been named to start at fullback 38 times throughout his 80-game NRL career. He is familiar with the position and has featured there four times already this year to varying degrees of success. By the numbers, he’s a middling fullback.
Averaging the same number of attacking involvements (tries+try assists+linebreak+linebreak assists) as Jake Averillo and Daine Laurie, Meaney is servicable. He can spot up in the Storm attack as a support player and is capable of throwing the finals pass on the edge. He’s not Papenhuyzen, though. Nobody is. No other fullback has the speed to put themselves into the right position so often with the ball and it’s something the Storm will miss throughout the remainder of the year.
While Meaney will do a good enough job for Melbourne to be a tough side to beat, they will need Jahrome Hughes and Cameron Munster to step up further if they’re to compete with Penrith for the premiership.
Walker Into #7
Luke Keary is back to play his first match for the Roosters since Round 14 and will be doing so with the #6 on his back for the first time this season.
It’s a change many have been calling for and those calls grew louder in recent weeks.
Sam Walker has looked comfortable playing the traditional #7 role in Keary’s absence. His touches increased with Keary on the sideline to average 44.3 touches per game across the last three weeks compared with 38.9 touches per game throughout the opening 13 rounds of the NRL season. He’s quite clearly capable of playing on the ball and guiding the Roosters around the field.
While there are likely to be some teething issues following the change, taking on the Knights is one of the better opportunities the Roosters will have to work through them. They’re 9th on the NRL ladder and running out of time to come into form and make a run into the Top 8. We’ve seen the Roosters improve in recent weeks. Is this the change that will finally click them into gear in 2022?
There is a good chance we look back at Round 19 while previewing a rematch in September with how the draw shapes up this week. The Cowboys and Sea Eagles are the only two Top 8 teams not playing another currently in possession of a finals spot:
– Eels (6th) v Broncos (5th)
– Panthers (1st) v Sharks (3rd)
– Rabbitohs (7th) v Storm (4th)
The Broncos and Eels are currently equal on 24 competition points but securing a finish above 6th on the ladder ensures a home final in Week 1 or second chance in Week 2. This result could end up playing a big part in where the two teams end up after Round 25.
Parramatta hasn’t struggled too much for points this season. They’re 5th in attack averaging 23.9 points per game and have achieved that behind their 1,647 running metres per game (2nd in the NRL). The 21.8 points per game they’re conceding (9th) has stalled their rise up the ladder and keeps them out of the premiership conversation, though. Brisbane, on the other hand, have made significant improvements to their defence this season to concede 19.1 points per game (5th) and are improving with the ball to score 21.4 points themselves (9th)
The Panthers are in a world of their own in the top right quadrant as the best team in the NRL. Their defence is historically elite and they’re also scoring the most points at 27.8 per game. While the Sharks are in a good spot in attack and defence, they’ve not been asked to do it against top opposition often enough to trust them just yet.
Meanwhile, the Storm can be trusted to work their way out of this three-game losing streak. Despite their recent struggles, they still sneak into the ‘Good Attack/Good Defence’ quadrant. The same can’t be said for the Rabbitohs, who, while scoring plenty of points all year and even more following Latrell Mitchell’s return, have a lot of work to do if they’re to improve on their 21.7 points conceded per game.
All six of these teams are expected to finish the season inside the Top 8. Still, where they are positioned after Round 25 can have a massive bearing on how they travel – or don’t – through September. Strap yourselves in for what is shaping up to be one of the biggest weekends of the NRL season.
NRL Value Plays
The Punters Preview and NRL Draftstars Stats Bible is in for Round 19. We had a ridiculously good weekend for Round 18. Tipping Radley ($67), Connor Watson ($101) & Fisher-Harris ($81) in a 24-hour period!
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This was ridiculous 😅 Tipping Radley @ $67 to score the 1st try, Watson @ $101 to score the 1st try in the second half & let's not forget Manu ATS @ $3.50 😍
— Wicky (@wickyai) July 16, 2022