Tom Trbojevic truth exposed, Josh Hodgson dramas: Good, bad and ugly of NRL round 8

Adam Lucius recaps the major talking points from a drama-filled round of NRL action.

Tom Trbojevic and Josh Hodgson, pictured here in action for Manly and Parramatta.
Tom Trbojevic and Josh Hodgson have provided major headaches for Manly and Parramatta. Image: Getty

😃 The good: Will Kennedy's sparkling form

😔 The bad: Josh Hodgson a huge worry for Parramatta

😡 The ugly: Tom Trbojevic's latest injury dramas

Round eight of the NRL threw up a number of major talking points, with the Eels and Sea Eagles facing some huge headaches around Josh Hodgson and Tom Trbojevic. Check out our weekly recap:

Will Kennedy continues sublime form to silence doubters

It was only a couple years ago Cronulla fans were riding Will Kennedy pretty heavily. They didn’t see the slender No.1 as a natural fit for a position that had caused the club plenty of headaches since the 2016 grand final win.

Val Holmes left and Josh Dugan, Shaun Johnson and Matt Moylan were all used at the back without any sustained success before then coach John Morris put his faith in young Kennedy. The early signs weren't terrific.

While it was obvious the young fullback possessed some talent, he didn’t really look like he belonged at NRL level. His kick returns could be best described as kick strolls as defensive units corralled him and beat him into submission.

Defensively Kennedy was not overly strong and he seemed hesitant in attack, perhaps not knowing his place in a team of big names. But the Sharks stuck with him during those formative times and are now being rewarded big time.

Kennedy now sits just below the top tier of fullbacks in the NRL. Some would say he's already there.

His three first half tries against Canterbury on Saturday night showcased all his attacking brilliance in one highlight reel - one try from support play, the next after plucking a bomb from Hayze Perham's hands and the third a superb dummy and sleight-of-hand.

Kennedy, who recently extended his stay at Cronulla until 2025, now has nine tries for the year, one behind chart topper Maika Sivo. He is arguably the most improved player in the competition over the past two years after working so hard on every aspect of his game. Sharks fans wouldn’t swap him for anyone.

Josh Hodgson might not be up to scratch any more

Brad Arthur has a big decision to make this week – one that could determine how far Parramatta goes this year. The Eels boss must make a big call on hooker Josh Hodgson and where he sits in the scheme of things after a poor game in the loss to Brisbane on Friday night.

The 33-year-old missed five tackles, one which led to a Brisbane try, and was hooked by Arthur midway through the first half. He stayed on the bench for the rest of the game.

Youngster Brendan Hands replaced the Englishman, and while not totally flawless, at least provided some spark and efficient service around the ruck. Hodgson was still overcoming the flu but it really was no excuse for turning in a stinker of a performance.

Josh Hodgson, pictured here in action for Parramatta against the Broncos.
Josh Hodgson in action for Parramatta against the Broncos. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images) (Bradley Kanaris via Getty Images)

He was a wonderful player at Canberra, rightfully lauded as one of the best Super League imports to grace the NRL. But after undergoing a knee reconstruction that kept him out of the entire 2022 season, the experienced No.9 has not arrived at Parramatta as the same player that excelled over 138 games with the Raiders.

Doing an ACL at any age is a challenge but it becomes even harder to regain your speed and strength as you hit your 30s. There will be much interest in who Arthur picks at hooker for the Eels' clash with Newcastle on Friday night.

Tom Trbojevic at centre of horror new injury development

Could someone - anyone - please give us a definitive answer to exactly what's going on with Tom Trbojevic. The Sea Eagles are naturally playing down the seriousness of the groin injury Turbo picked up during Manly's narrow win over Wests Tigers on Sunday.

Coach Anthony Seibold described it as "innocuous" and doesn’t expect his superstar No.1 to miss more than a week or two. Other more suspicious types are viewing it through a different lens, convinced Trbojevic has been operating on low revs for most of the season.

Phil Gould, commentating on Channel 9, said: "He's among the best I've ever seen but he's not 100 per cent. I doubt he did his groin today. I've sensed a number of times he wasn't 100 per cent."

Tom Trbojevic, pictured here leaving the field after suffering a groin injury against the Wests Tigers.
Tom Trbojevic leaves the field after suffering a groin injury against the Wests Tigers. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) (Mark Kolbe via Getty Images)

Brien Seeney, who operates the 'NRL Physio' Twitter account, also has his doubts. He posted: "Minor groin strains usually not a major concern, often day to day. But takes on new meaning with the smoke and mirrors around the hip pointer/back spasms from a few weeks ago."

We've written here before that Trbojevic's biggest challenge could be mental. He seems afraid to back himself for fear of breaking down, pulling back when in the clear whereas once he would have disappeared from sight in a flash.

On Sunday he was run down by a prop. That would never have happened to the Tom Trbojevic of old.

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

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