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This has been a surprising season to say the least.

From the unexpected fall of perceived premiership contenders Parramatta and North Queensland, to the Warriors' sudden ability to win in Australia after claiming just two points abroad last year and everything in between, it's been a year of bucked trends and halted hoodoos.

Well, almost. Thankfully, for those who don't deal well with change and take comfort in certainties  amid the chaos, there are still trends in rugby league that you can inevitably rely on.

Panther cubs purr again

Penrith's depth and resolve in the face of injuries and representative absences is almost unrivalled.

Yes, Brisbane have been comparable this year, but they've traditionally struggled in the past with Origin, while an under-manned Melbourne were also impressive against the Dragons in a game where defence seemed a dirty word.

Penrith's win on Friday was another matter entirely.

They were without both their starting halves, a recently retired captain at dummy-half, as well as their Test prop and winger. The team they put out was the youngest and least experienced 17 that has taken the field in the NRL this year.

The Warriors, meanwhile, had Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Blake Green, Issac Luke and the mercurial Shaun Johnson. That makes what happened next even more impressive.

That the Panthers won wasn't unbelievable – it's been one of those seasons – but for such an inexperienced side to score 30 points and keep their quality opposition to one late try was a stunning effort at a crucial time in the season.

Then there was Jarome Luai. He led with the courage and confidence of a veteran and could prove a valuable weapon for the run to the finals. It was the most impressive starting debut from a youngster in Penrith since Te Maire Martin scored a try and kicked the winning field goal against Brisbane at the same ground two years ago.

They're destined to make their fourth finals series in five years, and with the youngsters riding high and key players set to return, they'll make a legitimate premiership claim.

Raiders get hearts racing

Politicians aren't the only ones under stress in the nation's capital – who'd be a Raiders fan?

Last week may have ended with a victory, but few fans could be aging faster than those in Canberra.

Down by 14 with six minutes to play, it was the kind of miracle fightback the Green Machine have been on the other end of far too often.

Even in round 16, up 16-0 at the half against Brisbane – a margin that would leave most rational fans confident of success – there was a feeling it was all about to go wrong for Ricky Stuart's men, and it did. They capitulated spectacularly when the chance to close the gap on the top eight was begging – and not for the first time.

This season alone, with seven games decided by six points or less, shows the Raiders have a knack for keeping it close – but it's a trend that has been years in the making.

Since the start of 2015, Canberra have played 34 games that have been decided by no more than a converted try. Nearly 40 percent of games during that period have helped turned hair grey under those  Viking beanies.

But those grey hairs start to fall out when you realise that, of those 34 games, the Raiders have won just nine (and drawn one) – and so many of those losses have come from winning positions.

Raiders centre Joey Leilua celebrates.
Raiders centre Joey Leilua celebrates. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

A statistic was published recently that proved the Raiders would be top of the table in 2018 if NRL games only lasted 60 minutes – it would be interesting to extrapolate that number over years because there's every chance they could have won a premiership.

The Raiders have always been entertainers, one of the most impressive attacking teams in the NRL. The problem, unlike frequent errors and poor completion rates, seems psychological, which makes it much harder to address – unless Ricky Stuart can petition the league to reduce the length of matches to an hour.

With a tough run home and a key clash against the Warriors in Round 25, there's every chance Canberra will show fantastic resolve to remain in the hunt for finals footy until the very end.

Whether they make it or not, one thing is certain – it will be fun to watch.

Unless you're a Raiders fan.  

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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