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Is Jamie Soward the buy of the season?

Is Jamie Soward the buy of the season?
With the Panthers remaining a top-four side despite the absence of Peter Wallace, Jamie Soward has could be the NRL's best buy of 2014. Copyright: NRL Photos.
Do the Dogs still have a chance? Did Josh Reynolds get off lightly? Will the Dragons' Canberra hoodoo ever end? Andrew Voss has his say on the week's big questions.

1) Who has been the buy of the season?

It is hard to go past Jamie Soward at Penrith.

He was magnificent last Sunday as captain of the injury-ravaged Panthers against his old club the Dragons, and opposed to another 'buy of the year' contender Gareth Widdop.

Soward has played 19 of 20 matches this year; he's Penrith's chief kicker in general play, goalkicker, and organiser now that Peter Wallace is sidelined for the remainder of the year.

Soward has been a match winner for a Panthers side that is in the top four with a month to play.

Enough said.

2) Should Josh Reynolds' trip have earned a bigger suspension?


The majority of league people I have spoken to since last Friday night believe Josh should have been sent off against the Broncos.

My Fox Sports and Radio 2UE colleague Greg Alexander was particularly damning, describing the tripping of Ben Barba as the hardest he had seen a player strike the legs of an opponent in recent memory.

Brandy quite rightly asked the question, "If that's a Grade 2 trip, what is a Grade 5?"

For the record, if you take away the loading and carry over points, Reynolds trip only incurred a 131 point penalty with an early guilty plea.

That being the case, I believe the review committee 'tripped up' as well.

3) Are the Bulldogs gone?

No… but almost.

After four straight losses and with matches against Parramatta, Wests Tigers, Souths and the Gold Coast to come, I can see them finishing on at least 30 points.

Normally that would be enough, but with the race so close this season that's where the Bulldogs' poor points differential could come back to bite them.

The 41-10 thumping at the hands of Brisbane saw Des Hasler's team slip to a -7 points differential.

It's a dreadful figure compared to the likes of Souths (+207), the Cowboys (+164), the Roosters (+136) and Manly (+123).

They are in the top eight heading into round 23. Their destiny is in their own hands.

But boy are they under pressure.

4) Who will finish leading try-scorer in the NRL this season?

Take your pick!

If you think the race for the Telstra Premiership is tight, what about the try-scorer's chart?

Jarryd Hayne has nudged his way to the front after a double against Canberra. Could it be the Hayne Plane's destiny to land the Dally M Medal and the top try honours in the same season?

With 17 four-pointers so far this year, he is just one clear of five players with four rounds to go.

Jarrod Croker's tally of 16 tries is admirable in a team with only five wins for the season. Brisbane's Dale Copley has been a bit of a surprise packet; so too Manly's Peta Hiku.

Then we have the 'flying Fijians', Semi Radradra and Sisa Waqa. Melbourne's Waqa burst into contention with four tries in a beaten side last Saturday night against Newcastle.

And while Hayne aims for the big double, don't rule out the possibility of Souths' Alex Johnston snaring the rookie of the year and leading try-scorer gongs. His 15 four-pointers have him just two off the pace.

Or will it be the Beast, Manu Vatuvei (14 tries), who surges to the top. He has a very good strike rate against Newcastle so look out this weekend.

5) Will the Dragons beat Canberra… (ever again)?

Surely this is the weekend the curse of the capital is broken.

The Dragons have so much to play for at GIO Stadium on Saturday as they look to remain in finals contention. Canberra has won only two games at home all season. In their last game there they conceded 54 points to the Warriors. The Dragons just have to be favourites … right?

With trembling hand I have circled them to win, but how are you meant to have any confidence?

Incredibly the Dragons have beaten the Raiders only once in their past 17 clashes, and not since 2000 in the nations capital.

Canberra is chasing a 10th consecutive victory since 2007 at all venues over their rivals.

If Paul McGregor can find the secret to conquering the curse, the coaching job is his!
6) Should the NRL have its own version of the Challenge Cup?

I wish.

It's been interesting to gauge the reaction to the introduction of soccer's FFA Cup here in Australia.

All seem fairly positive to me.

Across in the Super League, the die-hard fans in Castleford are still celebrating their team qualifying for the Wembley final for the first time in 22 years.

The Tigers will play the Leeds Rhinos for this season's title. What a great boost to a club not necessarily considered one of the big guns in the UK.

The chance to win trophies is what clubs get great exposure from, and provides a significant fillip for the fans.

On the Voss wishlist is a Challenge Cup in the NRL that starts in the pre-season in place of trial games. Four-quarter football with unlimited interchange in a knockout format. The final could be all done by April.

And what about an NRL version of a rugby league grand slam? 

If you win the Nines, the Challenge Cup and the premiership in the same year, you get a million-dollar bonus?

Just a thought…

This weekend I'm off to Hunter Stadium to call the Knights and the Warriors for Fox Sports. Both teams have won five of their last seven. Should be a beauty.

Giddy up!

Twitter: @AndrewVoss9

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