Top 50 stories of 2015: Part 1
The countdown of the 50 most-read stories on NRL.com in 2015 begins with a Dragons-Broncos showdown, the Sunshine State celebrating an all-Queensland Grand Final, Good Friday fallout and the Titans heralding the signature of Daly Cherry-Evans.
50. Benji v Ben
Two teams with arguably the largest fan bases in the game came into their Round 7 clash on the back of four- and five-match winning streaks respectively and the build-up resembled the grand final tension of some 20 years prior. The match itself was a brutal test of wills with Englishman Mike Cooper sealing a 12-10 win for the Dragons 13 minutes from full-time.
49. Good Friday boilover costs Graham
The events of the last few frantic minutes made it one of the most memorable games of 2015 but the fallout from the Good Friday clash between South Sydney and Canterbury was almost immediate for Bulldogs skipper James Graham. The talismanic Englishman was charged with dangerous contact for a challenge of Rabbitohs half Adam Reynolds and dissent for his subsequent abuse of referee Gerard Sutton who awarded Souths what would be a match-winning penalty.
48. State divided as North Queensland make history
With Brisbane securing their path to the Telstra Premiership Grand Final 24 hours earlier, all eyes turned to Melbourne to see whether it would be the Storm or Cowboys who would join them. The Storm were fresh after a week off but the Cowboys carried their devastating 39-0 defeat of the Sharks the week prior into the game and ran out convincing 32-12 victors. And for the first time in premiership history we had an all-Queensland grand final.
47. Good Friday fallout spills into stands
One of the more unseemly incidents of 2015 was the throwing of objects at match officials as they left the ground following the Bulldogs' 18-17 loss to the Rabbitohs on Good Friday. Canterbury coach Des Hasler immediately apologised for the behaviour of fans in the post-match press conference with fans facing life bans in addition to the punishments handed down to David Klemmer and James Graham for their abuse of referees.
46. Queensland a state divided and united
The pride of having two Queensland teams in the NRL Grand Final for the first time was quickly thereafter met with indecision by impartial fans in the Sunshine State: who do we want to win? It's safe to say that outside rusted-on Broncos fans the public sentiment rested with Johnathan Thurston's men in their pursuit of a maiden title. Bookmakers could barely split them and we listed Thurston v Hunt as the key match-up; and we all know how that finished. And for the record, I tipped the Broncos by four points, which was spot on for 79 minutes and 59 seconds.
45. Titans delight in prized signature
The signing of Daly Cherry-Evans in the first week of the 2015 season was seen as a pivotal moment in the history of the Gold Coast Titans. A Test and Origin representative, Cherry-Evans announced to his Manly teammates after their Round 1 loss to the Eels that he would be leaving the club and moving to the Gold Coast on a three-year deal. It was to herald a bright new era for the Titans with a marquee halfback at the helm but then something extraordinary happened...
44. Round 1 teams, hypothetically speaking
With so much late off-season movement of players between clubs the team at NRL.com looked at the 16 NRL squads and endeavoured to come up with the teams that would take the field in Round 1, and didn't you respond. Tens of thousands of you clicked on to see whether we'd got it right or woefully wrong with our predictions as anticipation built for the start of the season. How'd we go? Let's just say the Warriors backline threw up a few surprises.
43. Counting down the game's best players
If there's one thing we know in digital land it's that everyone loves a list and few are more popular than a rundown of who we think are currently the premier players in the premiership. By Part 4 we had reached the top 20 and two of the most exciting young No.1s in the game, James Tedesco and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, both made their maiden appearance on our list. As for the fan vote of who they most wanted at their club, 'RTS' was a clear winner with 43 per cent of the vote.
42. Heavens open forcing Suncorp to shut up shop
The Premier of Queensland urged everyone to stay at home as torrential rain resulted in flooding across south-east Queensland and with public transport at a standstill the NRL was left with little alternative than to postpone the Anzac Test between the Kangaroos at Kiwis from Friday, May 1 to Sunday, May 3. How did players from the Kiwis, Kangaroos and Jillaroos react? A mix of sad selfies and indoor cricket.
41. Andrew Voss picks his ultimate winner
Our esteemed columnist Andrew Voss was one of the most popular features on NRL.com all year so it was little wonder so many people tuned in to hear his verdict as to who would win the 2015 Grand Final between the Broncos and Cowboys. "What I am hoping for is that the game is decided in regulation time. I dread to think of what controversy we would be dealing with if the big one goes to golden point on Sunday night." That's not a preview, that's a premonition!
Stay tuned for the rest of the top 50 countdown in the coming days on NRL.com.