Monday Morning Halfback: Round 17
The Cowboys extend their winning streak on the road, Manly not playing mathematics game, the under 20s Origin players with a huge future and an amazing response to our Origin knockout poll.
Cowboys road show
The Cowboys notched up their seventh consecutive away win of the season when they beat the Dragons on Saturday night at WIN Stadium. The North Queensland side has only lost once on the road this season, back in Round 3 to the Broncos 44-22 at Suncorp Stadium.
For so long the club's away form has dogged them and often been cited as a reason they have struggled in September. Not anymore. It seems the club has learned from previous seasons and put systems in place to help with one of the league's most demanding travel itineraries.
"I've said before how much the travel actually takes it out of us physically, we have delved pretty deep into that, we reckon we have a pretty good routine in terms of the amount of work we do and how we recover," coach Paul Green said on Saturday night.
"It's not about whether we are home or away, it is about us as a team understanding what we need to do. I've worked hard on it as a coach when I started. It took a while for the boys to get what I was on about.
"It doesn't matter where we play, when we play or who we play. There is an expectation of the group no matter who comes in and wears the jersey that they have a job to do."
The Cowboys have a bye before travelling to Brookvale Oval for Monday night football in Round 19, hoping to extend their winning streak away from Townsville to eight.
Numbers add up for Manly
Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey did not want to get drawn into a mathematics class when he attended Sunday's post match press conference.
Manly had just defeated Cronulla 28-16 to finally get off the bottom of the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder, but the only thing Toovey wanted to add up is how many times he can keep his strongest team on the park without injury.
If he can do that, he believes finals football is still a possibility.
"When you start talking mathematically, that is when I start to get worried," Toovey said.
"We just have to win as many games as we can, which we will do, especially our home games.
"It all about trying to keep this side on the park."
Opposition coach Shane Flanagan acknowledged that it was close to the strongest line-up that the northern beaches club had at their disposal.
"I think that is close to the best side they can trot out," he said.
"If they can keep that together and get some form behind them, I wouldn't say that today was a real good game from them - they were patchy and let some tries in - but if they can keep that team together, the halves and Brett Stewart at the back, they'll give anyone a challenge."
Sunday afternoon at Brookvale
It was the right place, right venue, right time and the right promotion when 14,881 fans packed Brookvale Oval on Sunday afternoon despite Manly sitting bottom of the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder. It was the biggest crowd Manly have had all season.
The promotion by the club leading into the game involved $2 pies, chips and hotdogs. Organisers could not have hoped for a better winter's day. Beautiful sunshine combined with school holidays and a family friendly timeslot meant Manly had a massive crowd.
Under 20s with a future
The under 20s Origin teams to play the curtain raiser to the Holden State of Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night are not just promising footballers.
While the 34 players that take the field will no doubt have dreams of becoming NRL superstars, it is an encouraging sign that a majority of the talented youngsters have something to fall back on if they don't make it in footy.
Almost 30 per cent of the players are completing a degree, 25 per cent are completing traineeships or apprentices, while others are already working full-time.
It has been a strong focus of the game for some time and these potential stars are ready for life after football, no matter if that is in six months or 10 years time.
The Broncos are top of the NRL Telstra Premiership and third in the Holden Cup. They also have 10 representatives in the under 20s State of Origin mentioned above. It is fair to say that after a few lean years, Brisbane has its mojo back.
Origin voting proves a knockout
At the start of this year's State of Origin series NRL.com began our Origin Knockout poll, pitting 64 players against each other who have represented the Maroons or the Blues since the year 2000. Each week half the contenders have bowed out of contention, with Darren Lockyer pipping Johnathan Thurston in the final round of votes among Queensland players and Andrew Johns edging out Brad Fittler to finish as the last NSW player standing.
There has been incredible interest in the online voting with over 320,000 votes registered during the four week knockout. Who will be crowned the best Origin player since the turn of the century, Lockyer or Johns?
Scrum win against feed
How good was it to see the Dragons win a scrum against the feed with a good old fashioned push that caught the Cowboys totally unawares. With North Queensland feeding the scrum just 10 metres from their own line, the Dragons drove forward in unison, the scrum stayed bound throughout and thus the Dragons were given a great chance to score after an amazing piece of play. It was all for naught as Benji Marshall dropped the ball soon after, but we don't think it will be the last time a team tries it this season.