The NRL tactic that must be stopped
Andrew Voss on something in the game worth whinging about, the kings of extra time, rating the Sharks' season, a big week for PNG & Toronto and more.
Who survives this weekend?
I'm predicting that things go along the same lines as they did last year.
In 2016, the two top-four sides that lost in the opening week of the playoffs bounced straight back to reach the preliminary finals.
If that's the case, the Broncos will advance to a showdown in Melbourne, while the Eels will get a shot at qualifying for the grand final when they take on the Roosters.
There was so much to admire about the efforts of the Panthers and the Cowboys last weekend but perhaps those games were their grand finals.
If we're going to whinge about one thing, how about this?
And it has nothing to do with the referees. And the blame must be directed straight at the coaches.
Teams consistently giving away penalties on their own line is a tactic that has become such a blight on our game. Todd Greenberg has conceded the league will look at what can be done to put a halt to this situation in the off-season.
But I say put all clubs on notice right now. If it gets to three penalties in a row conceded, than I consider the act a professional foul. Off you go to the sin bin ol' mate!
I don't want the scenario to present itself in the next few weeks with a side defending a four- or six-point lead in the final minutes repeatedly giving away penalties to slow down play and reset their defence. The refs need to be given the green light to get tough.
I am confident they would have the fans' support on this one.
Who are the 'kings' of extra time?
They may not have the number one winning percentage, but the Cowboys have now clearly won more extra time games than any side in the NRL since golden point was introduced in 2003.
Sunday's victory over Cronulla, when Michael Morgan landed the first field goal of his career, was the Cowboys 11th extra time success. That's two more than the Sharks, Raiders and Bulldogs. Canterbury have the best win ratio at 69 per cent to the Cowboys' 61 per cent. The Cowboys have also won three of four extra time matches this year.
Make a note too that of the teams still in contention for the premiership, Parramatta have easily the worst extra time record, winning just four of 14 games in their history.
How do we rate Cronulla's season?
They had their moments.
However, you can't avoid the fact that they didn't win more than two games in a row since May. This from a club that won 15 in a row at one stage last year.
This season they have finished with the worst completion rate in the NRL. Their error rate again last Sunday was poor. Their attacking average from last year dropped from 24 points a game to 20.
I still rate their 44-12 win over the Roosters in Gosford in Round 17 as one of the best performances I witnessed from a team this year. But to highlight their inconsistency, they suffered big losses either side of that game.
Making the finals is always an achievement to be recognised in such a tough competition. The Sharks however have been in decline in the second half of the season. That decline saw them miss the top four and in the sudden death finals scenario week one.
Has there been a bigger weekend in recent times for the growth of rugby league than last week?
I can't think of one.
In the space of 24 hours we had the PNG Hunters qualify for the grand final of the Intrust Super Cup after a hard-fought 6-4 victory over Redcliffe in Port Moresby.
The country has gone into rugby league mad overdrive! And so they should. Their team will be in the big one at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday week. A mighty achievement.
And on the other side of the world, the Toronto Wolfpack made it mission accomplished in securing promotion from the third tier of rugby league in the northern hemisphere. In 2018, the Brian Noble-coached team will be competing in the Championship – the competition beneath the Super League.
A team from Canada. I never thought I'd see the day.
How good has the schoolboy football been this year?
And I'll give you a tip. I've been calling the schoolboy footy for almost 25 years, but for the next three Sundays on Fox League at 11am you will see some of the best quality games ever staged in the GIO Cup.
It'll start with the broadcast of the Queensland final this week between Keebra Park and Marsden State High.