Raiders players celebrate against the Sea Eagles.

Monday Morning Halfback: Round 25

There was another historic moment for the women's game, a drought breaking win for Hull in the Challenge Cup, unique records broken across the NRL, while Des Hasler cops unfair criticism. 

Hull of a day

Well done to Hull FC for winning the Challenge Cup Final. It was a remarkable victory and also a win for international rugby league. Earlier this year, Hull coach Lee Radford let star forwards Frank Pritchard and Sika Manu travel around the world to take part in the Pacific Test, even though Hull had a critical Challenge Cup tie they needed to win. 

Pritchard and Manu made the 33,000km round journey to be involved in the Test match and captain their respective nations at Pirtek Stadium and missed the Challenge Cup clash.

At the time Radford said it was a fantastic honour for both of them to captain their countries.

"It's important for the growth of the international game that they're both turning out for Samoa and Tonga and great recognition for the club that we have two international captains in our ranks," Radford told hullfc.com.

"We're obviously going to miss them next week, in what is such a huge game for the club."

Hull went on to win the contest and then the Cup - their first at Wembley in 74 long years! 

Just reward for putting the game before the club.

New day, new women's first

It has been a big year for the women's game on all fronts and on Saturday women's rugby league took another strong step forward with the St George Illawarra Dragons and Cronulla Sharks playing a Nines game at Southern Cross Group Stadium. 

The Sharks won a thrilling contest in the final minute when Jillaroos fullback Sam Bremner pounced on a kick from Jillaroos half Allana Ferguson to seal a famous win. 

It's the genesis of something big for the women's game.

The match came on the back of an announcement during the week that an under-18s women's rugby league nines competition from next year – with a full senior competition further down the track – will boost longer-term success for the women's game in NSW in the years to come. 

For match-winning fullback Samantha Bremner, the rapid rise of the women's game continues to amaze her.

"I feel like every time I wake up there's some good news about the women's game," she told NRL.com's Martin Gabor

"There's always a new opportunity being presented by the NRL or NSWRL. If I don't get to play professional football down the track for whatever reason, I hope that I helped to pave the way for young girls to play professionally." 

There is no doubt the current crop of players are blazing a trail for the generations to come.

Des under fire?

The Bulldogs went into their clash with the Cowboys with a chance to sew up a top-four berth. They've been at the right end of the ladder for the whole season, yet their style of play has faced criticism. It seems odd that a coach who has taken his side to two grand finals and the finals series every year would be questioned. But rugby league fans can be fickle. 

It was only the Storm hell-bent on redemption and the Rabbitohs on a historic premiership charge that stopped the Bulldogs claiming the Provan Summons Trophy. They are well in the mix to go deep into September again. But some fans are hard to please. 

Whether the Bulldogs trouble the other top eight sides or not, Hasler's results have been ultra consistent at Belmore. He's the only coach to make two grand finals since 2012. Nine teams haven't been there at all. 

The challenging nature of roster management

Canberra's transformation has been nothing short of extraordinary. They've always had some good players – notably Jarrod Croker who is the club's all-time leading point scorer. 

And they've also lost Josh Dugan, Blake Ferguson and Anthony Milford in recent years, to name a few. But that hasn't stopped them bringing together a squad that could go the whole way in 2016.

Coach Ricky Stuart gave a fascinating insight to Triple M on Sunday when talking about the importance of managing a roster and the delicate balancing act to get it right.

"Three years is the minimum you need as a coach to get the squad you want together," Stuart told Triple M on Sunday afternoon. 

"It is very hard to sign players from other clubs. But most important is recruiting the right type of player, a player that is willing to buy into what you are trying to do."

While Stuart is quick to point out that he has a rookie squad and is unsure how they'll respond in the finals, he is loving being back at the club where he made his name.

"One of the best feelings I have had in the game is to be able to come back to this club that I've always had a great passion for, it made me as a rugby league player and I'm really enjoying my time here," he said.

"Everyone loves a winner. It's a really good vibe at the moment. Very excited community and the one thing we have really made sure of as a club, that we buy into the community."

Brotherly love

Two sets of three brothers collided at Hunter Stadium – it was the first time that had happened since 1999 when Bulldogs' Steven, Glen and Corey Hughes took on the Broncos Ben, Shane and Chris Walker.


Rookies star on debut

When Dylan Phythian scored a try on debut for Newcastle against South Sydney on Sunday, he became incredibly the 17th player to achieve the feat this season. It's the most tries scored on debut in a season since 1997 when 20 players scored in their first game. In 1997 there were 150 players that made their debut, while this season we've had 74.

Brenko joins weird record book

Canberra's Brenko Lee became the second player to ever score four tries and then be dropped the following week. According to NRL stats guru David Middleton, Andrew 'Dick' Sullivan scored four tries for Manly against Eastern Suburbs in 1953 and then played reserve grade the following week. 

It will be little consolation for Lee who scored four against the Eels last week, but he was filling in for Edrick who came back into the team and scored in the Raiders' 44-30 win over Manly.

Farewell Parramatta Stadium

Parramatta had their last captain's run at Pirtek Stadium on Sunday before the rebuild with their last match to be played on Monday night against the Dragons.