Monday Morning Halfback: Round 15

Johnathan Thurston continues to amaze, the Broncos defy stats and logic in famous victory, Keith Galloway joins exclusive club, the flick-back sensation that is catching on across rugby league and a great Country Championships in Mudgee.

Where does Thurston rank? 

Johnathan Thurston is one of the most decorated players in the game's history. He is fast approaching an unprecedented fourth Dally M Medal. If he stays fit, no-one will come close to him. Every time you think you have seen him do it all, he sets the bar higher again. 

With the game on the line against the Raiders, Thurston didn't quit, he had two field goal attempts charged down in a frantic final minute, but with five seconds on the clock, he got in position and there was an air of inevitability when he struck the ball for the match winning point.

 

Thurston is the most competitive person I have ever met. I've seen him compete in warm-up drills, cheekily declaring his line of players the champions, no matter if it is a simple hamstring stretch or a rudimentary lunge walk. Thurston doesn't want to win, he needs to win. It's palpable. 

His core instinct is to compete and to win and it is amazing to watch. While it can land him in hot water from time to time, there is something special about watching a champion of our game continue to come up with the match-winning plays. He simply refuses to quit.

Is he the best ever? That's a debate for water coolers, family barbecues and pubs, but there is no doubt that history will remember him as one of the greats and in the near futrure, a member of The Immortals. 

Broncos refuse to yield

It has been said repeatedly in the modern era that teams struggle to defend repeat sets and momentum is key to victory. Someone forgot to tell the Broncos, who refused to buckle under a weight of possession and territory. A cursory look at the stats shows that the Storm dominated every area but the one that mattered most on Sunday afternoon, the scoreboard.

The Broncos made a whopping 453 tackles, 130 more than their opponents, were forced into a record 11 goal-line drop-outs, had only 40 per cent possession and still managed to defeat the Storm at AAMI Park. It was an amazing effort.

The Storm had 39 sets to the Broncos 30, completed 34 sets to the Broncos 24 and ran for 1941 metres - 500 more than the Broncos, yet still couldn't get the try they needed to win the game.

It is no wonder Andrew McCullough (68) and Matt Gillett (56) tackled themselves to a standstill in the second half.

The game was exciting and gripping until the final tackle, proving low-scoring clashes can be just as enthralling and engaging as high scoring affairs.

 

 

Galloway joins exclusive club

Keith Galloway became just the 282nd player in the game's history to reach the 200 game milestone when he took on Manly on Friday night. If that sounds a lot, consider the game has been played for over 100 years and only three per cent of players have ever reached the milestone. It is an incredible achievement.

 

Flick back sensation

Newcastle's Jake Mamo ensured he will be on highlight reels for years to come with one of the try-assists of the season at Hunter Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Mamo threw himself over the deadball line with no hint of self-preservation to flick the ball back for Carlos Tuimavave to score. It was shades of Kevin Naqaima's effort for Wests Tigers earlier in the season and more famously Greg Inglis in the Centenary Test at the SCG. 

The spectacular play is becoming a regular occurrence in the modern game and becoming as common as a flick pass.

There were two such tries scored during the Country Championships in Mudgee on Saturday, the first during an U16s game, while the second in the U18s won Bidgee Bulls a dramatic final when they scored in the final two minutes with a dramatic flick back. 

Whatever happens at the elite level is quickly copied, mimicked and replicated through all levels of the game. It was great to see the tremendous skill and determination in the junior ranks.

 

 

Mudgee puts on a show

Glen Willow Sporting complex was a picture on Saturday afternoon as Mudgee hosted the Country Championships. 

NRL Chief Operating Officer Suzanne Young was in attendance and was part of a Women in League function that included Jillaroo and One Community Ambassador Ruan Sims. 

Head of Game Strategy and Development Shane Richardson and former Australian, New South Wales and Country representative Andrew Ryan were also involved in the day's activities. 

It was a great day of rugby league, well done to everyone involved.

U16s: Greater Northern Tigers 30 def. Bidgee Bears 20
U18s: Bidgee Bulls 30 def. Newcastle Rebels 28
Tier Two: Riverina 32 def. Greater Northern Tigers 22
Tier One: Illawarra 42 def. Canberra 12.

 

Women's Interstate Challenge

The Queensland women's team will be looking to make it 17 straight on Saturday when they clash with New South Wales at 1300SMILES Stadium. In fact, Queensland has never lost, such has been their dominance. Their team with over 10 Jillaroos will again be tough to beat. 

I've spoken to several of the players heading into the game and there is certainly no shortage of passion or toughness in the women's game.

NRL.com will have a story later this week on that very subject.

Fox Sports will cover the game and show it on delay on the Sunday. I encourage all to watch.