Round 22 proved season defining for a number of teams.
The Storm reminded us all that they're still players in 2023. The Eels, Sharks and Raiders all made it much more difficult for themselves while the Sea Eagles, Knights and Titans kept the seasons alive.
Off the field we had almost as many talking points as we saw produced on field. More on that soon.
Here are 20 thoughts from Round 22.
1. I can't believe that the Storm chose to celebrate their stripped premierships on Friday night. The general feeling was "ah well, we won them" but it showed ridiculous disrespect for the teams they systematically cheated out of titles. Two seasons played, injuries suffered, careers ended - all for nothing. What a horrible misread by a club who obvious don't care, and even celebrate robbing fans of two seasons actually mattering.
2. Adam O'Brien and his management have reported reached out to the Knights chasing up a contract extension. Newcastle, correctly, have told O'Brien to cool his jets. Yes, the Knights are in some incredible form but they're still yet to lock in a finals appearance in 2023. Not to forget their horror 2022 season either. The Knights have every right to see how the next month or so pan out.
3. It's no secret that the Sharks are lacking leadership right now. If making 81 tackles doesn't scream "follow me" then nothing does. The Sharks should appoint Cameron McInnes as captain for the rest of the season.
4. Staying with the Sharks, surely it is time to consider resting Nicho Hynes. The season is dead and buried, while the Sharks marquee man simply isn't himself. Given everything that has gone on off-field combined with the state of the Sharks season, I'd be announcing a minor injury and saving him the trip to Perth.
5. I may have missed an important memo where we were no longer awarding tries despite announcing that the attacker had grounded the ball over the try line. Every time I think I've seen the worst officiating of all time, another incident occurs. This was an all time clanger. For those who missed it, the bunker announced that the Dragons had "grounded the ball" then said "the ball is on the ground over the line" only for them to then deny the try due to an on field guess. I am not making this up.
6. The Storm reminded everyone of their talents on Friday night. Munster, Hughes and Grant were all near flawless. Their issue this season has been producing that level of performance week after week but when they are on, they are on! They still shape as the most likely to worry to the Panthers.
7. Frankly, I don't know why teams continue to struggle after witnessing Brisbane pave the way for a turnaround. All you have to do is sign a premiership-winning halfback with 230 NRL games to his name as well as Origin games, then throw him behind arguably the game's best young pack of forwards. Easy, right?
8. Grant Atkins one tackle put the Roosters defenders to shame on Thursday night. Seriously though, what has happened at Bondi?
9. Valentine Holmes was supremely lucky to escape a straight send off yesterday. For the second time in a fortnight he was sin binned for a high shot. If he doesn't fix his technique and timing, his luck may run out. As it stands, it looks like he's in for a stint on the sidelines.
10. Zac Lomax has been in majestic form over the past month or so. I wonder what has changed? At times it looked like former coach Anthony Griffin was going out of his way to sabotage the star centre's chances of success. Now he's back on his preferred side and playing his type of game, he's almost unstoppable.
11. I don't have a dog in the RLPA vs NRL fight, it's not my money so who cares, but didn't it come across as childish to place tape over a logo on a jersey? As I said, I don't care, but it just raised a smirk.
12. Ryan Papenhuyzen is on track to return to the field next weekend, albeit it in the QLD Cup. To say I am excited about this is an understatement. It has been 13 months since we've seen the freakish fullback in full flight. I hope it goes off without a hitch and we can see the speedster back on the NRL paddock before too long.
13. The Bulldogs are 2-0 in games that Toby Sexton has featured in for the full 80 minutes. Shows the importance of a competent halfback. I'd argue he was best on ground, for the second time in his short tenure at the club.
14. David Fifita is having a monster season. Arguably a career best. This makes him the first player to ever do this following the signing of a massive contract. Although it comes with an "*" as technically he can still leave the club due to the coaching change contract clause he has. For the sake of the game, I hope he stays with the Titans.
15. A few clubs need to take a big punt in the upcoming off-season. If I'm the Roosters I'm shopping either Keary or Walker. The Sharks need to tap multiple stars on the shoulder. We'll see which coach is willing to take the risk required to turn their sides' fortunes around. Stay tuned, I'll track this in the off-season.
16. If Andrew Webster doesn't win the Dally M coach of the year award this season then they may as well retire the award.
17. It was largely missed but last week the NRL announced that this year's grand final would be held in Sydney. The fact that was ever in question has me shocked.
18. Master coach Wayne Bennett hooked his under performing halfback with 30 minutes to go yesterday and almost won the game. So many coaches are too late to react and throw on a game changer with the game gone. This was fun to see and really should have lead to a win.
19. I've seen some ridiculous money thrown around for in demand players but if Tom Dearden is allowed to hit the open market, it will hit another level. For the record I expect the Cowboys to officially hitch their wagon to Dearden much sooner than later.
20. After scoring a combined 26 points across four grades (Flegg, NSW Cup, women's and mens) I swore off the Sharks yesterday afternoon. Less than ten minutes later I organised tickets for the Shark Park game next Saturday afternoon. rugby league is a curse.