Talking Points, Las Vegas, Sea Eagles vs Rabbitohs, Roosters vs Broncos, Round 1, Reece Walsh, James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell

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James Tedesco fired back at his critics showing he is far from a spent force in a dazzling display against the Broncos to cap a hugely successful Las Vegas extravaganza to open the season.

Meanwhile, Reece Walsh sent an ominous warning to the rest of the NRL that he is set to take his game to even greater heights in 2024.

And Latrell Mitchell showed the Rabbitohs can have a bounce back season when they get some troops back in the outside backs.

Read on for the talking points out of the historic Vegas double header.

The only place to watch both games of the Las Vegas opening double-header live is Fox League, available on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial today >

BROOKS’ BUMPER CLUB DEBUT

There’s a buzz around Brookvale this season.

Prior to Round 1, all reports were that Tom Trbojevic was fit and firing and new recruit Luke Brooks was fitting into the Sea Eagles’ spine perfectly.

Heading to Las Vegas, Anthony Seibold’s side faced a big test against a red-hot Rabbitohs side, and they passed with flying colours.

Brooks was particularly impressive on club debut, being denied a first half try before bouncing back to charge over late in the second half.

For rugby league legend Braith Anasta, Brooks’ seamless transition into Manly’s spine was remarkable.

“You could see it from the first touch, he’s wanted the ball in his hands and he has taken the opposition on,” Anasta said.

“As a half, that’s when you’re most dangerous. He’s quick, he has a great passing game and a great kicking game.

“But not only that, what’s impressed me has been his combination with Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic which is the most important thing in 2024.

“They couldn’t have asked for a better start.”

He also explained his switch from the Tigers, having been one of the NRL’s most heavily criticised players during his 11-year stint, is exactly what he needed to “rejuvenate” his career.

“Any questions about Luke Brooks, they have been answers tonight, what a performance from this man,” Braith Anasta said.

Luke Brooks starred in his Manly debut.
Luke Brooks starred in his Manly debut.Source: AFP

“Playing in this game he has looked dangerous every time he has touched the footy, rejuvenated, refreshed, a new beginning, what a start.”

Speaking post-match, Brooks cut a relieved figure, standing alongside one of the game’s most experienced halfbacks in Cherry-Evans.

“I’m really happy for him, he’s worked so hard in the pre-season. We’ve been roommates this week so it has been nice to get to know each other,” Cherry-Evans said.

“Hopefully the best is yet to come, but he played excellent tonight.”

Brooks was also asked what it was like to have scored a try at Allegiant Stadium, the venue the Kansas City Chiefs won the Superbowl at only 20 days ago.

“I dropped one over the line so I had to make up for it, it’s crazy and to be able to make my club debut over here where the Superbowl was,” Brooks said.

“It’s a pinch yourself moment and I’m just happy we got the two points as well.”

Brooks finished the clash against the Rabbitohs with a try, a try assist, a line break assist and four tackle breaks in a comprehensive performance.

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WHAT WE LEARNED: Tedesco ‘magic show’ inspires Roosters despite ‘rock star’ Walsh

‘RACIAL IN NATURE’: Broncos star Mam makes complaint against Roosters enforcer

‘IS THIS A SIN BIN?’: Walsh’s try-saver under review after ‘blatant shoulder charge’

WHAT WE LEARNED: Brooks stars as Manly snap streak in 11-try Vegas thriller

Trell throws intercept – Saab runs 60m! | 00:37

TEDESCO ANSWERS CRITICS AS ROOSTERS EVOLVE ATTACK

There were few players under more pressure than James Tedesco coming into the season after a form slump in 2023, but he showed he is far from a spent force at NRL and rep level.

The Roosters looked a far cry from the rudderless team that limped through the first half of last season, with a less structured attack reaping rewards against the Broncos and Tedesco benefited.

Tedesco finished with 190 metres, nine tackle busts, two offloads, one linebreak, one try assist and five tackles without a miss

Michael Ennis believes Tedesco out-duelled his more fancied rival Reece Walsh with a classy display to get the Roosters off to a winning start.

“He has some incredible takes under pressure, but he just made his presence felt early,” Ennis said.

“He went looking for work. Buzzing around the middle. Testing the big middle forwards on the shortened field with his footwork and his speed. He is just so strong every time he takes on the line.

