Andrew Voss on the Queensland Origin III side, why more games need to go to Gosford, the best team performances of 2017 and more.
Did the Queensland selectors get it right on the DCE call?
After calling for Cameron Munster's inclusion in this very column last week, my obvious answer is yes in terms of the starting side.
However, without knowing what Kevvie Walters interchange strategy will be, I'm not a fan of a bench spot in this Queensland side going to a half who can only cover a bit of dummy half play at a pinch… be it Ben Hunt or Daly Cherry Evans.
If they wanted greater versatility, Corey Norman would have been the better fit in my opinion.
But hold the phone… perhaps the plan is to start with Hunt anyway and leave Munster on the bench? Wouldn't surprise.
Should we play more games at Central Coast Stadium?
Last Saturday was a revelation.
The 3pm Saturday afternoon timeslot at a magnificent stadium within easy driving distance of Sydney is absolutely perfect.
From next season, this should happen once a month from March through August. Spread it around the clubs over a two-year period for a relocated home match.
And while we're at it, one game a month in Perth should also be on the agenda for the NRL draw moving forward.
Plus let me hop on my high horse to push the barrow of Auckland again. Why more teams don't take the occasional match to New Zealand's biggest city is beyond me. More rugby league needs to be played in a city with a population of over 1.4 million. It should not just be the job of the Warriors to fly the flag a miserly 10 or 11 times a year.
How many points will it take to make the top eight this year?
I think some revision is needed here, because 30 points is looking more likely based on the ladder with nine rounds to play.
The playoffs figure is totally in the hands of the Dragons and the Eels, currently ranked seventh and eighth, because I can't see any of the top six not getting to at least 30 points.
Parramatta's equation to reach 30 is collecting four wins from games against the Storm, Tigers, Broncos who they play twice, Bulldogs, Knights, Titans and Rabbitohs.
Meantime the Dragons require four wins out of clashes with the Raiders, Sea Eagles, Knights, Rabbitohs, Titans, Broncos, Panthers and Bulldogs.
Both will make at least 30 if they only beat the teams currently below them on the ladder.
As you can now see, it's going to take a mighty run for sides currently outside the top eight… but importantly, not impossible!
What have been the best performances by a team this year?
I think we saw the two chief contenders last weekend, and they came from the two grand finalists of last year.
Talk about producing on the big stage. A crowd of over 41,000 at Suncorp and the Storm pile on eight tries against the Broncos. That was some statement.
And then less than 24 hours later Cronulla outclass the second-placed Roosters, scoring seven tries in the process in front of a capacity crowd at Gosford. Adding further merit to the Sharks' performance was that I didn't think Trent Robinson's team was all that bad.
A Sharks v Storm grand final again in 2017? It's a big chance on what we witnessed in round 17.
Will we see the great winger 'shoot-out' in Melbourne?
There is every chance, based on the statistics.
This is what we are in for on Saturday night at AAMI Park.
Suliasi Vunivalu v Semi Radradra and Josh Addo-Carr v Bevan French. WOW!
Between them they have 41 tries this season. All four nabbed at least one four-pointer last week.
Man for man their career records read: Vunivalu 37 tries in 36 games. Radradra 69 in 84. Addo-Carr 19 in 25. And French, 24 in 24.
Do not miss this one.
Which team is under most pressure this weekend?
It's a dead heat: the Panthers and Bulldogs.
Both teams will get their chance to bounce back to the winners list in front of home fans.
Penrith's conceding of 42 unanswered points against Souths was astonishing. Their clash with Manly now is huge.
Meanwhile the Bulldogs plight is desperate after the golden point defeat to the Eels. With just one win from their last seven, Sunday's game against the Knights at Belmore is shaping as 'the last chance saloon.'