Why the weekend proved that the finals system worked, a new brand of footy in Queensland, finals fever hits Melbourne, and why the Roosters of 2015 are an echo of their champion 1975 side.
The finals system works
A lot of emphasis is placed on the importance of a top-four finish in the NRL Telstra Premiership and the difficulty of winning the grand final from outside these coveted spots.
Once again, the 2015 season will see the best four teams competing for the top prize. It will be an intriguing penultimate week of the season with the up-tempo Broncos going up against the total football of the Roosters, and the clinical Melbourne Storm taking on the attacking brilliance of the Cowboys.
Week two of the NRL Finals highlighted the gulf in class between the top four sides and fifth- and sixth-placed finishers the Sharks and Bulldogs.
After 28 weeks of NRL, we are down to the best four clubs in the competition. The finals system works.
North Queensland rugby league on fire
A North Queensland school has won the Schoolboy Cup for the first time. Kirwan State defeated Patrician Brothers 28-10 at Pepper Stadium. Add this to the Townsville Blackhawks making the Intrust Super Cup final in their first year and the Cowboys into the preliminary final with a crushing 39-0 win over Cronulla. Football is booming in North Queensland.
What a day in the @NRLSchoolBoyCup .Kirwan State High become 1st school from Nth QLD to win title, and only the 4th QLD school overall.— Andrew Voss (@AndrewVossy) September 16, 2015
Ipswich wins with new brand of footy
A lot has been written about the revolutionary brand of footy being played in the Intrust Super Cup by the Ipswich Jets, led by co-coaches Ben and Shane Walker. The Jets charged into the grand final with victory over the PNG Hunters, booking a date with the Townsville Blackhawks.
The club's success is a triumph for the Walkers' unconventional tactics which have put a focus on throwing around the ball in attack, leading to a significant jump in points scored per game this season.
It should prove to be an entertaining grand final.
Finals fever hits Melbourne
More than 1000 Storm fans showed their purple pride in Melbourne on Sunday morning, turning out in strong numbers for an open training session.
In glorious spring conditions, the Storm's training ground at Gosch's Paddock was transformed into a sea of purple as members and fans watched Craig Bellamy put his side through their paces ahead of Saturday night's Preliminary Final against the Cowboys at AAMI Park.
Players put on a show for the local support with some light skills work followed by match simulation, before closing the morning by meeting their fans.
Injured Melbourne fullback Billy Slater said finals fever was certainly in the air.
"It's great to see so many people here supporting our team," Slater said.
"You know finals are well and truly underway when you get this sort of crowd, the weather is like this and there is a bit of a spring in the boys' step at the moment."
Tickets to the Preliminary Final between the Storm and the Cowboys will go on sale to members on Monday before becoming available to the general public on Tuesday.
The House that Jack built
Look out for a new book hitting the stands about the Sydney Roosters titled The House That Jack Built, written by David Rowlands. There are some quirky parallels between the 1975 Roosters side and the current version:
- Like this year's minor premiers, the Roosters of '75 also lost their first finals assignment by a small margin (8-5 to St George) after entering the finals as red-hot favourites and on the back of a long winning streak (a record 19 games).
- Both the 1975 and 2015 Roosters sides won the minor premiership with 40 competition points. In fact, the '75 side was the first in league history to crack 40 points.
- Both sides have a winger with over 100 first-grade tries (Bill Mullins and Shaun Kenny Dowall).
- Both sides have hookers from Queensland who never actually represented the Maroons (Elwyn Walters and Jake Friend).
The House That Jack Built is available in all good book stores.