“It was more than a wholehearted performance tonight form James Tedesco. He took it personal.

“He made it personal. There was a lot of hype around Reece Walsh and rightly so. Reece is one of the bright young stars coming through our game.

“But tonight the veteran stood up and he was brilliant. He was best on ground and it was a real captain’s knock.

“On the road. A lot of travel and tough opposition. He stood up and he was brilliant tonight Tedesco.”

James Tedesco was back to his best to start the 2024 season.Source: Supplied

Tedesco credited his and the team’s pre-season for their strong showing against last year’s grand finalists.

“I just put the work in during the pre-season,” Tedesco said.

“I just wanted to go out there and trust myself and trust to put the work in and just go out there and play footy.

“I’m happy that I was able to play some good footy, but there is plenty of improvement to go.

“We all had a great pre-season, so I think that is the key. You put the work in and you go out on the field and you can just trust yourself and play what you see in front of you.

“I’m happy we had a good pre-season and we can build on this for the rest of the season.”

Tedesco admitted he was excited to be a part of the Las Vegas extravaganza, but was more pleased with the two competition points than his own form.

“It was a big trip and we had a big job to do,” Tedesco said.

“We enjoyed the experience coming over here in front of this crowd was awesome, but it wouldn’t have been the same if we didn’t come away with the win, so I’m super stoked.”

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Rooster accused of racial slur | 01:06

WALSH’ OMINOUS WARNING TO RIVALS DESPITE BRONCOS LOSS

It wasn’t the winning start the Broncos were after, but their star player Reece Walsh showed he hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential with an eye-catching display.

Walsh finished with 137 metres, three tackle busts, three offloads, a linebreak assist, a try assist, 10 tackles without a miss and a superb try.

Broncos skipper Adam Reynolds paid tribute to his young fullback, who was exceptional in a beaten side and warned he is only going to get better as the season progresses.

“He’s an integral part of our team,” Reynolds said.

“He’s a special kid. He studies hard and he has done his work and works hard on his game.

“It shows in his performances. He is a dedicated young kid and you know he is only going to get better throughout the season.”

Michael Ennis believes Walsh is the rock star of the NRL and he made his mark on Las Vegas despite the Broncos’ frustrating loss.

“All week everyone has been waiting to see Reece Walsh… the bright lights of Vegas just got a little brighter with rugby league’s rock star Walsh,” Ennis said after Walsh scored a brilliant try.

Reece WalshSource: Getty Images

“He finds a way through, set up their first and now he’s scored a second. Reece Walsh stamping his authority in Las Vegas.

“We saw him at State of Origin, he’s just not overwrought and I had so much confidence in him tonight that no matter the size of the crowd. No matter the noise and atmosphere here, this kid just has no fear of failure. He’s a genuine star.

“It’s so much more than just blistering speed, it’s a highly intelligent footy player who skates on the side of risk not being conservative.

“The score line starting to get away and he says ‘leave it to me baby’.”

Reynolds admitted the Broncos made it hard on themselves in a scrappy start to the season, but warned they would bounce back in Round 2.

“We were a bit scrappy at times,” Reynolds said.

“They were clinical and completed high and we turned over a lot of ball.

“We made it tough for ourselves. Our kicking game went away a bit in that second half and that is something we need to be better at.

“It’s the first game of the year. We are looking forward to getting back out there in front of our home crowd at Suncorp.”

Walsh lucky to escape the sin bin? | 00:58

ROOSTERS’ FORWARD PACK HEADACHE

It’s a good problem for a coach to have, but Trent Robinson will have to make some big decisions regarding the make-up of his forward pack next round.

With Jared Waerea-Hargreaves returning from suspension in Round 2, one of the Tricolours forwards will have to make way.

Siua Wong and Sitili Tupouniua were very solid in the back row against the Broncos, while Victor Radley is one of the first names on the teammates at lock.

Meanwhile, Lindsay Collins was impressive as ever at prop alongside new recruit Spencer Leniu who started for the fifth time in his 83-game career.

While Robinson said he was “proud” of Leniu’s start to the game, he may return to the familiar bench impact role he was so successful in for the Panthers.

“Spencer has so much energy and the way he started the game I was really proud of him, he hasn’t started a lot in his career and he came here to do that,” Robinson said post-match.

