Victor Radley concerns, Nathan Cleary furore: The good, bad and ugly of NRL round 1

Anthony Seibold silenced his critics, Victor Radley suffered another worrying knock, and Nathan Cleary copped it from fans.

Daly Cherry-Evans, Victor Radley and Nathan Cleary, pictured here in the NRL.
Manly won big, Victor Radley suffered another head knock and Nathan Cleary came under fire after the Panthers' loss in the first round of the NRL. Image: Getty/AAP

😀 The good: Manly's incredible start under Anthony Seibold

😔 The bad: Victor Radley's latest concussion drama

😡 The ugly: Nathan Cleary cops it after Panthers loss

The opening round of the NRL season threw up plenty of drama and talking points. Here's our weekly recap of what went down.

Anthony Seibold snaps Manly's seven-game losing streak

Northern beaches people like to call their patch of the world God's Country, but it was nothing short of a living hell for its favourite football team last year. There's no need to again back through the events of 2022 in minute detail, but the bottom line is the team stank, the club was divided and fans were angry - really angry.

The Sea Eagles, as a club, were as welcoming as measles. Anthony Seibold knew the punters were hurting and felt disconnected to the club they loved.

He threw away the Do Not Enter sign and basically asked fans for forgiveness and a second chance. Players spent a large part of their summer out among the people, putting on a genuine charm offensive aimed to win back the disenchanted.

Kelma Tuilagi, pictured here celebrating with Manly fans after their win over the Bulldogs.
Kelma Tuilagi celebrates with Manly fans after their win over the Bulldogs. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

It's working. The locals gave up a perfect beach day to pack Brookvale Oval on Saturday for the team's first game under Seibold – a coach the majority of them didn’t want when it was first announced he'd be taking over from Des Hasler.

The Sea Eagles sent them home winners for the first time since mid-July, ending a seven-game losing run dating back to the rainbow jersey fiasco, with a comfortable 31-6 victory over Canterbury. It was an upbeat performance that had Brookie Oval Eagle rocking well after full-time.

In just a few short months, Seibold has healed many of the fractures caused by the events of 2022 simply by embracing the community in a fair dinkum way. The smiles have returned to the locals' faces and the maroon and white was again being worn with pride the day after the night before.

"We want to be connected to the community. We know how much the Manly team means to the northern beaches," Seibold said. "It was great to see so much support." It's only early days, of course, but a happy and united Manly is a dangerous Manly.

Concerns for Victor Radley after latest head knock

The Dolphins' big win over the Roosters in their first appearance on the NRL stage was the highlight of the first round, but the ramifications for a member of the beaten side could be severe. Victor Radley left the field midway through the second half after collecting Kenny Bromwich's hip while attempting a tackle.

We didn’t need the independent doctor – wherever in Australia he was sitting – to intervene on this one. The Roosters back-rower staggered to his feet and was clearly stunned by the blow, coming off Suncorp Stadium in a dazed state.

Radley is no stranger to head knocks. He's had a number of them throughout his career. You may recall the worst of them.

Victor Radley, pictured here leaving the field after sustaining a head knock against the Dolphins.
Victor Radley leaves the field after sustaining a head knock against the Dolphins. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Playing against Melbourne late last season, Radley was left convulsing on the ground after again getting his head in the wrong position in attempting to tackle Jesse Bromwich. There is no doubting the bloke's toughness but his technique is quite obviously contributing to the spate of head knocks.

The Roosters won’t rush the 24-year-old back and there is no suggestion he will be out of action for more than a week or two. Radley recently signed a contract extension taking him through to the end of 2027, but repeated head knocks will bring warnings for him to pull up stumps way before then.

More hate for Nathan Cleary after Panthers loss

Why so much hate for Nathan Cleary? Just one game into the 2023 season – in which he played in a side beaten by a solitary point – the critics are coming at him with poisoned darts. Again.

Can't ice games, they say. Doesn't own the clutch moments, they say. Not the same player without Api Koroisau, they say. Too full of himself, they say.

Are we all talking about the same player here? You know, the one whose won two premierships, a Clive Churchill Medal, three State of Origin series and a World Cup before the age of 26?

Nathan Cleary, pictured here in action for the Panthers against the Brisbane Broncos.
Nathan Cleary in action for the Panthers against the Brisbane Broncos. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Cleary wasn’t at his best in Friday night's loss to Brisbane and was a little off-tune in the World Club Challenge defeat to St Helens. He will be the first to acknowledge that.

Cleary's biggest challenge is learning to operate without Koroisau, whose smart service out of dummy half gives playmakers the time and space to work their magic. No one works harder at their craft than the Penrith No.7 and you can guarantee he will put in plenty of overtime this week to address the shortcomings.

Don’t be surprised if he finishes with the man-of-the-match award following a Penrith victory over South Sydney on Thursday night.

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

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