The NRL's most decorated champion
Thurston's packed awards season, grand final conundrum, closing out matches, Four Nations carnage and more.
1) Who will be in the Grand Final?
I'm thinking Roosters v Panthers.
But then again, maybe Rabbitohs v Bulldogs…
Or what about Roosters/Bulldogs or Rabbitohs/Panthers?
Basically what I am trying to say is that I doubt anyone could predict with absolute confidence the outcome of this weekend's two absolute blockbusters.
As a matter of fact, the word blockbuster doesn't do them justice. It certainly wasn't apt for last week's thrillers.
What I can emphatically say is that no matter which two teams emerge from the preliminary finals, we will have a potentially epic decider to look forward to.
2) Will Johnathan Thurston win more than just the Dally M Medal?
I believe he will.
I've already gone on record previously in this column as saying that a tie between Thurston and Hayne is a real chance for this year's major player award in the NRL.
However I think that Thurston is poised to become the first three-time winner of the Golden Boot having collected the honour in 2011 and 2013.
Andrew Johns and Darren Lockyer are currently the only other multiple winners.
Thurston's performance was sublime in the Cowboys' comeback against the Roosters. To put it in context, I thought Mitchell Pearce continued his stellar form – some of the best of his career.
But as good as Pearce is playing, it is without any disrespect that I say the gap between him and Thurston is sizeable.
The halfback scale goes like this: Pearce is very good; Cooper Cronk and Daly Cherry-Evans are great; Thurston is a champion.
End of story.
3) How many accidents are there waiting to happen?
Quite a few.
And I'm talking about the rulebook here.
Josh Reynolds' kick that struck the referee highlighted a rule written generations ago that makes no common sense whatsoever in the modern game.
The punching edict of instant sinbinning is also a timebomb. What if five or six players throw punches in the heat of battle of finals footy? Do they all go to the bin?
What if a player throws half a dozen punches at an opponent who then retaliates with one punch that knocks the player out? Does one go to the sin bin and the other get sent off? Do they both go for good?
And wait until a 'torso try' decides a big game when a player's stomach smothers a ball on the ground in-goal. That will be embarrassing.
Is anyone clear on pushing in scrums?
What about offside in golden point as teams set up for field goals?
I am sure you can think of a few others. Let's just hope they don't come to the fore in the next two weeks.
4) Do you remember when teams used to be able to close out matches?
Maybe I am just getting old.
Sides defending leads is a feature of play condemned to history.
Does anyone feel safe these days when their team leads by 10 or 12 with five minutes to go?
It is perhaps the greatest plus of the modern game – the ability to overcome substantial deficits.
Obviously the Cowboys' 30-point turnaround is the extreme example, but erasing two- and three-try deficits has been happening all season (remember the Storm v Manly game in Round 1?).
And it's not just in the NRL. From Week 1 of the finals in the Super League Warrington fought back from 18-nil down to beat Widnes 22-19.
The saying goes, "it ain't over until the fat lady sings". These days she never belts out a note until the players are headed up the tunnel after full-time.
5) Is the Four Nations tournament in trouble?
No, not really. But a dozen player withdrawals in a week isn't flash.
Billy Slater, Konrad Hurrell, Justin Hodges and Brett Morris are among those you won't be seeing come late October on the international stage, and that's a shame.
But more often than not, off-season surgery takes precedent these days as the pressure mounts on the players to be fit for the start of the next NRL season rather than feature in games for their country.
You know I love Test rugby league and I am still confident we will have a cracking tournament with matches in Australia and New Zealand.
However there is no doubt the credibility of international footy has become a bit of a punching bag.
6) Who of the current elite players has scored over 200 tries in his first grade career?
The former Raiders and Roosters star is worthy of a mention this week, as he was the hat-trick hero in the above mentioned Warrington comeback win in Super League.
That came after already snaring the competition's leading tryscorer honours this year with 28.
I know his career ended here in controversial circumstances, and he can never live that down, but how about some credit where it's due.
Now 32 years old, Monaghan has a whopping 215 career tries from 281 top grade matches.
That my friends, is a mighty achievement.
Good luck to all the teams, senior and junior involved in finals this weekend.