NSW got it really wrong: Voss
Andrew Voss looks at the finals race, the selection policy of NSW during State of Origin, the rule around drivers and the amazing try scoring of Vunivalu.
Which teams are gone?
With nine rounds remaining, lets take stock of this year's finals race.
There are still 18 competition points available to every side.
Mathematically, only Newcastle is out of contention.
Last year, 26 competition points would have been enough to make the playoffs with a decent for and against. And it may still be a sufficient tally in 2016.
But to be sure, 28 points has to be the target.
If that's the case, it means there are the following equations for the bottom bracket of sides. The Titans and Tigers need to win six of nine. The Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles face the task of winning eight from their last nine. For the Roosters and the Eels (once they are deducted their points) it's remain undefeated between now and September.
All are capable of winning plenty of matches, but after studying the draw, I'm going to take a stab and say the Wests Tigers will emerge the best hope of reaching the 28-point mark.
You can never give up on a game these days, can you?
Mark Round 17 down as the weekend of the comeback in the NRL.
The entrée was served with the Bulldogs wiping off a 12-point deficit to beat the Roosters. The Tigers did likewise against the Panthers.
But then we were treated to two of the three biggest comebacks so far this season.
Cronulla was able to respond in style to Parramatta's blinding 18-0 start at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Saturday night.
And the big daddy of them all came on Sunday afternoon with the Raiders fighting back from 22-0 down, and later 24-6, to edge the Knights in golden point.
It is truly one of the great attractions of the modern game. There was a time a few decades ago that you might get four such comebacks over the course of a season. Now we have four in the one round.
Few leads are safe. And the bounce backs happen all too frequently for them to be considered miracles.
Can we eliminate the "drivers"?
I think the controversial Josh Jackson try for the Bulldogs against the Roosters should lead us to a tweaking of the rules in regards 'drivers'.
Just as we have different guidelines for stripping of the ball in try-scoring situations, I believe we should have different rules regarding the interference of attackers without the ball. They can assist teammates in attempting to stay in the field of play, but not assist in getting them over the tryline.
How about a 'hands off' policy?
Referees boss Tony Archer admitted the officials should have disallowed the Jackson try, as Michael Lichaa had made contact with the defender Aidan Guerra's hand.
My argument is the defence in this situation can do nothing to stop the 'driver' because that would be interfering with an attacker not in possession.
As my Fox Sports colleague Mark Gasnier said in commentary, "It's rugby league, not rugby union". Ban the driver!
How many tries will Suliasi Vunivalu score this season?
Well at his current phenomenal rate, Vunivalu will score 30 tries by the time the finals come around.
This is becoming one of the best stories of 2016 – a rookie snaring two hat-tricks and five doubles in his first 10 NRL matches.
Just for the record, only two players in the 108-year history of the premiership have managed at least 30 tries in a season. The amazing Dave Brown did it with 38 in 1935 (a mark that will never be beaten), and Newtown's Ray Preston crossed for 34 tries in 1954.
The highest season tally from the last 40 years is 27 managed by Phil Blake (1983) and Nathan Blacklock (2001).
Keep sending that ball to the right Melbourne! I want to see this kid get plenty more.
Should Dylan Walker have been retained for Origin III?
Yes. The New South Wales logic and whatever culture they are trying to build makes absolutely no sense with the omission of Walker.
Let's go back to the start. Few pundits had Dylan in their Blues squads before Game One, but select him they did, and it is history now that he played only nine minutes. Even when a centre pulled out before the game (Josh Dugan), he remained on the bench.
Walker was then promoted to the starting side for Game Two, and now can't even find a bench spot for the final match of the series.
So here are my questions.
Why was Walker picked as a utility for Game One, given he is no longer a consideration for that role?
Why was the side for Game Three named on Monday morning, denying Walker the chance to impress in what turned out to be arguably his best club match of the season?
What is a development player, in light of the fact we have a 21-year-old here in Walker who has been punted after one starting match, with the series already decided?
And here's my conclusion: NSW got it all wrong this year. Among their mistakes, Jack Bird should have been in the 17 from Game One, and James Tedesco, once fit, on board for Game Two.
Blake Fergsuon is lucky to have retained his spot, while the jury is still out on Josh Dugan's credentials as a centre.
Will the Panthers end the Sharks' streak?
No Maloney, Bird, Gallen, Fifita or Graham due to Origin duty.
As a matter of fact, all the pressure is on the Panthers.
Again last week they failed to win a third straight game, and in so doing missed a chance to remain in the top eight. Had they won, they would have only been two points off fourth.
A big question mark has hovered over their credentials all year. Failure to beat the understrength Sharks may have some dismiss their chances altogether. Over the next month Penrith also face big away matches against Brisbane and the Warriors, so they need points in the bank.
I’m going to tip the Panthers, but they are no sure things.