Why Brad Arthur is the coach of the year
Parramatta's massive turnaround, Vossy's tip for the minor premiership, how to boost crowd numbers and two young stars on the rise.
1) Who is the coach of the year?
Lock me in for Parramatta's Brad Arthur.
Obviously there are fair claims to be heard pushing the case of the likes of Geoff Toovey, Ivan Cleary and Paul Green, and to be honest it's probably an award we shouldn't sign off on until the grand final.
However, I vote for Arthur, regardless of what may happen over the next two weeks, and by that I mean even if the Eels miss the finals.
Last Friday night Parramatta achieved quite a milestone with their tremendous victory over Manly.
The Eels' 12th win of the season meant they have now won more games in 2014 than 2013 and 2012 combined.
To fight back from 12-nil down was tremendous. To keep the competition leaders scoreless in the second half was outstanding. Aside from all that, their style of play is just great to watch. And Arthur is deserving of much credit for that.
He took on a team that in 2013 won just five matches and conceded a whopping 740 points. They conceded on average 31 points per game and scored 14.
I believe Parramatta will beat Newcastle this weekend, and then all that stands between them and finals football is somewhat ironically a team coached by Ricky Stuart in Round 26.
2) Who will be minor premiers?
I have crunched the numbers and have come up with the defending premiers for top spot courtesy of a strong points differential.
I am predicting over the next fortnight the Roosters will beat the Storm and the Rabbitohs, Manly will beat Penrith but go down to the Cowboys in Round 26, and Souths will beat the Bulldogs this week but not their bitter arch rivals in the final round.
Mind you, here I am locking in the results for every game for the next two weekends and I haven't tipped an eight-out-of-eight all year!
3) Can South Sydney win the competition if Adam Reynolds is injured?
I will attempt to answer this one with another question: can South Sydney win a competition with Adam Reynolds fit?
Let me clarify that as it reads a little harsh on the Souths No.7. When Reynolds pulled up with a hamstring injury against the Cowboys last Saturday night everyone was quick to ask what that would do to the Bunnies' title hopes.
As it turns out, incredibly he's expected to play against the Bulldogs.
But look at what had happened leading up to the injury against North Queensland. In the playmaker class, Johnathan Thurston had given everyone a lesson.
Reynolds is a very good player. Thurston is a champion, and he proved it again in a big match at ANZ Stadium.
Hypothetically, would Souths win the competition if they had JT in their line-up? I'd probably have them as favourites.
They will persevere with Reynolds, and so they should. And they may come close to capturing the 2014 crown, but again the greatest pressure will be on their halves.
And it is yet to be proven that when the whole shebang is on the line, they are good enough to get the job done.
4) Should the NRL be taking the advances of Marwan Koukash to buy an NRL club seriously?
Koukash is outspoken, and some might think a touch eccentric, but a fool he is not. He is cashed up; a self made billionaire, and loves rugby league.
His life story, from Palestinian refugee to now, is quite inspiring. He is yet to achieve big goals with his ownership of Salford in the Super League, but he is there for the long run.
I know many have been 'burned' by the recent Nathan Tinkler experience at Newcastle, but that shouldn't mean the door is shut on future private ownership.
And the club where I would most like to see Koukash come in and take the reins is the Wests Tigers.
What do you reckon Tigers fans?
5) Should Penrith move more games away from their home base?
I believe they have to.
I really feel for the Panthers given the hard work they have put in on and off the field to get the club to where they are, but still the crowd numbers haven't returned.
I also feel their frustration at being denied a Sunday afternoon game for all of 2014. This shouldn't be allowed to happen if we are operating a draw in the best interests of the game and its stakeholders.
Can I suggest that, and not just for Penrith, the answer for away games and different frontiers is New Zealand.
Only the Bulldogs are currently playing a 'home' match across the Tasman each season, as they did in Hamilton earlier this year.
The Warriors alone cannot service the NRL all across New Zealand. I would be exploring what options are available financially to play matches in Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin, even Auckland itself on weekends where the Warriors do not have a home game.
There are times during the Origin period that we go a month with only one match in NZ. If there are no intentions of a second team based there, I firmly believe it's up to the other clubs to in part fill the void. And the rewards could be significant.
6) Is the future of the NRL in safe hands?
Based on the talent I have seen coming through, absolutely yes!
It's down to the business end of the GIO Schoolboy Cup, and it is going to take a very good side to topple Patrician Brothers Blacktown.
And while many in the team are Penrith junior representative stars, Parramatta has ties to one of their best.
Jot down the name Joseph Tramontana, who plays hooker and was the NSW Under 16s captain last year. Joseph has won player of the match in both their quarter final and semi final.
And while you have your little black book handy, let me give you the heads up on an amazing talent linked to the North Queensland Cowboys.
The young fella's name is Gideon Gela. He hails from Darnley Island in the Torres Strait Islands. The population of Darnley is 400.
Gela, who plays fullback for Kirwan State High in Townsville, was recently selected for the Australian Schoolboys. He could be anything.
I can still recall the first time I saw Matty Bowen and his amazing skills on show as a schoolboy player representing Abergowrie College.
Gela has left the same impression.
Enjoy your weekend of footy. So much at stake.
I'll be in Auckland on Sunday calling the Warriors against the Titans for SkySport NZ and Fox Sports.