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NRL: Four talking points from round 18

The Penrith Panthers are eight points clear at the top of the NRL after they edged past the Wests Tigers but there is plenty more to talk about following an exciting round 18.

Barring a collapse of mammoth proportions, the Panthers are on course for the minor premiership, while they are priced at 23/20 to go on and win the grand final to add to their 2021 success.

But it is very tight below them with the Cowboys and Sharks battling it out for second place while the Melbourne Storm, Brisbane Broncos, Parramatta Eels and South Sydney are fighting to clinch fourth spot on the ladder.

There is plenty going on further down the ladder also as the race for the top-eight hots up, coaches are under pressure and one player’s decision to make himself available for England has raised a few eyebrows.

So let’s take a look at the main talking points to come from another gripping round of NRL action.

Problems are piling up for the Melbourne Storm

Melbourne Storm have slipped to fourth place on the ladder following yet another defeat and it now seems the dip in form is more than a blip. Some members will be reaching for the panic button.

Craig Bellamy’s side have now lost three on the bounce. That has not happened since 2015 and something is clearly not right at the club.

Yes they have had bad luck on the injury front. Indeed the jinx struck again with Ryan Papenhuyzen suffering a fractured knee cap against the Raiders that has ruled him out for the rest of the season.

Storm legend Cameron Smith says there is not too much wrong with Melbourne’s numbers, but says it is the defence that is letting them down big time.

He suggests the players need to pull their socks up and stop conceding if they are to get back in the hunt for the premiership. They are priced at 5/1 to win the grand final.

Latrell Mitchell is back fit and firing for South Sydney

Mitchell is back in the Souths side following a lengthy absence with a hamstring injury and his return could not be more timely.

Souths are priced at 16/1 to win the grand finals and the gun fullback will be key to their chances of going deep into finals this season.

Mitchell was a revelation in the mauling of the Bulldogs on Sunday as Souths picked up three wins on the bounce for the first time this season.

That run coincides with the return of Mitchell which shows the impact he has made and just how important he is to the Rabbitohs. If he can stay injury-free and on the pitch, Souths will be fancying their premiership hopes. They are  to win it. 

The pressure is on Dragons coach Anthony Griffin

Gold Coast Titans coach Justin Holbrook is a man under pressure, but he is not the only one according to the latest reports.

Dragons coach Griffin is also feeling the heat. The Red V are only two points away from the top eight but have lost the last two games on the spin. The 54-26 loss against the Broncos was alarming to say the least.

Reports claim that the Dragons have called a board meeting for Tuesday to discuss the situation. It is unlikely Griffin will be sacked during that meeting but the wheels could be put in motion with a view to replacing him sooner rather than later.

Griffin is currently under contract until the end of the 2023 campaign but there is a chance he will not get to see it out. The Dragons are priced at 7/1 to make the top eight.

Victor Radley could turn his back on New South Wales

One of the most surprising stories to emerge from the weekend was the news that Sydney Roosters forward Radley would like to represent England at this year’s World Cup.

Radley’s chances of playing for Australia look slim due to the wealth of talent that sits ahead of him in the pecking order. Therefore Radley would like to represent England, the country where his father was born.

There is one big issue though. If Radley plays for England that will put to an end his chances of playing State of Origin footy with New South Wales.

Radley would feature in the plans of Blues coach Brad Fittler moving forward and he was involved in camp for game two this year. However if he does go ahead and commit to England his NSW career is over before its begun.

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