Being in an NRL tipping competition right now is an absolute nightmare.
The pre-season form guide has been thrown in the bin as premiership favourites fall while lowly underachievers from previous seasons rocket to the top of the table.
We may only be two rounds in but the early signs are this year's premiership race is wide open. That was made blindingly obvious on a weekend of footy where nothing went to script. As NRL great Matty Johns said on the Triple M Grill Team on Monday: "I can't remember a more eventful round of football — exciting, bizarre, some extraordinary finishes and incredible upsets."
It got underway on Thursday night when St George — who choked in the back half of 2017 to slide from a top four contender who eventually missed the finals — backed up its opening round win against Brisbane with a 20-16 victory over 2016 premiers Cronulla.
Then in the Queensland derby on Friday night the Broncos turned the tables on the Cowboys. Slammed for a dreadful performance against the Dragons to kick off the season, pundits everywhere were offering doomsday warnings for Brisbane, saying they couldn't do any damage with their halves pairing of Kodi Nikorima and Anthony Milford.
But they made those critics eat their words with a thrilling four-tries-to-three win as Wayne Bennett's men withstood a late barrage from a side many believe will appear in this year's grand final.
"There's no way I thought the Broncos would beat the Cowboys. There's just no way," Penrith legend Mark Geyer told The Grill Team. "That's the beauty of the competition."
A week after stunning the Roosters, Wests Tigers continued to defy logic by knocking over Melbourne 10-8 in Billy Slater's 300th game on Saturday night. The joint venture club conceded a whopping 18 penalties but somehow overcame last year's grand final winner courtesy of an opportunistic Luke Brooks try with just a couple of minutes left on the clock.
For two weeks now the Tigers have shown a defensive grit never associated with them to pull off the two biggest upsets of the year. Having finished 14th in 2017 and playing without James Tedesco, Mitchell Moses or Aaron Woods, the Tigers have had no right to topple the teams who finished first and second respectively at the end of last year's home and away rounds.
But someone forgot to tell the players that.
"For the second week in a row ... they've still managed victory over a heavyweight contender," Johns said. "The last 15 minutes I've got to say was the most extraordinary, eventful last 15 minutes of football I've ever seen.
"Unbelievable. The energy they're defending with is just extraordinary."
That result came after the shock of the Warriors — many people's wooden spoon favourites — notching win number two with a 20-8 victory over a Gold Coast side minus halfback Ash Taylor. The New Zealand outfit showed its first start win over Souths in Perth was no fluke with an impressive display that may force tipsters to alter their pre-season predictions about who will anchor the table this year.
The craziness continued on a sweltering Sunday afternoon in Sydney when the mercury nudged 40C as Manly obliterated Parramatta 54-0. The Eels — who coughed up a 14-0 lead to lose against the Panthers in round one — were never in the hunt and coach Brad Arthur couldn't understand why.
"Yesterday at Lottoland no one could quite explain what went on," Johns said.
"You know what's bizarre, and he's dead right, Brad Arthur said, 'I didn't see that coming.' He said sometimes with your side you sense something in the warm up but he didn't see that coming.
"What a terrible feeling as a team when you go out there, it's 18-0 after no time, it's absolutely boiling hot and you feel you're that far off the pace. I reckon it's the worst feeling in the game."
Geyer said the repercussions should be swift and severe at Parramatta. "That's just not first grade material and there's got to be sweeping changes made as quick as this week I would imagine," he said.
Just as bizarre as the scoreline was the lack of drinks breaks taken in the unbearable heat. Normally on hot days players will be allowed to take in some extra H20 midway through both halves but Sunday's furnace wasn't deemed hot enough for that to occur.
"If they're not going to take a drinks break yesterday, they're never going to take a drinks break," Johns said.
To finish off the round, Newcastle — wooden spooners three years running — showed once again the seeds of its rebuilding mission are starting to sprout. A Mitchell Pearce field goal earned the Knights a one-point win over Manly in round one and they had fans on edge again with a nailbiting 30-28 win over Canberra in the nation's capital.
It was the Raiders' second two-point loss to start the season, continuing a worrying trend of losing close games that cost the team a spot in the top eight last year.
Gun teenage recruit Kalyn Ponga, who's playing fullback for the Novocastrians after inking a multi-million deal that saw him leave North Queensland, starred once again and prompted Johns to laud the foresight involved in his signing.
"Kalyn Ponga — when Newcastle signed him, people said they'd signed a kid who's a bit of an unknown and hasn't played much first grade, this is a big risk. It's looking like the deal of the century," Johns said.
"When you meet him he's a big guy and he's going to get bigger and bigger and bigger. He had more tackle busts in round one than (Cowboys forward) Jason Taumalolo. He had 12 in round one, he would have had more last night.
"He's given the Knights that bit of attacking arrogance."
Four of the teams occupying the top five spots on the ladder after two rounds — the Dragons, Warriors, Tigers and Knights — all missed the top eight last year, showing just how unpredictable the competition has been.
"What price (would you get) at the start of the year that the top of the tables goes Dragons, Warriors, Tigers, Panthers, Newcastle? Johns said. "It's going to be one of those topsy turvy competitions which is great."