Six genuine title contenders, Carney's Super League chances, the problem with live Sunday footy and more.
1) So who wins the competition now?
I don't know.
This is the most incredible race to a premiership in my 28 years in the league media.
I could mount a strong case for all six remaining teams on why they are going to make the grand final.
Perhaps the argument for some to actually win the decider might not be as strong as others, but consider the following:
- If Manly regain form this week, look out.
- Likewise if the Roosters bounce back to their best, Souths be warned.
- But what about the Bulldogs and the Cowboys staying on a roll?
- And I haven't even started on the two teams just one win away from the GF.
Three weeks to go, and three words best sum things up: BRING. IT. ON!
2) Was Michael Ennis out of line for taunting Cameron Smith?
Honestly, the game could do without it, but it was hardly the crime of the century.
Don't try and tell me this was a show of disrespect to the Australian captain. Has anyone heard Cameron suggest that's how he felt about it?
This was a case of Michael Ennis stirring an opponent, with his team clearly on top. I doubt he would have done it if the scoreline was reversed at the time.
I really don't believe the incident warrants any further discussion.
3) Should we be careful what we wish for when it comes to live Sunday football on free to air?
As a matter of fact, consider it another potential nail in the coffin for daytime footy.
The positive at Channel Nine is that boss David Gyngell is a league nut. Of course he understands the fans' desire for Sunday games to be shown live. But he is also in charge of a commercial television network, where advertising revenue and the grab for ratings is paramount.
To deliver live rugby league on a Sunday, a few things will have to give. On the Channel Nine side of things, they won't be able to generate the same ad income from a live game kicking off at 4pm.
However you would have to think they will maintain a strong ratings spike going into their 6pm Sunday news.
But what about the effect on crowds, and the impact on the little amount of daytime football we still have.
A post-4pm kick off in winter means lights on from about 4.30pm. By the start of the second half it will be dark.
Will we still hear Gus say, "I love my Sunday football", when the second halves kick off under lights?
4) Were the Cowboys right not to challenge the Tariq Sims suspension?
Quite frankly, I can't fathom why they didn't seek a downgrade… however I understand their frustration at the outcome of previous incidents.
Whereas the Cowboys have found themselves in hot water for questioning the integrity of the match review committee, I come at the situation from a different angle.
I'm sure they are all doing their best however I'm going to need plenty of convincing that the referees, video refs, match review committee and judiciary panel of former players are all on the same page when it comes to adjudicating on illegal tackles.
If Sims' shoulder charge on Justin Hodges really was a Grade 3, why didn't the Broncos receive the benefit of playing against 12 men? What grade of tackle do you have to register to be marched?
And just so I can put it on record again, let me say I hate carry over points, and I hate loading. We are dealing with footballers here, not criminals. Just treat each case on its merits.
That being the case, on its merits, the Sims hit deserved anything between none and two weeks in my opinion, compared to other illegal tackles that have drawn penalties this year.
5) Will Todd Carney be a success in the Super League?
I hope so.
Carney has agreed to a three-year deal with the Catalan Dragons.
Having mixed with the league fans in Perpignan, my advice to Todd would be to try his absolute best.
These passionate league supporters will easily forget Carney's past if he puts the Dragons first. Without going too far, he has the potential to be a club great.
The wholehearted Scott Dureau is a perfect example of fan/player relationship. He is adored by Catalans supporters. To be greeted by a 10-metre high banner of Dureau when I last walked into their home ground was interesting. He was respected for giving 100 per cent for the team at every training session, let alone the games.
However they will not suffer fools.
The ball is in your court Todd Carney.
6) Could NRL league fans learn something off the British?
I was lucky enough to cover last year's World Cup and experience first-hand some amazing crowds and the atmosphere they provide.
Etched in my memory are the fans in Warrington who 'adopted' the Samoan side the night they played New Zealand. I'd never heard singing like it at a league match.
Last weekend there was another example of passion from the fans in the north of England. It came in the match between Hull FC and Leeds at Hull's home ground, the KC Stadium.
Do you reckon the following would ever happen here?
Plenty of Rhinos fans made the trip across for the match in the 12,000-strong crowd. In the Hull side was former Wests Tiger Gareth Ellis, who before coming to Australia had played four seasons with Leeds, winning two championships. The Leeds fans adored him.
And so it was last weekend when Ellis crossed for a try for Hull, as a mark of admiration the Rhinos supporters put aside club differences to break into song for Ellis.
That's all class in my book.
Enjoy the weekend of finals footy folks, when we narrow things down from six teams to four.