Round 6 of the 2022 NRL season is upon us and so is ‘Your Edge’. This week, we’re looking into the Bulldogs attack, previewing Saturday’s blockbuster, checking in on the net yardage rankings, and highlighting the best value plays of the weekend.
Bulldogs Finding Their #7
Trent Barrett didn’t have much of an answer when asked why his halfbacks don’t touch the ball all that often following their fourth consecutive defeat last week. Sending his third #7 out onto the field, Kyle Flanagan didn’t look too out of place in his return to reserve grade. However, he only touched the ball 25 times throughout the match.
It’s only one game, obviously. He will more than likely register a few more touches when the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Friday night. But the Bulldogs struggling in attack and their halfback not having a significant influence on a match is nothing new.
When looking down the list of halfback touches per game so far this season, the top tier players at the position are recording roughly 50 touches per game. Ben Hunt, Daly Cherry-Evans and Nicho Hynes are playing controlling roles in their sides for 60+ touches while Shaun Johnson, Mitchell Moses and Luke Keary play with slightly more of an attacking focus and all play with fullbacks capable of stepping in as ball-players. Jahrome Hughes is somewhat of an exception with only 43 touches per game, but that happens when you play beside the best five-eighth in the NRL.
While Jake Averillo recorded plenty of touches throughout his two games at halfback, he rarely had time and space to create in attack. Brandon Wakeham averaged only 45 touches across his two games before being dropped with Flanagan stepping in for only 25 touches in Round 5.
The Bulldogs looked better with Flanagan in the #7 jersey but the sample size is quite clearly very small. He wasn’t able to do a lot with those 25 touches either. Barrett needs to give him a few weeks to get comfortable, but more importantly, he needs to put Flanagan into positions to do something with those touches.
How often the Bulldogs halfback touches the ball is sure to be a talking point regardless of the final number in this one.
Storm v Sharks Preview
It started to become clear a couple of weeks ago that Melbourne Storm v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks was going to headline Round 6 of the 2022 NRL season.
Circle Sharks v Storm in Round 6 on the calendar.
Shaping up as a beauty and a real test for a Sharks side that is making it look pretty easy at times this season.
— Jason Oliver (@JasonNRL) April 1, 2022
The Storm, as usual, are one of the benchmarks of the competition. You could say they’ve even started a little bit slow despite their 4-1 record after five rounds. However, as Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes, Harry Grant and Ryan Papenhuyzen start to link up together in the spine to create points, you can see things starting to click in Melbourne. Nicho Hynes knows the feeling all too well and has taken it to the Sharks to start the season. Four minutes short of being unbeaten through five rounds, the Sharks are one of the surprise packets of the year so far, and like the Storm, their spine is sizzling.
Plenty called for Braydon Trindall to partner Hynes in the halves but Matt Moylan’s form has ended that discussion. The way Hynes and Moylan are linking up with Will Kennedy at the back along with Blayke Brailey’s steady improvement at dummy half has put the competition on notice. This week, however, is when we find out just how good the Sharks are and whether or not we can start to put them in the conversation for premiership smokies.
Hynes is among the most influential players in the NRL but Munster, Grant and Papenhuyzen are all ahead of him in attacking involvements per game (tries, try assists, line breaks & line break assists). The Storm spine is at a different level to the rest of the competition when at its best. While Hynes and the Sharks spine has looked great, they’ve beaten the Dragons, Knights and Tigers over the last three rounds. This is a huge test for Craig Fitzgibbon’s side and made all the more difficult by playing on the road in Melbourne.
Hynes is an excellent talent and more than capable of dominating this one. The Sharks pack is excelling on both sides of the ball with Cameron McInnes, in particular, improving every week. They might not have the runs on the board against the top teams just yet, but don’t rule out a Sharks upset in this one.
Net Yardage Update
Running metres and winning the middle have always been crucial to winning games of rugby league so we regularly check in on the net-yardage rankings.
As we know, the Rabbitohs (Grand Finalists), Storm (Minor Premiers) and Panthers (Premiers) made up the top three teams in net yardage to finish the 2021 NRL season. Unsurprisingly, arguably the three best teams in the competition through five rounds feature in the top three in net yardage in 2022.
It’s no surprise to see the Panthers up there and the Eels have been excellent through the middle so far in 2022. Promisingly for this week against the Storm, the Sharks are towards the top in net yardage. However, as mentioned, they’re yet to do it against the top teams in the competition.
The Warriors have surprised a few people over the last three weeks but their net yardage is concerning. The Dragons were in a similarly surprising spot at this time last year before crumbling under the weight of a negative yardage game by the end of the season. It’s something to keep an eye on for the Kiwi club. Especially with Matt Lodge ruled out for this week.
NRL Value Plays
A high-profile player scoring against his former club is a storyline that always seems to pop up in the NRL and Wicky’s Try Scorer Value Finder has picked out Nicho Hynes to dot down against the Storm on Saturday night. However, it’s Lachlan Ilias against the Bulldogs on Friday night that appeals most. The young Rabbitohs half has been threatening to skip through the line in recent weeks, finally growing in confidence and using what is a dangerous running game in attack. Expect him to put his head down and apply a step once or twice in this one.
Corey Jensen has some of the biggest shoes in the NRL to fill this week as he replaces Payne Haas in the Broncos front row. Projected to score 41 points at $11,630, the Draftstars NRL Stat Bible has highlighted the 28-year-old as a value play. But it’s Jake Simpkin that demands attention. He has displayed promising signs in limited opportunities this season and is an eager runner of the ball from behind the ruck. Projected to score 41 points at $10,320, his 51-point ceiling appeals.