As the NRL regular season prepares to close before finals, the news and drama surrounding clubs does not. High profile retirements, crucial judiciary calls and club quarrels filled the week of Round 26, sparking a league-wide buzz as fans gear up to take on September Football.
2023’s Last Hoorah
Parramatta ended their season on an emotional high with their Thursday night clash against premiership heavyweights the Penrith Panthers.
Parramatta’s Western Sydney neighbours are one of two sides clawing it out to take home the minor premiership, aspiring for their third such honour in only four years. Arriving at the foot of the mountains from eleventh place, the Eels obliterated the top of the table Panthers 32-18.
Adjusting to hurdles that included Gutho struggling with injury before being forced off the field and Dylan Brown assuming the custodian role, Brad Arthur’s side showed immense desperation and resilience in their courageous victory, traits fans had been calling for over recent weeks.
The 32 points scored by the team were split between Clint Gutherson (16) and Maika Sivo (16), with the Fijian flier scoring four tries alone. With only 46% possession and 78% completion, Parramatta capitalised on every opportunity presented to them.
In what was their final 80 minutes of the year, the Eels produced a performance that fans hope will carry them into an improved 2024 season.
After a feel-good week for the Parramatta faithful, 2023 recruit Josh Hodgson announced his long-speculated retirement from professional football.
Following a long and decorated career, Hodgson revealed that due to injury he had been forced to medically retire, a circumstance not wished upon any player.
Hodgson accrued over 100 appearances for Super League club Hull Kingston Rovers, led Canberra to their first grand final in 25 years, as well as representing his home nation England 19 times. The star hooker narrowly missed out on Daly M triumph in the 2016 season, whilst his form in the 2019 season was one that few will forget.
Injuries have long bothered Hodgson. However, he only regarded them as minor set backs and he never allowed them to dull his determination to take the field and succeed.
After overcoming another knee injury in 2022, Hodgson joined the Eels for the 2023 and impressed his team mates and coaches through the preseason. After a very slow start to the year, Hodgson was just starting to find his place and form in the team when injury struck. It would be his neck and not his knee that ended his time with the Eels and it was extremely unfortunate that the Parramatta faithful were not able to witness Hodgson at his best.
Although Josh has retired in unfortunate circumstances, no one can forget his impact on the modern game. Eels supporters can expect to find Hodgo around the club, continuing to mentor the likes of Brendan Hands and other emerging players. I’ll be backing him to be a success.
Judiciary says “No”
Crucial judiciary decisions involving Roosters prop Jared Warea-Hargreaves and Raiders enforcer Corey Horsburgh will impact round 27 action and probably the upcoming finals series.
Warea-Hargreaves was found guilty of a dangerous contact charge on Tigers Captain Api Korisau, as well as a strike on Stefano Utoikomanu which saw him sin binned. Both charges have since amounted to a seven week suspension for the prop.
After a failed attempt to overturn his high tackle suspension, JWH is now serving a seven match suspension, which will see him miss this week’s critical clash with Souths, all of the Roosters potential finals series matches, as well as the Inaugural Vegas season opener.
Corey Horsburgh has been suspended for a shoulder charge in his side’s loss to the Brisbane Broncos. In an unsuccessful bid to overturn his charge, Horsburgh now faces four weeks on the sideline.
The Queensland stars suspension will see him miss Canberra’s contest with Cronulla. Unfortunately that means that fans will miss his long awaited rematch with Sharks prop Royce Hunt who branded him a “Weak-Gutted dog” when they last met. Unless his Raiders team can win their way to the grand final, we won’t see Horsburgh in action until early 2024.
Bother In Belmore
They will finish far away from finals football, but the club that’s received a saturated media focus this week has been the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs.
Cameron Ciraldo’s side have made NRL headlines with reports of player walk-outs, discontent and laziness. Though some accounts of the problems could be classified as “speculation”, Ciraldo didn’t dodge some of the harsh questions.
When asked what he thinks about the culture of the club, his answer was simple. “Well we’ve been losing, so clearly the culture’s not exactly right… the system is only one part of the results on the weekend.”
Though understandably annoyed about being in the spotlight, Ciraldo gave raw and honest insight into what has been a nightmare end of season for the Bulldogs. After a recruitment splurge and preseason which raised hopes of a top 8 finish in 2023, the Dogs have been soft in defence, conceding a whopping 735 points, whilst only scoring 408 (second worst) across 23 games.
A mass roster clean out at Belmore will be necessary to ensure that sub-standard seasons are brought to an end. Reports of Braidon Burns, Luke Thompson and Raymond Faitala Mariner preparing to exit the club, as well as the already confirmed departures of Andrew Davey, Jake Averillo, Tevita Pangai Jr and Fa’amanu Brown, indicate that some level of change is imminent.
The jury remains out on how long fans will have to wait for the club to return to finals football.