Top 10 awkward encounters in 2016
It's usually the person you avoid at the groceries, school pick-up or soccer training, but for this lot an encounter at some point throughout the 2016 NRL Telstra Premiership season is inevitable.
10. Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Darius Boyd
Roosters winger Kenny-Dowall entered finals folklore once again in the 2015 finals series, but this time it was for the wrong reasons. It wasn't even a minute into the Roosters' preliminary finals clash with Boyd's Broncos when SKD attempted to throw a pass towards the centre of the paddock from the sideline. In theory, it wasn't the worst idea. But in practice Boyd plucked the ball out of midair for an intercept try. The Roosters wouldn't recover and were eliminated from the competition 79 minutes later.
9. Damien Cook and Cameron McInnes
Former Bulldogs hooker Cook finished 2015 with a bang after coming into Des Hasler's team following Michael Lichaa's season-ending foot injury. Such form earned him a handy contract from the Rabbitohs, as Issac Luke's replacement. Problem is, Luke's understudy McInnes had already backflipped on the Dragons – after the Warriors-bound Luke signed with the Warriors – to stay at South Sydney. With Cook and McInnes now teammates, an interesting off-season beckons as two of the brightest young hookers in the game battle it out over the summer months.
8. Trent Merrin and Paul McGregor
It's no secret Dragons coach McGregor wanted Merrin to stick in Wollongong beyond his last contract. Merrin didn't, and is now sweating it out at the foot of the mountains with the Panthers. They left on good terms, sure, with the Dragons being one of not many teams to be eliminated graciously in the finals. But it doesn't mean it won't be awkward when Merrin faces his old club next season.
7. Wayne Bennett and Paul Green
The battle between these two grand final coaches is a huge component in one of the game's biggest derbies. Their teams are sure to meet at least twice, maybe three times this year. If it's a repeat of 2015 it could be four meetings between the Broncos and Cowboys, but hopefully time makes the heart grow fonder for Wayne.
6. New South Wales and Suncorp Stadium
52-6 – a scoreline that surely has been reflected on time and time again by Laurie Daley, Paul Gallen and co. It's the scoreline Queenslanders have been toasting XXXX Golds to since July after the Maroons' massive Origin-deciding win over the Blues at Suncorp Stadium. New South Wales will be thankful they only have to travel north of the border once in 2016.
5. Anthony Griffin and Peter Wallace
Both the Panthers' new coach and their starting halfback say there won't be a problem when working with each other as Penrith try to bounce back from their injury-ravaged season. But it doesn't change the past, with Griffin benching Wallace during their time at the Broncos in 2013. In hindsight, it worked out pretty well for both men – with Wallace returning to the foot of the mountains to captain the Panthers – but they weren't best friends at the time.
4. Steve Matai and Dave Tyrrell
Matai pulled off the biggest hit in rugby league's post-shoulder charge era in Round 16 when he blindsided Tyrell with a crunching tackle. The Rabbitohs prop took it with good grace and credit to him, but it must hurt inside that a three-quarter got the wood over him – even if Matai is one of the game's best hitters.
3. David Shillington and Aaron Woods
Shillington's 200th NRL game ended a smidge early when he was sent off for his two attempts at headbutting Woods in Round 22, with the Tigers prop daring him to do it again after his failed first try. It didn't quite end there though with Woods telling the media Shillington should've known better as a veteran of the game. Bring on the Titans v Tigers next season!
2. Nathan Brown and Trent Barrett
For the first time ever these two men will face off as coaches of NRL clubs. It's a far stretch from when the two played alongside each other, and another couple of leaps from when Brown coached Barrett in his final four years at the Dragons. Hopefully Barrett doesn't utilise the slapping techniques Brown used on the Sea Eagles' new coach back in 2003, coincidentally when the Red V played Manly.
1. Robbie Farah and Matt Ballin
Former Manly hooker Matt Ballin did his best extinguish any awkwardness by clearing the air with ex-Wests Tigers captain Farah before signing with the club. But as the pre-season progresses and the make-up of Jason Taylor's team continues to take shape, it'll be interesting to see which of the two Origin hookers gets the No.9 jersey for Round 1, with plenty of speculation remaining about Farah's future at the club. If they do happen to share the hooking duties, the two veteran rakes could potentially form just the one-two combo the Tigers need.