The biggest moments of NRL season 2017

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    Not that long ago, I was waiting in anticipation for the Parramatta Eels’ first game of the 2017 season, against the Manly Sea Eagles at Lottoland. Now, more than 26 weeks later, only eight teams remain in the hunt for premiership glory.

    The final eight, in order, are the Melbourne Storm, Sydney Roosters, Brisbane Broncos, Parramatta Eels, Cronulla Sharks, Manly Sea Eagles, Penrith Panthers, and North Queensland Cowboys.

    For the rest of the eight teams, it’s time to celebrate (or forget) the season that was and begin looking forward to 2018, making it a good opportunity to reflect on some of my most significant moments of the season.

    And then there was one…
    If I was a betting human, my money would not have been on Jason Taylor to be the first coach to be sacked in 2017, but that’s exactly what happened in March.

    That was only the start. Not only did the Tigers lose their coach, there was also plenty of movement on the player market. Out of the supposed ‘big four’ of Luke Brooks, Aaron Woods, Mitch Moses and James Tedesco, only Brooks will remain at the club in 2018, with Moses departing mid-season to join the Eels.

    Despite the controversy and noise surrounding the Tigers, they finished the year on a high with a win over the Warriors.

    If you’re a fan, jump ‘on the bus’ with Ivan Cleary – with players like Tui Lolohea, Josh Reynolds, Ben Mautalino, Matt Eisenhuth and Elijah Taylor, I’m expecting plenty from them in 2018.

    Will Des stay or will he go?
    It’s been a funny old season for the Canterbury Bulldogs. The resignation of CEO Raelene Castle, losing one of their favourite sons in Josh Reynolds, boardroom squabbles, and the most boring and predictable team when in attack all add up a year that fans would rather forget.

    While Des was re-signed earlier this year, whispers suggest things are still not calm at Belmore.

    NSW women’s team win the Interstate Challenge
    The New South Wales women’s team defeated Queensland in the Interstate Challenge for the second year in a row, the first time in the history of the fixture the Blues have won consecutive series. While it may have taken NSW 17 years to post their first win, their dominance in July suggests that this team is about to start a dynasty of their own.

    There were plenty of stand-outs, but none more so than Jessica Sergis, who in only her sixth game of rugby league scored a hat trick in her State of Origin debut.

    Parramatta Eels play finals football
    When the Eels run out on Saturday afternoon to face the Melbourne Storm, it will be the first time since 2009 that they have played finals football. Even more significant is that their top-four finish is the first for the club since 2005.

    After a year from hell in 2016, it has been outstanding to see Brad Arthur lead this team to a finals berth. With talent like Bevan French, Mitch Moses, Corey Norman and Nathan Brown at their disposal, the Eels will give September a real shake-up.

    Mitchell Moses Parramatta Eels NRL Rugby League 2017 tall

    AAP Image/Dean Lewins

    State of Origin heartbreak
    The less said about this the better – but after defeating Queensland at Suncorp Stadium in Game 1 this year, the series was there for NSW’s to win.

    Unfortunately, a second-half capitulation, which included two tries to Dane Gagai and an injured Johnathan Thurston nailing a conversion from the sideline, saw Queensland win 18-16 and then go on to steamroll the Blues in Game 3.

    Melbourne reassert their dominance
    At the start of this year, I thought the Storm would be good. What I didn’t account for was a 34-year-old Billy Slater returning in the best form of his career, I didn’t account for the next generation of talent like Brodie Croft and Brandon Smith coming through, and I certainly didn’t account for Cameron Munster becoming the potent attacking weapon that he is.

    The Storm are absolutely the benchmark, both on and off the field, and it’s perhaps the first time since the 2001 Parramatta Eels that a team has gone into the finals as the most dominant team by far.

    The Knights go back to back
    They may have finished with the wooden spoon, but there were plenty of moments of celebration for the Newcastle Knights this year. With their victory over Parramatta in Round 23, the Knights posted their third win in a row for the first time since the 2015 season. It was also the first time since 2015 that the Knights have won a game away from home.

    Contemplate that stat for a moment – for plenty of players in that Knights team, that was the first time they experienced a win away from McDonald Jones Stadium.

    With plenty of new faces at the club next year including Connor Watson, Kalyn Ponga and Tautau Moga, I won’t be backing the Knights to get the spoon next year.

    Canberra disappoint
    And the award for the most disappointing team in 2017 definitely goes to the Canberra Raiders. It’s hard to pinpoint what went wrong for the team many predicted would win the grand final in 2017.

    Is it down to Joseph Leilua and his errors? Is it the coach? Is it the fact that plenty of their games were decided by the narrowest of margins? Or a combination of the above?

