Monday Morning Halfback: Grand ole week
There is nothing like grand final week.
For players it is a week-long blur of activities, events, media sessions and training. The training sessions can easily feel like an afterthought in a wash of events in the lead up to biggest game of their careers.
The Sharks and Storm have been the two most consistent teams all season and deserve their place in the decider.
Cowboys beaten in 25-minute Shark frenzy
The Sharks were composed and relentless, they made the Cowboys pay for a slow start, they simply got their opponents on the back foot and refused to let them up.
Where did it all go wrong for the Cowboys?
25 brutal first half minutes.
While the scoreboard wouldn't reflect the onslaught until much later, the killer blow had been well and truly landed in this period and lay dormant waiting to take hold of the Cowboys.
North Queensland were coming off the back of a physically and emotional gruelling 85-minute epic final against the Broncos and needed to get a good start to be a chance against the fresh and determined Sharks, but a simple error inside two minutes would come to define an ill-fated preliminary final for the defending premiers.
The Sharks were brilliant in seizing the initiative, while the Cowboys' tank was redlining.
While the Cowboys manfully kept themselves in it on the scoreboard, keeping a faint hope of another miracle comeback, the series of blows kept mounting up on them.
In the end the Cowboys finished with 11 errors and a whopping 55 missed tackles.
The Sharks pressed their advantage with seven players running for over 100 metres to the Cowboys' two.
The defending premiers could only hold on so long before the floodgates opened but showed amazing fight to post a few late tries.
Cronk and Thurston all class
His team was losing a preliminary final 14-0 and had been absolutely battered in the first 40 minutes after a horror first half, but that didn't stop Johnathan Thurston from his taking time to give his headgear away to a shocked young Cronulla fan in the crowd. It was no real surprise, he's been doing it for a few seasons, but in the heat of battle in such a crucial game it showed the class of the person Thurston has become.
Cooper Cronk was equally as gracious in the aftermath of the Storm's win over Canberra. The Melbourne halfback made a beeline for Edrick Lee who had just finished one of the toughest finals in recent memory. Lee had bombed a certain try in the final minutes and also dropped an intercept earlier in the game that could have changed the course of history. Lee was obviously distraught and Cronk made certain he found Lee after full-time and tried to comfort the young Raider.
Maloney is a winner
James Maloney is proving to be one of the best players in the NRL and almost certainly the buy of the season.
No player has played more games than the Sharks pivot in the last six seasons. Maloney has played 154 games between 2011-2016 with Melbourne prop Jesse Bromwich the closest to him with 151.
In that time Maloney has only missed the finals only once and has three grand final appearances, a premiership and three minor premierships. It is one heck of a career he is putting together.
2011 Grand Finalist with Warriors
2012 Warriors missed finals
2013 Minor Premier with Roosters
2013 Premiership with Roosters
2014 Minor Premier with Roosters
2015 Minor Premier with Roosters
2016 Grand Final with Sharks
Cutters win historic game at Pirtek
The Dragons played the opening and closing first grade games at Pirtek Stadium and now their feeder team the Illawarra Cutters have one the last-ever match at the ground before the stadium in knocked down. The Cutters defeated the Mounties in the Intrust Super Premiership 21-20 with a late Drew Hutchison field goal the last scoring play. The venue built in 1986 will be knocked down and replaced with a brand new 30,000-seat stadium.
The Cutters now have a date with Queensland premiers Burleigh Bears in the NRL State Championship.
Manly recruit Cameron Cullen starred as he led the Bears to a 26-16 win over Redcliffe in the Intrust Super Cup Final.
Italy announce train on squad
There were a few familiar names in the Italy train-on squad for the European Qualifyers with a place in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup up for grabs. Terry Campese and Paul Vaughan are among the players named.
Holden Cup decider
The Roosters progressed to the Holden Cup grand final for the first time in the club's history with a come-from-behind 26-20 win over the Dragons, while Penrith's quest for back-to-back premierships is alive after the Panthers survived a second-half scare to eliminate the Cowboys 32-16.
It was fifth time unlucky for the Dragons under-20s side as they stumbled at the final hurdle at NYC level again.
All happening in England
Huddersfield secured a place in Super League for 2017 in dramatic circumstances with a 23-22 victory over Hull KR in the last round of the Super 8s Qualifiers.
The Giants had led 22-4 but needed a late field goal to secure a heart-stopping contest.
A draw would have been enough for Rovers to stay up on points difference but they must now take on Salford or London Broncos to earn another chance.
Interestingly, if it is Salford, Tim Sheens will step aside for the game to avoid a possible conflict of interest as he prepares to take up a three-year contract as Rovers' new head coach.
Australia star in PNG
They were treated like rock stars and the Australians didn't disappoint in PNG, with the Prime Minister's XIII running out convincing 58-0 victors.
The passion PNG has for the game of rugby league is infectious and the game needs to do everything in its power to continue to help the country both on and off the field.