Andrew Voss gives his opinion on the Jack Wighton ruling, the Captain's Challenge, the Sharks' title chances, and Jarryd Hayne's impact at the Titans.
Should Jack Wighton have been cleared to play?
Houston … we have a problem.
I wrote in this very column just two weeks ago after the Sam Kasiano incident against the Broncos and following the Ryan James tackle on James Tedesco, that we have a real problem in the consistency and interpretation of foul play between match officials, review committee and judiciary panel.
It is now a lottery going into the finals, and it is with fingers crossed rather than any great confidence that I hope we avoid any further controversy with the stakes in the matches now so much higher.
In my opinion Jack Wighton's tackle warranted a charge. That it could be assessed as a grade two offence, and then have him cleared altogether is staggering when both panels judged the tackle looking at the same video.
What are we to make of the Captain's Challenge trial?
Well by accident, the Captain's Challenge trial became the no bunker trial, and that drew quite a positive response by many.
But let's be serious. You cannot possibly make a judgement on one game in a 192 match regular season.
We need the bunker, or at least the benefit of video referral. To say otherwise I believe is ignorant. How else could we make a definitive call on all the spectacular diving leaps for tries in the corner these days? Your first reaction most times is, "he couldn't possibly have scored". Only on slow-motion replay do we get blown away in most cases by what has been achieved with just a blade of grass between try or no try.
I don't want us taking a guess on those decisions, do you?
And I don't want a system where a potential "howler" can't be contested because of an earlier challenge being unsuccessful.
Are Cronulla still a genuine contender for the title?
On form, they have slipped down the ladder, but on the way the finals draw has panned out, I wouldn't be writing them off.
If I asked you who do you think is the stronger contender right now between Brisbane and Cronulla, I would expect you to say the Broncos after their run of five straight victories.
However here is a possible scenario after this weekend if Brisbane wins, and Cronulla loses.
The Broncos would face either the Cowboys or the Storm in sudden death, and the Sharks would tackle the Bulldogs or the Panthers.
With the greatest of respect, I know which side of the draw I would rather be on for Finals Week 2.
The Sharks have two weeks to again find their best form. Be it this week or next, one win will place them a game away from a grand final.
Has Jarryd Hayne delivered for the Titans?
In some areas yes; in others, no.
I was very disappointed with Hayne's impact against the Cowboys in Round 26. His running metres were way down on what Neil Henry and the Gold Coast fans would expect from their fullback in particular. It is especially so when they have others on their roster very capable of doing a job for the team in the No.1 jersey.
But all of that can be forgotten on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium. Hayne has some serious runs on the board previously in finals football at Parramatta.
Friday night will be the biggest stage he has performed on since his time in the NFL. The Titans need Jarryd in his sixth game back to be at his best.
If he is, it won't be just Titans fans in for a treat.
It's a tough sport isn't it?
I have written pieces along these lines before, but never decry NRL players getting every cent they can get during their careers. You just don't know when their time will end.
Crippling shoulder injuries have forced the 28-year-old England international to call it quits.
Right now he should have been in the thick of things in Brisbane's quest for another grand final. In form, he would have been a prime contender to represent England again at the end of the season in the Four Nations, not to mention next year's Rugby League World Cup.
But those dreams have ended.
On behalf of all fans, we wish this young man well for the future, and congratulate Jack on all that he achieved including 126 NRL games and five Test matches.
Not bad for a bloke who not so long ago was running around for a mob called Silsden in a lower tier league competition in Yorkshire.
Is this the closest year ever for the GIO Schoolboy Cup?
By a country mile!
In a season where we have had more golden point games than any other year in the NRL, I guess it figures the cliffhangers go down through the grades.
In the next few weeks on Fox Sports you will be able to see the broadcast of the two GIO Schoolboy Cup semi-finals. Can you believe, both went to extra time!
I won't give away the results here for those who want to be kept in suspense but needless to say there is a cracking final teed up to be played at Pepper Stadium next Wednesday. Kick-off is 1pm.
This weekend is going to be something special. I am that excited to be heading to Canberra on Saturday… you'll probably see me taking part in the Viking clap.
Good luck to all eight finals teams, the players, and their fans.
Game on. Data off.
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