    Whatever the reason, plenty of Raiders fans will be left scratching their heads, wondering about a year that could have been.

    sia-soliola-billy-slater-tackle-tall

    AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

    Jarryd Hayne under fire
    The king of controversy lived up to his name, and it all came to a head a couple of weeks ago when it was clear that only one of Neil Henry and Jarryd Hayne would survive the season.

    Jarryd will remain at the Titans next year, but perhaps the biggest question is which club takes him on next (if any)?

    The new Collective Bargaining Agreement
    This is an ongoing issue, but we still don’t have a Collective Bargaining Agreement. The current deal expires on 31 October and I’m hopeful that the NRL and RLPA can sort something out ahead of this deadline.

    Let’s avoid a repeat of the cricket debacle please?

    Honourable mentions also go to Shaun Johnson’s injury late in the regular season and the impact it had on the New Zealand Warriors, Matt Moylan and his shift to the halves, Nick Cotric’s emergence as one of the most exciting young players in the competition, and the Dragons’ absolute capitulation after sitting on top of the NRL ladder early in the season.

    As a Parramatta fan am I dreaming in thinking that perhaps my most significant moment is yet to come?

    Bring on the finals.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • Roar Rookie

      September 5th 2017 @ 8:22am
      Drew Lawrence said | September 5th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      The biggest moments are still to come

      • September 5th 2017 @ 4:01pm
        matth said | September 5th 2017 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

        Depends if you support Melbourne or not.

        Although the biggest moment might yet be the world cup. funny, in most sports that would be a given.

    • Roar Guru

      September 5th 2017 @ 9:16am
      BigJ said | September 5th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      Felt you ve jumped the gun here Mary, there is still the finals to come, not to mention Cam Smith breaking the games record, winning another Dally M and the Churchill Medal on Grand final when Melbourne wins the title (hopefully)

      • September 5th 2017 @ 9:54am
        Bonza said | September 5th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        Settle down Big J, there’s an ambush coming. Storm are the 2001 Eels. I hope.

        • Roar Guru

          September 5th 2017 @ 10:23am
          BigJ said | September 5th 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

          That would mean they ll lose the grand final this year again, no thanks.

      • Columnist

        September 5th 2017 @ 10:04am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 5th 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        BigJ – interestingly enough I actually wrote this same article at this point last year too. I think more had happened last year – particularly scandals wise. It was interesting for me to think about this year when compared to last year.

        • Roar Guru

          September 5th 2017 @ 10:28am
          BigJ said | September 5th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

          True this year has been a mess with all the carry on of the Eels, Tigers, Titans and of course the Bulldogs. I look forward to doing a top ten moments of this year. Most of will feature Cameron Smith

      • Roar Guru

        September 6th 2017 @ 8:05am
        The Barry said | September 6th 2017 @ 8:05am | ! Report

        So you’ve ditched the Cowboys and Broncos?

        All aboard the Storm bandwagon.

        Where’s JC gone? Secret mission?

        • Roar Guru

          September 6th 2017 @ 12:47pm
          BigJ said | September 6th 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

          Who said i ve ditched the Cowboys??? As for JC he is overseas on holidays, with his family.

    • Roar Guru

      September 5th 2017 @ 10:56am
      Nat said | September 5th 2017 @ 10:56am | ! Report

      It’s a good thing 2017 are predominantly on-field moments. The only real off field controversy I can think was Cocaine Weekend + SKD (conveniently for Easts). I don’t consider Dugan/Fergo a controversy as no laws were broken. We lost Semi to RU because of an accusation. While I’m sure there are others, if all we have to complain about about are garbage refs calls – it’s a pretty good season for the game.

      Plus, State of Origin wasn’t heart break, it was heart starting for both sides.

      • Roar Guru

        September 5th 2017 @ 12:09pm
        BigJ said | September 5th 2017 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

        Hey nat, where did you go to school? I have the feeling that we have crossed paths before

        • Roar Guru

          September 5th 2017 @ 12:38pm
          Nat said | September 5th 2017 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

          Hey Big J. A few places, Theodore, Moranbah and Charters Towers. Operator turned Sparkie. (Peak Downs & Goonyella)

          • Roar Guru

            September 5th 2017 @ 1:08pm
            BigJ said | September 5th 2017 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

            Ok i thought you had spent sometime in Rocky, must of been after school????

            • Roar Guru

              September 5th 2017 @ 1:56pm
              Nat said | September 5th 2017 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

              Yeah, lived there 98-03 but spent plenty of time there earlier, still do. Did you play there? Played with Norton, Sing, Bell era. Rep’d CH vs Capricorn and CQ? Any bells?

              • Roar Guru

                September 5th 2017 @ 3:23pm
                BigJ said | September 5th 2017 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

                I played with the Norths Knights in 04 but went to North Rocky high from 95-99. Sing and all those other blokes were 5 or 6 years older than me. I played with Dallas and Guy Williams, ian lacey and big heavy Andrew Dale.

