The NRL semi-finals have seen six become four. The Sharks and Raiders exit after mixed seasons, leaving the four big guns to battle it out.
We also saw the NRLW top four decided while the grand finals in the NSW and QLD Cup competitions were set, as was Jersey Flegg.
Below are 20 thoughts from the weekend of finals footy:
1. Plenty will be made of the Sharks listless effort on Saturday night, seeing them exit the finals in straight sets, but for anyone to rate the club's season as a failure is off the mark. They were a fringe top eight side in the pre-season and no one in the world had them in the top two at the end of the regular season. Rookie coach, halfback playing his first full year in the seven, aging stars. They exceeded expectations by a long way.
2. Canberra's heavy loss to the Eels proves just how important finishing in the top four really is. The Eels are a different beast at Commbank Stadium. They earned home ground advantage and although were beaten by the Panthers, looked the far fresher side on the night. Canberra were played off the park by a red-hot Eels outfit buoyed on by a huge and rowdy fan base.
3. I was at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, and it is breathtaking. The atmosphere was far improved for former trips to the SFS while the screens and new seats make it one heck of an experience. The fact it was a sell-out probably didn't hurt the occasion, but I was hugely impressed. Was it worth the money? I'm not sure. Is the improvement massive, making it the game's elite venue? Absolutely!
4. Dylan Brown was quiet last week against the Panthers and responded with 321 metres, a line break, a line break assist and a try assist against Canberra. It was arguably his best performance of the season when it mattered most. He has been massive in 2022 and is surely the Kiwis' first choice six come the World Cup.
5. Forward passes being let go or pulled up have officially become a lottery. The Eels were denied a try via a ridiculous forward pass call on Friday night while Taane Milne was the beneficiary of a Tom Brady-style pass 24 hours later.
6. If you needed proof of the NRLW's expansion working, look no further than the fact the once untouchable Broncos have missed the finals. They won the first three competitions in a canter, but the expansion has helped even out the squads by providing opportunities elsewhere. The Knights, winless last season, finished second while fellow expansion team the Eels will make their finals debut also.
7. Andrew Fifita could be a big recruit for one of the Super League teams. Given he is only playing around 18-25 minutes per game I can't see too many NRL sides in for his services, but Fifita still has a lot to offer. The way he has turned around his off-field image over the years has been incredible to witness. He was arguably the Sharks best forward when on the park on Saturday night also, albeit in a short stint.
8. There has been some criticism of the upcoming Prime Minsters XIII games but I can't see anything negative about them. For those wondering there are political and safety reasons why the game can't be hosted in PNG but this is a brilliant warm-up for the PNG players heading into the World Cup. It also allows some youngsters like Daine Laurie, Selwyn Cobbo and Sam Walker to spend time training with the likes of Daly Cherry-Evans, Josh Addo-Carr and Angus Crichton.
9. The Dolphins should absolutely sign Tyrell Sloan. Reports indicate he's about to ask for a release from the Dragons. Sloan is the kind of the player the Phins should be in for. Young, talented and faster than a hiccup. Wayne Bennett will back himself to get the best out of the raw talent. He also walks into their starting fullback spot. A win for both sides.
10. Too much is made about opposition fans doing the Viking Clap after defeating the Raiders. Yes, it's probably disrespectful but harmless.
11. For those who missed it in the NSW Cup preliminary final: The Jets trailed by two with about 30 seconds to go. They had the ball about 25 out. Jets halfback Braydon Trindall attempted a one-point field goal. I am still in disbelief. If anyone wanted to ask why the talented but inconsistent youngster isn't a first grade regular, look no further than this decision.
12. Fiji and Tonga have all named their best ever World Cup squads. I'd argue the squad named by the Kiwis is their best ever, while the predicted Samoan side is mouth-watering. England and Australia are set to name potential winning squads. Simply put, this World Cup is undoubtedly going to be the best in the competition's history. It's no longer the big three (or even four) and the rest.
13. Joseph Tapine is, in my opinion, the best prop in the game right now. He would make any of the 16 sides. That said, talks of him attracting offers of a million dollars have me puzzled. It's hard to tie up a million dollars in the front row rotation. Most fullbacks are on close to a million while each half can attract $600,000 and (way) up. Tapine is prob the player worth close to that figure but who can put that money into a star only on the pitch for 50 minutes?
14. Brad Arthur can sleep a lot easier following his side's win on Friday night. His dreadful record in finals dominated headlines in the lead-up to the Canberra clash but he now has a preliminary final on his resume. Parra are still filthy about their heavy loss up north to the Cowboys earlier this season. What a story for what should be a blistering game.
15. I cannot believe I witnessed criticism of Latrell Mitchell's efforts on Saturday night just because he didn't run for 250 metres. He tore the Sharks to shreds on the edges via his movement and passing. He took every high ball, and his positioning was near perfect. He also slotted conversions from literally everywhere. There are way too many fans who look purely at the stats without context. He was massive!
16. Sticking with Latrell Mitchell; if the vision of his extending his arms and roaring to a massive crowd, fireworks in the background, after nailing a conversion from the side-line isn't used in every single NRL promo moving forward, I would be shocked. What a sight!
17. I'm glad to hear the Tigers "announce" they're in for Cameron Munster. They need a huge signing to help turn things around and there is no bigger potential signing than Munster. Whether or not I can see Munster ever signing with Wests, ok that's another discussion altogether, but the Tigers have to believe they're a genuine shot.
18. The Sharks have a huge decision upcoming in the form of off-contract Wade Graham. A Sharks legend and officially the last remaining member of their 2016 title-winning side, it would be difficult for Craig Fitzgibbon to move him on. With Briton Nikora, Teig Wilton and Siosifa Talakai available in the back row and with Graham's inconsistent performance, it's genuinely a 50-50 call if you ask me. I'd like to see him receive a proper send-off by the club but it's hard to see where he finds a spot next season.
19. There are reports of an internal review at the Eels being released 24 hours before their do-or-die final with the Raiders. If those are true then anyone involved in that decision should be removed from any such future decisions. Why bring that distraction upon the squad so close to a final? Why entrust the review to a recently sacked manager? Ok it worked out this time but my word.
20. Penrith vs Souths in a grand final qualifier. Following last year's decider and the fiery return clashes this season, you could not write a better script. Penrith will enter the game as big favourites, but Souths beat them in similar circumstances in the finals last year. We all know how the grand final ended too. Delicious!