The NRL regular season drew to a close over the weekend. As always, Round 25 did not fail to disappoint. Below are 20 thoughts from a literal season-defining round of rugby league.
1. I really have to question the Eels and Knights decisions to rest players and cop floggings heading into the finals. I'm all for resting players but if any sides needed momentum heading into the finals it was these two sides. Given they were always likely to play each other, I wonder if this was taken into account?
2. I absolutely agree with statements that the Knights and Titans hardly deserve finals footy given they finished with under 50 per cent win rates. That said, every team competed this year under these rules and both sides positioned themselves to play finals footy.
3. For the second straight week in a row Manly were bog average for the opening 35 minutes. Turbo flicked a switch for the second time in a fortnight and Manly suddenly became untouchable. No player has ever been as important to his team's fortunes as Turbo.
4. This weekend the Titans played like they needed to play finals footy. The Sharks and Raiders did not. You can't tell me the Raiders were desperate to play finals with that defensive 'effort'. The Sharks either.
5. Sharks fans blaming the Warriors for copping 44 unanswered points on Sunday afternoon need to remember that same Warriors side beat the Sharks recently. Cronulla have only themselves to blame for a series of disgusting losses.
6. Kane Evans and Josh McGuire are both facing monster suspensions in the new season. Hands up who is shocked by this? Evans especially has to decide whether or not he's serious about a future in this game.
7. The recent form of Aaron Woods is not likely to spark interest from any sides. His laziness in the ruck stands out like a sore thumb. If the Tigers pick him up just for the sake of signing someone then they can expect fan backlash.
8. How good is young Jayden Campbell? His emergence in the fullback role has more than covered for the absence of AJ Brimson. The Titans are shaping as a real contender next season. Brimson back in the six looks the way forward.
9. If anyone other than Tom Trbojevic wins the Dally M medal this season then that should finally be the catalyst for revamping the system. If Cody Walker wins it based on the fact he played more games then that's an utter joke. No one can argue against Turbo being the best player across 2021.
10. Just a friendly reminder that the Sharks have played in eight of the past ten finals series. Only one club has a better record in the past decade; The Melbourne Storm. Pretty impressive for a side who so often fails to live up to expectations.
Rugby League Outlaws run the rule over the finals series and much more
11. Peter Sterling commented that David Nofoaluma played at an "eight out of ten every week". Yikes, I don't want to see his four or five. The Tigers winger was once one of the most destructive wingers in the game. Not this year. He'll be back.
12. Jason Saab is the fastest player in the game. I will no longer hear any arguments to the contrary.
13. Why did Adam O'Brien name Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce if he planned to play them half the game? He risked them being injured for no real benefit at all. Ponga's form is way down but I'm not sure a 45-minute spell was ever going to help.
14. The Storm, Panthers and Rabbitohs all would have made very deserving minor premiers. All three were worlds above the rest. Unfortunately only the Bulldogs were ever going to secure the wooden spoon.
15. For the record I don't see sacking Michael Maguire as a fix for the Tigers. I simply can't see how he survives this season either. The Tigers need a complete and utter restart and refresh. Sign a fresh coach, promise him three years and start a complete rebuild. Anything else is just wasting time.
16. The Sharks missed 50 tackles against a second-string Storm side on Friday evening. With their season on the line. No prizes for guessing what Craig Fitzgibbon and Steve Price will be working on as a priority.
17. Sticking with the Sharks, Nicho Hynes looked slick in the halves. Although he helped end their season, his performance will have Sharks fans smiling with next year in mind.
18. Canberra fans were quick to pass blame on social media after their season-ending loss to the Roosters. I think it's best to look within when looking to place blame. More on this later in the week.
19. Rueben Garrick setting a point-scoring record is certainly not something I saw coming. To show how many points he scored he had the Bulldogs beaten until Sunday's win over the Tigers. Freaky stat.
20. We say goodbye to eight sides for 2021. Looking at the roster overhauls coming up I dare say more than half are happy to see the end of this season. The Dogs, Sharks and Broncos are especially happy that 2021 can now be reduced to just a memory.