              • Roar Guru

                September 6th 2017 @ 10:40am
                Nat said | September 6th 2017 @ 10:40am | ! Report

                Ok, you’re around Coaltrain, PJ Marsh, Danny Bampton, Hughesy (St Brennans and Brothers). I didn’t play in Rocky cause of mine shiftwork.

                I remember being at Suncorp yrs ago and seeing Lacey and Brad Thorn side by side. It was like the movie Twins!

    • September 5th 2017 @ 11:14am
      AGordon said | September 5th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

      good morning Mary

      I think you and many other Parra supporters need to get a reality check before the finals.

      Your guys have been leaking points badly in the past month. Yes you scored 50 against the Broncos but they put 34 on you and Souths who were hammered by the Storm to the tune of 60, had your boys so rattled, Arthur was down out of the coaches box, well before the end of the game. Oh and the wooden spooners flogged you in the same month.

      Good luck against Melbourne this week. I don’t think you’ll get within 20 points of them but at least you can say you played finals football, even if it ends up a massacre

      • Columnist

        September 5th 2017 @ 1:38pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 5th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

        Agordon, I’m not sure where the reality check I need is? Comments like this actually get me kinda mad.

        No Parramatta fan I have been in touch with has done anything other than celebrate that the for the first time since 2009 our team is playing finals football. I haven’t called the Eels premiership contenders and haven’t written anywhere that I think they will beat Melbourne this weekend.

        Plenty have focused on the Eels v Rabbits game. What about the Panthers – they were badly shown up by Manly. The Roosters were also given quite a scare by the Titans.

        It’s funny – Parramatta seem to match the level of the opposition they are playing against. We can aim up when we are playing a top team and seem to struggle against teams below us.

        Regardless of what happens this weekend the team has finished in the top 4 and will get a second chance. That looks pretty good from where I’m sitting.

        P.S. Brad is usually out of the coaches box for most of our second halves. Maybe you need to watch Parra a bit more closely.

        • Roar Rookie

          September 5th 2017 @ 4:01pm
          Daniel said | September 5th 2017 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

          Comments like that get me really mad, not “kinda”.
          For Parramatta to go from the horror season in 2016 to Top 4 in 2017 can’t be questioned. Leaking points, being flogged by the wooden spooners, facing a massacre in Melbourne – it doesn’t matter. The Eels still finished above 12 other teams in the NRL and get two bites of the cherry in the finals. Haters gonna hate.

        • September 5th 2017 @ 9:34pm
          AGordon said | September 5th 2017 @ 9:34pm | ! Report

          okay,

          so let me see if I have this right. You’re happy you’re side’s playing in the finals but not fussed about results after that. As long as thy get two finals games, that’s a result ( in fairness, at least 12 other clubs would like to be in your shoes)

          Please note, I did not say anything about Parra being a premiership contender because you did not mention them in your article so not sure where you were going with that.

          I realise Arthur is on the sidelines in most games. My point was, he was a less than happy camper each time the cameras panned onto him. I assume this means he does not think the side is playing well?

          I’m sorry if you got mad, that was not the intent of the post. Will rethink my words for such sensitive souls in future.

          Kind regards

      • September 6th 2017 @ 7:45am
        Wild Eagle said | September 6th 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

        The Eagles were flogged by Saints twice and have recently been flogged by the Dogs yet Manly has just flogged Penrith who beat Saints two weeks ago.. What does it prove ………………nothing. I predicted Manly to beat Penrith ( on record ) in the last round.

        The past proves that selective use of losses to make a point achieves nothing, in the early 80,s the Eagles had a more dominant season than the Storm today and beat Parra three times including a flogging in the Semis.

        You can carry on all you like about what that might prove but all that mattered is that Parra won the title.

    • September 5th 2017 @ 11:47am
      Pedro the Maroon said | September 5th 2017 @ 11:47am | ! Report

      State of Origin heartbreak? Depends which side of the fence you sit on.

      Same goes for most disappointing team – it was clearly the May Premiers – the mighty Dragons.

    • September 5th 2017 @ 1:35pm
      Wild Eagle said | September 5th 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

      I remember round 1 at Lotto but it is not very pleasant .

      I remember it also for one of the worst decisions I have ever seen by a referee. The Semi trailer made a good run and shrugged off an Eagles player all good so far. But then the Semi did something I have only seen once on a rugby league field , instead of continuing to run he played the ball despite never having been tackled or been close to being tackled.

      The Eagles player was then penalised for tackling the Semi as he was playing the ball. No grey areas here , Semi stuffed up and the ref stuffed up. The Eels scored a tackle or two later.

      Sour grapes is not my issue Mary but I can assure you if The Eels are robbed of a grand final win the year in similar circumstances then you will be hearing about it for the rest of your life.

      Only one solution that I can see and that is Captains challenge. DCE did challenge this human error on the run but the ref was powerless to right the wrong……….. it is ridiculous.

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