The NRL has been reduced to eight teams, and the finals are here. Four weeks of glorious rugby league, which will crown the champion for 2021.

It's been another chaotic season with rule changes changing the fabric of the game, and more teams than ever struggling in a big way.

Despite that, we still had a race for the top eight which came down to the final day of the season as the Gold Coast Titans blew the New Zealand Warriors out of the water to knock the Cronulla Sharks out of the competition.

The Canberra Raiders were also in the running in the final round before they lost to the Sydney Roosters, while the Warriors themselves, as well as the St George Illawarra Dragons and Wests Tigers were in realistic contention up until the end of Round 23, and mathematical miracle level contention until Round 24.

The Brisbane Broncos, North Queensland Cowboys and Canterbury Bulldogs also missed the finals.

But what was the moment where their seasons took an irreversible trip to the bottom of the table? This is the moment for your eliminated club which sucked all the life out of the season.


North Queensland Cowboys

Up to the midway point of the season, the Cowboys had won six of their last eight to move into the top eight. While their form away from Townsville was abysmal, there was a feeling Todd Payten was starting to get his team humming in the right direction.

At any rate, the men from Townsville should have been in contention for the finals.

But then they ran into the Tom Trbojevic-less Sea Eagles on the back of State of Origin 1.

Their woeful form on the road for the first half of the season didn't seem to bother them as they shot out to a 12-0 lead in the first eight minutes. It looked like they were going to run away with it and continue building a case for their own inclusion as a finals candidate.

But instead, they clocked off, checked out and conceded nine back-to-back tries as Manly eventually posted a 50-18 victory.

While the Sea Eagles then continued to fly, the Cowboys would go on to lose ten matches on the trot until they finally beat the Dragons in Round 24.

An embarrassing performance which put the wheels in motion for a pathetic second half of the season.

North Queensland Cowboys Scrimmage and Fan Day In Ayr
AYR, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 13: Cowboys coach Todd Payten looks on during a North Queensland Cowboys Scrimmage game against the Townsville Blackhawks at Rugby Park on February 13, 2021 in Ayr, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)