Monday Morning Halfback Round 21
Every point matters in the race to the finals, Cam Smith becomes just the second man to lead his club 200 times, the Sharks continue their charge and the Marvel jerseys prove to be a big hit on and off the field.
Every point matters
With just two competition points splitting 7th to 11th on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder the race to the finals is going down to the wire. Wins by the Sea Eagles and the Dragons were vital for their respective seasons, and the bag of points they scored has changed the makeup of the ladder dramatically.
Manly's big 44-14 win helped eradicate their massive points differential, bringing it in from -48 to -18 in just 80 minutes. Suddenly Manly are now realistically in the hunt for September football. The Dragons had lost seven in a row heading into their clash with Newcastle and it had hurt them not only on the ladder but in their for and against column too. The Red V's 46-24 victory over the Knights helped their points difference go from -12 to +10.
Every point matters for teams jostling for position in the race to the finals.
There is the very real possibility that a 'consolation' try could prove the difference between making the finals and not after 26 Rounds. Game on.
Captain my captain
Congratulations to Melbourne Storm captain Cam Smith who became just the second man to captain his club 200 times when he led the Storm against the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Friday night. Melbourne didn't get the result on the night, but it is an amazing achievement. Only Parramatta's Nathan Cayless has captained his side more times (220) in the history of rugby league. If Smith plays on to the next World Cup - as he has stated he intends to - he'll hold a lot of rugby league records that might never be broken.
Sharks continue to circle
Cronulla's charge towards the finals is picking up momentum. They have won seven of their last eight matches, including wins over five sides in the top eight: Roosters, Cowboys, Dragons, Bulldogs and Warriors. They are a team that very much understands their own strengths and more importantly their own limitations. They are always in the contest, playing an uncompromising style of football and find a way to win one way or another. They have an uncanny knack of forcing teams to play their style of football and it is proving very successful. They face a big test when they clash with the Cowboys this weekend at Remondis Stadium.
Who'd be a coach?
With one dramatic performance, Manly showed what has been missing most of the year when they put the league leading Broncos to the sword. Mastercoach Wayne Bennett sympathised with Geoff Toovey after the Manly coach was told his services were no longer required for the 2016 season.
"They have always had the quality players and they have done a lot of damage to themselves this season with what has happened internally with their organisation," Bennett said.
"I think we all realise they can play. They have a very good backline. On his results I am [surprised they got rid of Toovey].
"The best clubs are the most successful clubs and they are the ones that have the most stable organisation."
Tom Trbojevic is in demand
What a superstar this kid could be. It will be hard to keep him out of Manly's starting side for the remainder of the season. His numbers in the Holden Cup defy belief and he is quickly showing that he can hold his own in first grade. While his attacking ability is sure to light up highlight reels for years to come, it was a moment with 12 minutes left on the clock and the Sea Eagles leading by 30 that showed his full potential for the future. With Manly looking for more points a rogue kick was intercepted by Anthony Milford, it should have put the glasses down time. Trbojecic turned and chased, and was forced to run around two broncos who were legally shepherding him, he caught Milford inside 60 metres and forced the five-eighth to pass. The Broncos scored on the play, but the fact Trbojevic made them work for it is a good sign of his work ethic and electric pace. It didn't go unnoticed.
There were seven Marvel themed jerseys in Round 21 with five clubs winning in their superhero themed apparel and of the two that lost - the Raiders and the Knights - both lost to other Marvel jerseys. The Roosters (Captain America) left it late to beat the Bulldogs, the Wests Tigers (War Machine) overcame an early 10 point deficit to smash the Storm, the Cowboys (Thor) fought back from an 18 point start by the Raiders (Hulk), the Sea Eagles (Daredevil) shocked the competition leading Broncos to hand them just their fourth loss of the season, while the Dragons (Iron Man) ended their seven match losing streak with a big win over the Knights (Spider-Man).
Kangaroos Jersey Auction
I am auctioning my 2013 Kangaroos jersey signed by every member of the winning World Cup squad to raise money for a friend who needs to go to Germany for treatment of his illness. If you'd like to make a bid on the jersey you can do so here. All procceds will go directly to his flights and treatment.
The Kangaroos team that won the World Cup will go down as one of the greatest in history. The Australians didn't concede a single try after their opening game of the tournament, eventually beating NZ 34-2 in the World Cup final at Old Trafford.