Round 27 wrapped up the NRL regular season, with finalists now confirmed, home matches locked in and Mad Mondays scheduled.
The Beginning And The End
The first of many crucial Round 27 games featured the Broncos losing 32-22 to the Melbourne Storm on Thursday night. This defeat left Brisbane just short of securing the minor premiership, but could their second place finish mark the beginning of a new dominance in the NRL?
Despite losing, the Broncos had already secured a home final in a season that signalled that they possess one of the most exciting squads in the premiership. Their opponent in week one of the finals just so happens to be Melbourne. Given the number of players rested by both teams in round 27, last Thursday’s match was probably not a form guide for the finals.
Friday night saw a red-hot Roosters have the final say on the Rabbitohs fate for 2023. Given that Souths had eliminated the Roosters from the 2022 finals series, it was sweet revenge for the Eastern suburbs outfit.
The battle between the foundation clubs was fierce, but the Roosters were too strong. In a statistically balanced game, they outmuscled and outperformed their old rivals.
It is impossible to avoid calling 2023 a subpar season by the Bunnies. After leading the competition in Round 11, they only managed to beat one top eight side during the next 16 rounds..
Souths are one of the three 2022 preliminary finalists who will miss September football this year. Parramatta were confirmed as the first of that trio in round 25.
North Queensland completed the unfortunate group when they were slaughtered on Saturday night by the Panthers. In a near-perfect performance that included an 84% completion rate and a 90% effective tackle rate, Penrith’s 44-12 victory saw them claim the J. J. Giltinan Shield for the third time in four seasons.
The emphatic result was indicative of the poor year from the Cowboys and yet another titles charge from the Panthers.
Jamayne Isaako Dominates
Jamayne Isaako ended 2023 with an impressive double.
Not only was the Dolphins flier the season’s highest try scorer with 24 tries, he also topped the total points ladder with 244. This makes Isaako the first player in 33 years to achieve this feat, with Mal Meninga last grabbing the dual honours way back in 1990.
Isaako becomes part of an elite list of just four players to finish at the top of both tables, quite an accomplishment in any season let alone for the member of a team in their inaugural year.
Debut To Remember
Round 27 provided an array of young debutants but none stood out like Melbourne Storm young gun Sualauvi Faalogo.
After arriving on the field in the 33rd minute of the contest, Faalogo scored 2 tries, and ran for 108 metres, making eight tackle breaks and two line breaks.
With the scores almost even for majority of the contest, and Reimis Smith being sent to the sin bin, Melbourne had their share of hurdles in securing a win. Faalogo proved to be a difference maker and left fans excited about his prospects moving forward.
Cross Out Kris
Sebastian Kris won’t take part in any Raiders match during the finals series after accepting a five match ban for a spear tackle on Sharks winger Sione Katoa.
The Raiders fullback has been one of Canberra’s best this season, and his suspension added salt into the wounds of a loss that had already cost the Raiders a home final. The Green Machine finished up limping into eighth place on the ladder with a massive negative 137 points differential.
There was some good news out of the match when it was revealed that Katoa was not injured in the tackle. Though there would have been no intent to drop the player on his head, Kris was fortunate that the outcome was not serious.
Go You Eels
Don’t forget that Parra’s Jersey Flegg team will continue their title charge when they play their semi-final against the Sharks on Saturday at Leichhardt Oval.
Kicking off at 11am, the match will be streamed via NSWRL and live blogged on The Cumberland Throw.
There is no shortage of talent in the Eels team, and there will be plenty of interest from Eels fans who enjoy tracking the progress of pathways players.