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Kurt Gidley leads his team in front of a Knights home crowd at Hunter Stadium for the final time.

Andrew Voss gives his thoughts on the departing Kurt Gidley, the success of North Queensland and the closeness of the NRL Telstra Premiership.

Is it time the minor premiers received more recognition?


The prize money should be at least five times what they receive now.

The Roosters or Broncos will be worthy minor premiers this season in such a tough competition.

However if it is Trent Robinson's side that gets there, then the feat of first across the line for three straight years should be hailed as a mighty achievement in modern rugby league.

If the Roosters then go on to win the competition, the grand final could be the last match in a winning streak of 15 matches. That would be extraordinary.

But there's a bit to go before that may or may not happen.

What does the bottom half of the ladder say about the competition?

That no game can ever be taken for granted in the NRL.

The fact that until Monday's loss by the Panthers we could have had the bottom seven clubs finish on 22 points is incredible.

The line between what is perceived as success or failure in a season has perhaps never been finer.

If the Dragons were to lose on Saturday to Wests Tigers, and Manly go down to Cronulla; 26 points would have been enough to make the playoffs. That's 11 wins and 13 losses.

Some will say on raw numbers that shouldn't be good enough to warrant a finals berth, but that would be ignoring the closeness of the overall competition.

There are potentially some superb match-ups in week one of the finals. And for the eight teams that miss out, perhaps they are not as far away from September football as some might think.

For their fans, the 2016 season can't come quick enough.

Which player is the NRL's biggest surprise packet?

Hands down, the Bulldogs' Damien Cook.

I know we have awards for best player, best coach, top rookie and the like, but Cook needs his own category.

At this stage it might be 'best cameo' in the NRL this year that suits the effort of Cook.

What an impression the 24-year-old has made in the last two weeks as the Bulldogs accounted for Souths and Newcastle.

And how good was the try by the former top beach sprinter against the Knights?

I doubt there would be too many sides that could overcome the loss of their halfback and hooker in the space of a few weeks and still be a force in the playoffs.

With Cook, a six-game NRL 'veteran' on board, the Bulldogs have at least one position covered 100 per cent in my opinion. And with Josh Reynolds due back from injury, perhaps it's just business as usual at Canterbury as they bid to make back-to-back grand finals.

How disappointing have the Panthers been in 2015?

The answer is 'very' in the context of where they were this time last year, but the record book in the future isn't going to show the injury list they have battled.

As they head into Saturday's showdown with Newcastle at Pepper Stadium, last spot on the ladder 12 months after falling one game short of the grand final and a possible premiership is a reality.

Such has been their bad luck with injuries this year, if they do collect the dreaded wooden spoon this season, it'll probably have a crack in it!

Success in North Queensland this year isn't just limited to the Cowboys in the NRL, is it?

No sir! North Queensland have enjoyed a stellar year in the Holden Cup as well, losing just three matches.

The Townsville Blackhawks have claimed the minor premiership in the Intrust Super Cup.

Meanwhile, there is a moving story out of Townsville in the GIO Schoolboy Cup.

It's to do with the efforts of Kirwan State High, who have qualified for the national final against Patrician Brothers Blacktown.

The Kirwan Bears are being driven by the memory of former principal John Livingston who passed away from a brain tumor in May this year. He had only become aware of the problem last December.

For 27 years John lived and breathed Kirwan State High and he loved his rugby league.

In the final weeks of his life the players presented him with the Matty Bowen championship trophy they had won this year. 

And now he will be at the final in spirit later this month.

Kirwan is a great league story in 2015, and you catch their semi-final effort against Erindale College on Fox Sports this Saturday.

Where does Kurt Gidley rank as a player?

He is a club great of the Knights, and has been an outstanding player.

250 NRL matches at the one club; 12 State of Origins for NSW, and 12 Test matches for Australia stack up handsomely in an impressive career resume.

At times he was a 'victim' of his own versatility, but I guess you can also see that as a product of the modern, 17-man game.

However can I also praise whoever was responsible for the Kurt farewell fan memento that was distributed last Saturday at Hunter Stadium.

It was a Knights cardboard shield, but rather than just the usual career numbers that get listed on such items, there was a message written by Kurt talking about his life in rugby league and his appreciation of the fans.

And I'll end this week with some of what was written, and wish Kurt well for his 251st and last NRL game on Saturday.

"Growing up, all I ever wanted to do was play for the Knights. The day I made the Knights junior squad was a dream come true, let alone progressing through the grades to now be captain of our great club.

"Throughout my career the one constant has been the members and fans. Thank you for supporting the team in the good times and the bad. It has truly been an honour to play in front of the fans at home games or away."

Enjoy your weekend of footy.

Giddy Up!

Twitter: @AndrewVossy

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