Kevin Walters shines as Ricky Stuart goes missing: Good, bad and ugly of NRL round 5

The Brisbane Broncos are absolutely on fire, but it's a different story for the Tigers and Raiders.

Kevin Walters, Justin Pascoe and Ricky Stuart, pictured here in the NRL.
Kevin Walters and the Broncos are firing, but Justin Pascoe and Ricky Stuart are copping it. Image: Getty

😃 The good: Kevin Walters and the Brisbane Broncos

😔 The bad: Ricky Stuart and the Canberra Raiders

😡 The ugly: Criticism of Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe

Round five of the NRL produced some absolutely insane finishes, while also piling more pressure on some of the under-performing teams. Check out our recap of the biggest talking points.

Kevin Walters can coach after all

So, do you reckon Selwyn Cobbo still thinks Kevin Walters can't coach? Because the Broncos boss is doing a pretty good job for a bloke Cobbo described as "a good person, but I don’t think he’s a good coach".

Walters' side is five from five and loving life at the top of the NRL table. They've picked off some decent sides on the way, defeating premiers Penrith, the Cowboys and Dolphins.

The latest victory - a 46-12 spanking of the poor old Tigers - ensured Brisbane its best start to a season since the premiership-winning year of 1998. They are the only unbeaten team in what has been the tightest opening to a season we've seen in a very long time.

Imagine what Walters could do if he could actually coach!! To be fair to Cobbo, Kevvie's coaching CV didn't look too red-hot six months ago. Brisbane crashed out of the 2022 top eight race on the back of heavy losses to Parramatta, Melbourne and St George Illawarra.

There was talk the coach might get the bullet. Instead, it was those around him who went.

Attacking coach Terry Matterson was shown the door and Walters' brother Steve stepped down as football administration manager. Ben Ikin quit his role on the recruitment and retention committee.

To Walters' credit, he shouldered a lot of the blame for what went wrong and went about learning from his mistakes and rectifying things. The talent at the club has always been there, it was just a matter of someone harnessing arguably the hottest roster in the comp.

It's early days, but premiership talk was thick in the air as the punters made their way out of Suncorp and into the Brisbane CBD on Saturday night.

Ricky Stuart's post-match silence

We'll have to take Jaeman Salmon on his word and accept the 'weak-gutted dog' spray he unleashed after scoring for Penrith against Canberra was not directed at Raiders coach Ricky Stuart. But so what if it was?

This is rugby league, baby. The game thrives on hatred, rivalries, revenge and redemption.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary labelled it "good karma" and he was spot on. Canberra fans losing their minds over Salmon would be better off losing their sh*t over their team's insipid second half performance.

It's as close to a team giving up as you're ever likely to see in the NRL. On the back of a 1-4 start to the season and their one genuine star, Jack Wighton, indicating he will hit the open market, the Green Machine is badly in need of a major service.

Canberra Raiders players, pictured here during their loss to Penrith.
Canberra Raiders players look on during their loss to Penrith. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

And far from us telling Ricky Stuart what to do, we're going to tell Ricky Stuart what to do. Come clean, Ricky.

Inform the fans about what is going wrong and what you're going to do to fix it. After a win, Stuart can't wait to tell us what makes his club so great, how they fight for every inch and never give up and are not concerned with outside noise.

It's straight out of the Us and Them playbook. Yet asked about where it all went wrong in the record 53-12 loss to Penrith, he simply offered: "That's just between us. Yeah I can (find reasons) and that's what we spoke about (after the game). I'm not trying to be disrespectful to you guys... but some of that stuff is best left in the rooms there."

Not always. Sometimes getting it all off your chest is the way to go, Rick.

Criticism of Justin Pascoe off the mark

Seriously, will getting rid of the CEO really turn Wests Tigers fortunes around? The call for Justin Pascoe to go as boss of the wooden spoon favourites is ridiculous.

Yes, Pascoe has been involved in some calls you could label questionable. The Sheens-Marshall-Farah coaching triumvirate is not exactly off to a great start and you have to wonder why the obsession to hang onto Luke Brooks over the years.

But Pascoe has the runs on the board off the field, where he has overseen great commercial success to ensure the joint venture stays afloat. He also played a big part in the ensuring the Tigers' Centre of Excellence went from an architect's drawings to reality.

Justin Pascoe, pictured here on the field before the game and in the dressing rooms at half-time.
Justin Pascoe was spotted on the field before the game and in the dressing rooms at half-time. Image: Twitter/Fox Sports

Sponsorship is also healthy despite years of poor performances, so Pascoe has to earn a pat on the back for that. But he's a different cat to most CEOs and being a different cat, especially at a losing club, can attract unwanted attention in the straight-laced world of rugby league.

His latest 'crime' is to be seen on the field and in the dressing room at half-time as the Tigers slumped to a heavy defeat in Brisbane. If the Tigers were 5-0 instead of 0-5, you wouldn't have heard a peep about it.

The job to fix the worst footy team in the NRL is firmly on the shoulders of Sheens and Marshall. They're supposed to be the experts.

Check back in every Monday for Adam Lucius' weekly recap of the NRL round that was.

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