The countdown of the top 50 stories on NRL.com in 2015 continues with the start of post-season analysis, rating the players who are often under-rated, Justin Hodges spawning his own hashtag and the Rabbitohs and Bulldogs doing battle in a game we are likely to never forget.
20. Investigation begins at the bottom
The start of our dissection of what your team needed in 2016 began with the club's who needed it the most so it is unsurprising that it was one of the top 20 stories viewed on NRL.com in 2015. For some it may have been obvious but fans of the Knights, Wests Tigers, Titans and Warriors were desperate for answers and we tried to deliver. Hodkinson to rescue the wooden-spooners; Tiger cubs to find their roar; a roster overhaul on the GC; and a foil for Shaun Johnson in Auckland. Problems solved.
19. Credit where credit's due
Lining up the top 10 players in the game can often find unanimous agreement apart from a couple of minor disagreements but rate the under-rated and you capture everyone's imagination. Giving credit to those who rarely receive it is not an easy assignment as by nature their work gets done without fanfare but many of you felt compelled to see who we bestowed such an honour upon. We even gave fans the chance to have their say, with 23 per cent voting for Gavin Cooper ahead of Mitch Aubusson and Leeson Ah Mau.
18. Storm sends shockwaves through finals
They scraped into the top four by account of Cronulla's loss to Manly in Round 26 but the Storm did what they do best and strangled the life out of the minor premiers to earn a week off and a home Preliminary Final. It was by and large a scrappy, grafting game of footy but with so much at stake all that matters is who in front at the end, and on this night Melbourne went home happy to the tune of 20-18. "There were quite a few guys that were down today, and probably down to the way Melbourne played," said Roosters coach Trent Robinson. "You've got to give credit to opposition teams that make teams play the way they want to and it's what Melbourne did to us."
17. Oh no Hodgo, say it ain't so
It was the first grand final judiciary hearing to generate its own hashtag and in the end those supporters of the #FreeHodgo campaign were able to celebrate a victory. The Grade 1 Dangerous Tackle charge on Justin Hodges stemming from Brisbane's Preliminary Final win dominated discussion early in grand final week as the Broncos' skipper faced the prospect of watching his final game in the NRL from the sidelines. But thanks to the testimony of Maroons teammate Aidan Guerra Hodges was found not guilty and cleared to play his 251st and final game in the grand final.
16. NRL's tough stance on 'Bad' Friday behaviour
The Grand Final rematch between South Sydney and Canterbury drew more than 40,000 fans to ANZ Stadium on Good Friday but it was the actions of a minority that dominated headlines post-game. The Rabbitohs won 18-17 in controversial circumstances and as match officials left the field they were pelted with objects thrown from the stands, with the NRL promising to come down hard on the offenders. "There are a lot of marginal calls in rugby league, but what we saw today was completely unacceptable, and we will not tolerate it," said NRL head of football Todd Greenberg.
15. History made as Test suffers rain delay
They may be common in cricket but the intense weather event that battered Brisbane on Friday, May 1, created a first for rugby league; the first time a Test had to be postponed due to weather. South-east Queensland suffered a deluge of cyclonic proportions and as Suncorp Stadium sat under a sheet of water the NRL made the difficult decision to postpone the match to a Sunday afternoon kick-off, the first day-time Test in Australia since 2011. "There were a number of considerations for this decision, primarily player safety as well as that of our supporters," NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg said.
First time rugby league Test in Australia postponed due to weather #RoosKiwis— David Middleton (@Middleton_David) May 1, 2015
14. Favourite son shown the door
It was as unexpected as it was swift with the Wests Tigers announcing that captain and fan favourite Robbie Farah had been given permission to negotiate with other clubs. It sent the rugby league world into a tailspin as possible suitors were lined up and Farah himself indicated he had no intention of going anywhere with two years left to run on a lucrative contract. "The decision was not made lightly but ultimately allows the club a chance to restructure the football team to allow for future success," the Tigers said in a statement. But this was only the beginning...
13. For Evans' sake, was that a try?
Perhaps the prominent position of this story in this list owes its place to Bulldogs fans continuously replaying the try to Roosters prop Kane Evans in the 50th minute and asking the question, 'How?' Despite the strong suggestion of a double-movement upon video review, the men upstairs deemed there was insufficient evidence to overturn the on-field decision of 'try' and the Roosters' 8-4 advantage became 14-4 and soon 20-4, eventually running out 38-12 winners.
12. An instant grand final classic
Truth be told, we could have written 50 key points on one of the most memorable grand finals rugby league has ever been fortunate to witness. Ben Hunt dropping Kane Linnett on his head; Kyle Feldt's timely strip; Michael Morgan's flick pass; Kyle Feldt's inch-perfect put-down and JT's premiership winning field goal in extra time. And that was just the final three minutes! For 79 minutes and 59 seconds it appeared the Broncos would bravely hold on but then came a sucker punch that took the wind out of half the state of Queensland.
Congratulations to the 2015 NRL Premiers Nth QLD Cowboys🏆 pic.twitter.com/KP3jlTO5Jh— Robert Ninni (@RNinni) October 4, 2015
11. When Good Friday goes bad
Two teams who had last shared a stadium in the premiership decider the year prior converged on the same patch of turf – a ground they both share – and put on another performance that would live long in the memory. It was probably a game the Bulldogs should have won but when skipper James Graham was rightfully penalised for attacking the legs of Rabbitohs half Adam Reynolds as he attempted a field goal to tie the game at 17-apiece tensions boiled over. Referee Gerard Sutton correctly awarded Souths a penalty goal in front of the posts but not before a torrent of abuse was directed his way from Graham, David Klemmer and Michael Lichaa. Klemmer was sin-binned and with Reynolds injured Bryson Goodwin stepped up to put the Rabbitohs in front for the first time in the game.