12 burning issues confronting NRL clubs as State of Origin approaches

Are Brisbane and North Queensland the real deal? What threatens to derail Penrith and Parramatta’s premiership campaigns? And which players have the spotlight on them and the burden of carrying their team’s hopes? We’ve identified 12 burning issues as we near the halfway point of the competition.
1. Achilles Eel exposed
Currently 6th on 14 points
Wins this year over Melbourne and Penrith confirm this is the Eels’ best chance to win a comp for a long, long time. But what is a huge issue is Parra’s shocking struggle for consistency.
Since stringing together three straight wins between rounds three and five, they’ve gone up and down like a yoyo. They haven’t put together back-to-back wins since.
It really is a legitimate concern Brad Arthur needs to sort out, starting with Canberra on Sunday, otherwise this Origin period — where they actually have a favourable draw — could still severely impact Parra’s top-four hopes.
2. Broncos chance to reclaim lost pride
Currently 5th on 14 points
After five straight wins, this Origin period gives the Broncos a chance to reclaim the mantle as Queensland’s top team. It kicks off with the local derby against the Titans, then they take on the Cowboys in round 16, with the Titans again in round 18.
In between they’ll also have to deal with having more Origin players then they’ve had in years with Selwyn Cobbo, Corey Oates, Kotoni Staggs, Kurt Capewell, Payne Haas, Pat Carrigan and Tom Flegler all in contention.
Make no mistake, if the Broncos get through this period healthy it could really set them up for a memorable charge into this year’s finals series.
We know Origin can be a real burden on clubs, but the upside is the experience can also catapult young players to that next level.
3 Big loser in Dragons’ No. 1 fight?
Currently 11th on 10 points
Cody Ramsey’s outstanding performance against the Warriors has put him in the box seat to own the Dragons’ fullback spot for the rest of the season.
The next obvious question is where does that leave Tyrell Sloan’s long-term future?
While there are parts of 19-year-old Sloan’s game that are obviously not ready for the week-to-week NRL grind, you’d think if 22-year-old Ramsey gets comfortable in the No. 1 jumper then the spot could be his for years to come.
It’s a great problem for the Dragons until Sloan gets restless, and rival clubs come sniffing around.
4 Can Flanno protect under-fire son?
Bulldogs currently 16th on 4 points
With Shane Flanagan now publicly campaigning for Trent Barrett’s former job, this just ups the pressure on Kyle Flanagan to really step up and show why he deserves to be the Bulldogs’ halfback next season when Reed Mahoney and Viliame Kikau arrive.
It would be incredibly difficult on father and son if Kyle can’t show some significant improvement by season’s end.

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