Lachlan Ilias stars, pressure mounts on strugglers: Good, bad and ugly of NRL round 3

The Wests Tigers and Dragons again fell apart as Lachlan Ilias found his redemption for South Sydney.

Lachlan Ilias, Ben Hunt and Luke Brooks, pictured here in the NRL.
Lachlan Ilias starred for Souths, but the Dragons and Tigers fell flat again in the NRL. Image: AAP/Getty

😃 The good: Lachlan Ilias' match-winning field goal

😔 The bad: Luke Brooks and Wests Tigers heading for ugly divorce

😡 The ugly: Anthony Griffin a dead man walking

Round four of the NRL competition was a welcome one for South Sydney and Cronulla fans. However there are plenty of concerns for the Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra.

Lachlan Ilias' brilliant moment after 2022 hooking

Lachlan Ilias is not like a lot of players from his generation. His first reaction to adversity is not to reach for his mobile and hit favourites so he can bring up his manager's number and agitate for a release or demand a positional change.

Late last season, Ilias was hooked after half an hour by South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou after turning in a stinker against St George Illawarra. In front of a big Friday night audience, it was humiliating, embarrassing and potentially career-crushing.

At the time there was still plenty of fury around Souths' decision to let premiership-winning halfback Adam Reynolds leave and Ilias was copping heat from all directions. But he didn’t drop his bottom lip and sulk.

Instead, he copped his licks and learned from the experience. And on Saturday night against Manly – in a game full of emotion just a few days after club legend John Sattler's death – the young No.7 cooly stepped up and iced the game for the Bunnies with a golden point field goal.

The ball could have gone to Cody Walker or Latrell Mitchell, but Ilias wanted to own the moment. And the second happiest person in the stadium was the coach who hooked him last year.

"I'm proud that he put his hand up and said 'give me the ball'," Demetriou said. "He's a young half in his second year. He’ll get a lot out of icing that game."

Reflecting on that mid-game sacking, Ilias told the media last year: "I didn’t want to feel like the victim in that situation. It was hard at the time and I had a sit down with JD a couple of days after the game. It was a positive chat.

"Ever since then I have been positive and changed my mindset. I'm hungrier now than I was before. It was probably the kick up the backside I needed." My faith in Gen Z has suddenly been restored.

Luke Brooks set to depart Wests Tigers at season's end

If Luke Brooks and the Wests Tigers were a couple on MAFS, the relationship experts would be advising them it just ain't working and a split would be the best outcome for both parties. Forget about the commitment ceremony and get out – now!

Watching the Brooks-Tigers saga is a bit like watching a couple in the final throes of a marriage that long ago ran out of gas. Despite what he has uttered publicly, Brooks has wanted out a number of times and the Tigers just wouldn't sign the papers.

They were either trying to convince themselves the relationship had legs, despite years of evidence suggesting otherwise, or couldn't find a suitor willing to stump up the money to cover a fair chunk of Brooks' million-dollar salary. For now, they are stuck with each other. But an end is in sight.

The Melbourne Storm, pictured here in action against the Wests Tigers.
The Melbourne Storm proved too good for the Wests Tigers. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Brooks is off contract at the end of this season and a call will be made on his future within the next few weeks. The Tigers have done some crazy things over recent years but surely re-signing Brooks – again - won't be one of them.

After missing out on Mitchell Moses, there's talk they will pursue Englishman George Williams as their new No.7. Or they may opt to throw huge money at a big-name playmaker for the 2025 season.

By that time, expect the hapless Brooks to be plying his trade in Super League. The Tigers and Brooks badly need a break from each other.

Writing on the wall for Anthony Griffin after Dragons loss

It might just turn out to be the 40 minutes that costs an NRL coach his job. St George Illawarra's meek surrender to Cronulla in Sunday night's local derby does not bode well for Anthony Griffin as he prepares to apply for his own job in coming weeks.

The Dragons are inviting applications for the 2024 coaching position and we're pretty sure Griffin won't be mentioning the 40-8 loss to the Sharks on his resume. It's not just the scoreline that looks bad, it was the way it all fell apart when there was so much to play for.

The Dragons led by two late in the first half and only trailed by four at the break against a Cronulla side intent on handing the ball over time and time again. The visitors were there to beaten.

Cronulla Sharks players, pictured here celebrating a try against the Dragons.
Cronulla Sharks players celebrate a try against the Dragons. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

But by the hour mark, the contest was over. The Sharks' completion rate improved and they found little resistance from the Red V, continuously pouring through threadbare defence.

They scored 28 unanswered points. Nicho Hynes was made to look like Andrew Johns. The longer the game went, the worse the Dragons became.

It came on the back of a late fade out against Brisbane the previous week, which raises questions about St George Illawarra's fitness and resilience. Griffin is a dead man walking.

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

Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.