“And he did that, created the ruck speed for Brandon to get out in one of the early carries. He just needs to put that energy in the right direction and he will change the competition.”

Nat Butcher and the whole Roosters pack stood tall.Source: AFP

That means one of Nat Butcher, Sandon Smith, Naufuha Whyte or Terrell May will have to make way and it’s unlikely the Tricolours will play a four-forward bench.

Smith is a strong chance of keeping his spot in the No.14 with Connor Watson being the man competing with him for the utility role.

Nat Butcher was a regular starter last season and Robinson heaped praise on May when speaking to Matty Johns following his side’s win.

“It’s incredible, you do your interchange and you know players on and off and you want to get Lindsay Collins back on, Spencer back on,” Robinson said.

“But Terrell May I just keep playing him 40 minutes in the second half because he just keeps turning up, came up with a try-saver down in the left-hand corner.

“Keeps taking carries and getting offloads, he just doesn’t get tired.”

Therefore, Whyte looks the likely man to make way in a stacked forward pack that has seen former NSW and Kangaroos representative Angus Crichton also left out.

The 28-year-old’s omission comes in the final year of his Tricolours contract, with a potential deal to join French rugby being reported, following Joey Manu.

It remains to be seen whether he will be able to break back into the Roosters outfit, but could push for a bench spot should the Roosters pack be hit with any injuries.

Manu pulls off ALL-TIME flick in Vegas | 00:46

SMALLER FIELD CONCERNS A STORM IN A TEACUP

The skinnier dimensions of Allegiant Stadium provided plenty of pre-game fodder about whether the two Vegas matches would be as expansive as we’re used to seeing in the NRL.

The field size from sideline to sideline during the Souths-Manly and Broncos-Roosters games was 64 metres wide, opposed to the 68 metres of a regular NRL-sized field.

Many in the lead up envisaged a low scoring, compact game, with the backlines unable to be as effective with less ground to work with.

However, those fears were put to bed pretty quickly with both the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles having no problems spreading the ball from the get go and scoring points.

The narrow and short field didn’t seem to effect the kickers or the spectacle.Source: AFP

After Souths winger Jacob Gagai crossed in the first half after a lovely Latrell Mitchell cut out ball, Fox League’s Dan Ginnane noted how free-flowing the contest had been.

“Despite the questions over smaller field size, this game has been end to end,” Ginnane said.

“That play is not supposed to happen on this skinnier field.

“It doesn’t matter how much has been taken out of the width, they have been able to create.”

In the end the first clash saw 60 points scored, the most since the Roosters beat the Rabbitohs 40-29 way back in 2011.

And the try-fest continued in the second clash, with the Roosters scoring three and the Broncos two to record a 30-point game.

BUNNIES BOUNCED OUT OF VEGAS

There were no panic stations in South Sydney’s camp on Sunday night following their upset loss to the Sea Eagles, knowing they have several stars still to return.

The Rabbitohs were exposed on the edges with journeyman duo Richard Kennar and Jacob Gagai both scoring tries but they struggled at times in defence.

Souths star recruit and former Dally M Medal winner Jack Wighton will take Kennar’s spot when he returns from suspension in Round 3.

Tyrone Munro broke his collarbone at training last month but should return around Round 5 in place of Gagai.

Kangaroos representative Campbell Graham’s sternum injury however will keep him sidelined until Round 22.

The Rabbitohs impressed in patches against the Sea Eagles and skipper Cameron Murray said it was important to focus on the positives moving forward.

Souths skipper Cam Murray.Source: News Corp Australia

“We had some good chats in the dressing room and everyone held their heads up high,” he said.

“We know it’s a long season but it’s going to be a longer season if we have our head down and are kicking stones.

“There are a lot of good things and takeaways that come from this game. But we focus on the good things and reflect back on the things that we can do better and there are plenty of them. We’ve got two weeks now to be better.”

Bunnies coach Jason Demetriou echoed the sentiment and expects to see an improved performance against the Roosters in Round 2.

“At the end of the day it’s Round 1 and it comes back to completing your sets, putting the ball in the right areas of the field and keeping your discipline up and for periods of the game we did that really well,” he said.

Jai Arrow went off with an ankle injury and Davey Moale finished with a hamstring complaint against Manly, but Demetriou expects both to be right.

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