In a battle which went right down to the wire, the South Sydney Rabbitohs have come away with a one-point win over the St George Illawarra Dragons in the second NRL semi-final. Here are my talking points from the match.
Jason Nightingale recently announced that 2018 would be his last season in the NRL, bringing the curtain down on a decorated career.
As a passionate Dragons fan, I applaud ‘Gypsy’ for his achievements.
However, he hasn’t played the last two games due to injury, and it threatens to rob him of a final appearance at Jubilee Oval, which is not finals-standard, so the club will not play there after their Round 24 clash with the Bulldogs.
But while he is a club great and it would be a bitter blow for him not to play once more at the ground, his replacement, Jordan Pereira, has done very well and does not deserve to be dropped for an emotional farewell.
Pereira was blitzing the NSW Cup, where the Dragons are currently sitting in second position on the ladder. In fact, despite his recent elevation to first grade, Pereira still leads all try scorers, with 16.
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For too long, ‘Mary’ has resisted the urge to give underperforming players the flick, but since injury forced the coach’s hand, Pereira has done brilliantly, averaging 136 running metres in his five games, compared to Nightingale’s 104 in 16 games.
Pereira also shades Nightingale in tackle breaks (2.4 to 1.9) and possesses more speed, although one could argue that the veteran flanker was never blessed with pace.
Simply put, Pereira has stepped up and should hold his spot.
Unfortunately, athletes don’t always get the farewell they deserve, and while the club will honour Nightingale appropriately on the day, McGregor shouldn’t let emotion get in the way of logic.
Nightingale has been a wonderful servant for the club, but 2018 has not been one of his best years and Pereira is now the better choice on the wing as the Dragons look to finish as high as possible and gain form leading into the finals.