NRL head of football Graham Annesley signed off his final weekly media briefing by praising the return to form of his match officials after a mid-season slump, confident their improved performances would continue through the biggest game of the year.
The final series of contentious decisions analysed by Annesley at NRL HQ on Monday were all adjudicated correctly by the officials, though he would not comment on the decision by Raiders club medicos not to send hooker Josh Hodgson for an HIA because an investigation into that issue is ongoing.
"We started these briefings after round one with the intention of being open and transparent and trying to clarify things that happened on the field," Annesley said.
"We've been through some ups and downs through the course of the season. Things started pretty well, we had a little issue in the middle of the season where things didn't go all that well but I think over the latter part of the season things are really back on track."
There was a two-week period where Annesley admitted to a series of mistakes by on-field and video review officials, but he was relieved the finals had been almost totally free of controversy from an officiating perspective.
"Hopefully that will carry right through to the grand final," he said.
Graham Annesley weekly football briefing - finals week three
"We are attempting to address issues in the game, we're not hiding from them, we're putting our hands up when we think we've got things wrong and we're prepared to defend our position when we believe we have a position to defend.
"It's been done for all the right reasons and hopefully it's at least enlightened people about our view of things that happen on the field."
Of the issues from the two preliminary finals, Annesley said while several appeared highly questionable as they unfolded live, each proved correct upon review.
The decision to sin-bin Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad for stripping the ball from Adam Reynolds after chasing down the South Sydney halfback's line break and completing the tackle was "100% right", Annesley said.
The Jarrod Croker try after the ball was knocked from Corey Allan's grasp generated discussion with some suggesting a line drop-out should have been awarded for the Rabbitohs winger grounding the ball in-goal.
Annesley said a player must intentionally ground the ball for that to be the case and Allan was trying to get back into the field of play and had broken through the previous attempted tackle.
He said Campbell Graham's pass off the ground in a try-scoring situation was correctly penalised as the tackle had been completed.
The reason the Bunker took so long to adjudicate on Jack Wighton's try, where he lost control of the ball then toed it ahead to regather and score, was to determine if the kick was intentional.
Get Caught Up: Finals Week 3
If he had simply dropped the ball and the ball bounced off his leg it would have been an error but the rules were recently clarified such that a player losing control of the ball then intentionally kicking it before it hits the ground is play on, so once it was determined Wighton had played at the ball with his foot play was allowed to proceed, according to Annesley.
The Joseph Manu no-try was also 100% correct with a clear knock-on in the contest from James Tedesco, Annesley said, rounding out a weekend of tight but correct decisions and a "first class" performance from the officials.
Of the Hodgson incident, where the Raiders hooker appeared to briefly stumble after reeling out of a tackle in which his head looked to have made contact with Liam Knight's hip, Annesley said there was little he could add at this stage.
Annesley also praised the reduction in penalties and stoppage time throughout season 2019.
The season had an average increase of two minutes per game of ball-in-play time, for a total of over six and a half hours of football through the season, while dead time was down almost three minutes per game or a total of nine hours compared to 2018.
Total penalties dropped 3.4 per game on average, with the current total 682 fewer than at the end of 2018.