Reece Walsh's 'silly' act, Kalyn Ponga rivals Joey: Good, bad, ugly of NRL round 26

Adam Lucius highlights some of the major talking points from the penultimate round of the NRL season.

Reece Walsh and Kalyn Ponga in action in the NRL.
Reece Walsh got his medicine, while Kalyn Ponga continued his extraordinary run. Image: Fox League/Getty

😃 The good: Kalyn Ponga continues to silence the haters

😔 The bad: Reece Walsh act that shows he lacks maturity

😡 The ugly: JWH puts Roosters' chances in jeopardy

Kalyn Ponga the closest thing to Andrew Johns we've seen

Back in the day, Newcastle fans used to hold candlelight vigils outside John Hunter Hospital any time Andrew Johns went there for treatment. The entire town would hold its collective breath awaiting medical updates on the "chosen one", praying he would not miss any football.

Candles might be in short supply in the Hunter this week as Knights fans sweat on the fitness of Kalyn Ponga following the shoulder injury he sustained in the big win over Cronulla. It wasn’t that long ago some of those same supporters were questioning Ponga's value.

He was the marquee signing failing to deliver. Consistent head knocks hadn’t helped his cause but even when Ponga was out there, he was drifting in out of games. Not now.

He is rivalling Reece Walsh – the player who pinched his Origin jumper – as the best player in the NRL at this moment. And he is bringing an entire town along for the ride.

Ponga was the man who opened up the game against the Sharks with touches of brilliance. The rest of the side followed. Dare we say it, he's the closest thing the Knights have had to Joey since the eighth Immortal gave it away. Let's hope the shoulder injury is not too bad because Ponga is about to light up this finals series in a serious way.

Kalyn Ponga.
Kalyn Ponga suffered a shoulder injury as the Knights beat the Sharks. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Reece Walsh under fire over Joe Tapine incident

Speaking of Walsh, he is pure box office gold. He's the most exciting player in the NRL and someone capable of taking the young Broncos all the way in 2023.

But there's still that touch of lair about him and it was again on show in the closing stages of Saturday night's important win over Canberra. Walsh fielded a kick from the Raiders, and with just a few seconds left on the clock, decided to play silly buggers.

Instead of just running the ball or kicking it into touch to end the game, the fullback taunted the beaten Raiders with a large smile while seemingly feigning injury. Canberra prop Joe Tapine was in no mood to laugh, using Walsh as a crash test dummy and levelling him with hard and legal hit that had players from both sides rushing in.

It could have been a bad outcome for Walsh but he got to his feet and no damage was done. Brisbane coach Kevvie Walters likes the fact his brilliant No.1 has some character about him but knows this game has a way of making you pay if you fool around too much.

"Reece was half mucking around on the field so he got a little bit of medicine there," Walters conceded. "We've got to get that stuff at the back end of his game, out of his game."

Roosters fans turn on Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

Read the following lines re: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and we’ll get back to you in a few seconds.

  1. "Both of last night's incidents just show the complete lack of maturity and consideration for the team."

  2. "As good as an enforcer JWH is, he's becoming a liability."

  3. "Bloody hell again he does stupid things and puts pressure on the team!"

  4. "Time for JWH to rethink next year's contract...lost the plot and is more distraction to the team."

The above comments are not from enraged Roosters haters or rent-a-quote experts looking for a hot take following Waerea-Hargreaves' late hit on Wests Tigers hooker Api Koroisau and a follow-up head-butt on Stefano Utoikamanu. They’re from loyal Roosters supporters who are fed-up with JWH and his lack of discipline.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves collected Api Koroisau late and high before head-butting Stefano. Image: Fox Sports

When you have your own fans turning on you, you have a problem. The prop's latest double brain snap has him facing a six-to-eight-week suspension. In other words, season over.

And given his importance to the Roosters' cause, it could be Roosters' season over. JWH is one of the NRL's great enforcers but for some reason constantly feels the need to play the role of schoolyard bully. Roosters fans are right. He's fast becoming a liability.

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