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Thaiday's greatest team: 13 stars but no room for coach Bennett

As the curtain draws on Sam Thaiday's career, the veteran Brisbane forward has revealed his greatest XIII and coach throughout his time in the game.

Surprisingly there was no room for Wayne Bennett as coach of Thaiday's All Stars, with Mal Meninga getting the start despite Thaiday last year criticising the Kangaroos mentor for not informing him of his dumping from the Australian side.

Only one New South Welshman featured in the team, while there was no room for the likes of Darius Boyd, Corey Parker, Israel Folau or Cooper Cronk.

Sam Thaiday's Greatest XIII

Fullback: Billy Slater

"I played a lot of football with and against him. It's so hard to defend against him. He sniffs around the middle of the ruck and picks on us big boys which isn't very nice. I've been part of Queensland and Australian teams with him and he's set me up for a few tries. A true professional."

Winger: Corey Oates

"As much as he wants to push in the back row and play back row, it's his own fault because he's such a good winger. He's an absolutely great finisher."

Centre: Greg Inglis

"A young, young GI when he was fresh and new into the NRL competition was an absolute freak. The way he could cross body fend was amazing. You just needed to get the ball in his hand. You needed something done in a game or something inspirational - he could do that."

Centre: Justin Hodges

"I've never known someone to have a player in front of him at marker and step him three times before they've even moved."

Winger: Jharal Yow Yeh

"I would have loved to have seen how far he could have gone. He was a great young talent here at the Broncos. He had a taste of representative football for Queensland and Australia and through injury his career was cut short. He was an absolute freak of a player."

Thaiday's top 13

Five-eighth: Darren Lockyer (captain)

"I've played with some absolute freaks, but I can't go past Lockyer at six. Your six and seven you want match-winners. You want guys who are cool calm and collected. Locky was that player. Even Cameron [Smith] would say to put Locky as captain. That senior leadership there, he will captain the side to a win against anyone. Cameron had the ability to say some good words to get you fired up before a game. Locky was more of a quiet guy and led by example."

Halfback: Johnathan Thurston

"He's the money man. He's shown in many games he can kick a goal to win. Put a little kick in. Can do a show-and-go and really break open a game."

Thurston: I'm savouring these moments

Prop: Shane Webcke

"My two mentors when I was a young fella going through the Broncos were Shane Webcke and Petero Civoniceva. Both taught me different things. Shane Webcke taught me that hard edge and how to be a tough front-rower."

Hooker: Cameron Smith

"As much as I like Andrew McCullough, he's still writing his story at the moment and is going to do some fantastic things for the Broncos, Queensland and hopefully Australia in the future. But I can't go past Cameron Smith. He's an absolute freak. He can read the game, he can play fast, he can play slow. And a deadset good bloke as well."

Prop: Petero Civoniceva

"Petero taught me humility and gratitude. He was so humble. He levelled a few people in his day, but if he did knock someone out or hurt someones, he was the first picking them up off the ground."

Back-rower: Boyd Cordner

"I played a little bit of footy for Australia with him. He's a fantastic back-rower. He's going to do some great things in the future. He's shown some great leadership qualities captaining NSW this year and I'm sure he'll be knocking on the door to captain Australia as well. He had a few people questioning him this year if he was good enough to captain NSW and I really think he stood up to that adversity."

Gagai's tough call to stick with Indigenous All Stars

Back-rower: Ben Te'o

"He was defensively great. He could put on a big shot and change a game with that. But his ability to run a great line for a 110-kilo player, he had great footwork and pace ... I'm sad we lost him to rugby union, actually."

Lock: Shaun Berrigan

"He was a bit of a utility at our club and played a number of different positions. For someone of his size, he played well above his size. He had a lot of character and heart and always ripped in."

Coach: Mal Meninga

"It might be controversial. I'm going to go with Mal just because of the success he's had as a coach. Mal was coached by Wayne, so he's got some of Wayne's old police force days within the stuff that he does. I think culturally Mal is really good at bringing the best out in players. I didn't make the 13, so he mustn't have called me."

GI; Benji and Taylor welcome All Stars revamp

Benji and Robbie leaning towards 2019 farewell

There's a feeling out of TigerTown that Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah are leaning towards going around one more year. There was no farewell from Leichhardt last week and the club isn't planning anything for their final home game at Campbelltown on Thursday night. If they do retire, they'll do so without the emotional farewell they deserve.

Titans set to rein in Mitch

Mitch Rein has earnt a contract extension at the Gold Coast, with the club to announce the deal in the coming days. Rein has made the most of his lifeline since joining the Titans and will be pushing Nathan Peats for the starting No.9 jersey in 2019.

Pay delay casts doubt on World Cup understands the NZRL and RFL still haven't been paid in full for the agreed amount for the Denver Test by promoter Moore Sports International. Three weeks have passed since the agreed date of payment. It has cast doubt over the future of the World Cup in North America given Moore Sports' involvement in the deal.

Sharks ditch bonding camp

Cronulla were looking at a bonding camp before the finals, with plans in place to spend a few days at Terrigal's Star of the Sea hotel. They've since opted against doing so.

Panthers aim for top four without Maloney

Panther caution reckless fan

Penrith called in the fan who deliberately threw a ball at the Newcastle bench last weekend to give him an official warning. The spectator, who collected the ball from a penalty kick for touch, only just missed the head of Aiden Guerra when throwing the ball back on the field. The Panthers decided he needed a stern talk about the incident.

Finals double-header an option

With five Sydney-based teams likely to finish in the top eight, there is a fair chance three or potentially four will be hosting finals in the first week of the playoffs. If Melbourne drop a game in the last two rounds and are leapfrogged by Souths and the Roosters, the NRL could have a situation where all four games need to be spread out at the two finals venues - Allianz Stadium and ANZ Stadium - with a match on Friday night, two games on Saturday and another on Sunday afternoon.

The NRL won't make any decisions until the final equation is resolved but a spokesman said a double-header would be considered.

With the abundance of Sydney teams finishing high on the Telstra Premiership ladder, it means the inaugural Holden Women's Premiership may be played solely in the Harbour City.

Top 5 Plays of the Week – Round 23

The three rounds will be played prior to men's finals matches with the decider to be held on NRL grand final day at ANZ Stadium on September 30.

Unless the Warriors or Broncos sneak into the top six, their women's teams will be playing away from home for the entirety of the tournament.

It makes Friday's Warriors v Panthers match and Saturday's Roosters v Broncos clash even more important.

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

Acknowledgement of Country

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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