The NRL pre-season officially wrapped up on Sunday afternoon with the Broncos being crowned pre-season challenge winners.

We also saw new World Champions crowned in controversial, yet entertaining circumstances.

With the real stuff just around the corner we take a minute to look back on 20 random thoughts from this past week's round of pre-season action

1. Congratulations to the Broncos for winning the prestigious pre-season tournament. I say that with a degree of jest but no player in the game would turn down a cut of $100,000. That said, it's very obvious that teams in contention either didn't know or don't care (possibly both) as no efforts were made to chase bonus points.

2. I'm really struggling with this line of thinking that suspensions picked up in trials shouldn't count toward NRL games. What is the point? Players could create utter chaos, get sent off and what, sit out next year's trials? They have to count toward NRL games.

3. During the Dogs vs Sharks trial game, cameras picked up Stephen Crichton's reactions from the sidelines during the contest. The newly minted Bulldogs captain rode every hit up and tackle with his young side. To say he looks to have embraced his new role is an understatement. Some were quick to rubbish it but I believe it showed passion and should excite Dogs fans.

NRL Pre-Season Challenge Rd 1 - Bulldogs v Storm
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 15: Stephen Crichton looks on during the NRL Pre-season challenge match between Canterbury Bulldogs and Melbourne Storm at Belmore Sports Ground on February 15, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

4. I really enjoyed the Fox Sports Vegas promo, all 11 minutes of it. The thirty five repeats ran a bit thin. I think we're all going to know it word for word by the end of next round.

5. The World Club Challenge continues to be important, for about an hour or so either side of the actual game. Until it's played at the end of the season with two fully sit sides, it will continue to be important for one day a year. This coming from a Wigan fan.

6. I did find it a bit rich that Penrith fans made such a massive deal out of a contentious call or two in Sunday morning's game. I'd be more worried about having half an hour to overcome being on the wrong end of a 50/50 decision than the decision itself. See you in the comments!

7. For the record, Penrith's lack of World Club Challenge victories does absolutely nothing to hurt their status as the best team of the modern era. You play that game 50 times from round four onward and Penrith win 49. Plus, you know, three straight NRL titles.

8. Two unfortunate injuries struck over the weekend with Tom Gilbert and Coen Hess both potentially missing the entire season. It's hugely unfair to both. That said, it's part of the game and cannot be avoided. Players have been injured playing with their kids at a BBQ, taking showers and while shopping. Any talk of wrapping players in cotton wool until Round 1 will just see more injuries then.

NRL Rd 3 - Knights v Dolphins
NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Tom Gilbert of the Dolphins and Felise Kaufusi of the Dolphins celebrate winning the round three NRL match between Newcastle Knights and Dolphins at McDonald Jones Stadium on March 17, 2023 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

9. I usually don't look too much into trial results but the Tigers fielded a full strength side against the Dragons, the wooden spoon favourites, and did not inspire. Let's hope they find some form in the next two weeks. I can't imagine it's easy to play a trial at 100% knowing two weeks off are coming via the bye.

10. Question, where do teams keep finding these monsters? Every time a huge forward goes down injured, a bigger one emerges from the ranks. The Broncos and Roosters both unleashed two intimidating forwards despite the entirety of their first grade sides being halfway across the world.

11. One player who made the most of the trials is Sharks big man Royce Hunt. Two weeks ago he wasn't in my top 25. With a massive performance for the Sharks and a brilliant stint in the All Stars game, Hunt has made himself impossible to leave out. Exactly what the trials are for.

12. The NRL seem to have many business ideas. Buying the Super League is the latest. I'd be happy looking at these options once every kid who wants to play rugby league is able to do so without a huge investment having to be made. I know of two talented youngsters who were opted out by their parents due to ridiculous costs of registration. I'm not certain the NRL couldn't do both ...

13. Can we please do away with the Friday 6 pm time-slot for a super Sunday, at least in the early rounds? Even in the trials the slot is an abomination. With the Sunday evening game slot in the early rounds, it sets up two days of similar schedules. Friday 6pm will always be a bugbear of mine.

14. Ethan Strange sure looks a real talent for the Raiders. I hope he's not their first choice goal kicker though.

15. I'd be picking Toby Sexton over Drew Hutchison if I'm the Bulldogs coach. Hutchison and Burton are way too similar. Sexton is the go here, surely!

NRL Rd 19 - Rabbitohs v Bulldogs
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 08: Toby Sexton of the Bulldogs passes during the round 19 NRL match between South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury Bulldogs at Accor Stadium on July 08, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

16. Tui Kamikamica bashed out 170 metres against a pretty handy Knights pack over the weekend. At 29 he is right in his peak. I predict a scary season for those trying to contain the Storm's new pack leader.

17. Plenty of fans took to social media to lay into the Eels for letting WCC best on ground Bevan French leave the club ... in 2019! French has been magnificent for Wigan, across multiple positions, but he's not the same player who left Parra. Yes he's a freak but it's not as though they let him go three weeks ago.

18. Speaking of the Eels, and more specifically their outside backs stocks, Maika Sivo really needs to work on his tackling technique. His moment of madness has left the Eels very light on for their Round 1 clash.

19. Across the past fortnight I've become accustomed to rugby league over the entire weekend. Waiting til Sunday this week will be one last, cruel moment before regularity resumes. Better than the usual week off I suppose.

20. What is with NRL journalists proclaiming the NFL will go "mad" for our NRL stars? There are college stars who have been doing this since they could literally walk who will be cut randomly. What makes us think all of these NRL stars could walk in off the street and into NFL squads?