NRL Expert @JennaBrooks
Inside the NRL: Blockbuster final round and a new twist in Robbie Farah saga
Last Updated: 30/08/16 5:29pm
Jenna Brooks has the latest from the NRL, with the final round promising a blockbuster, a new twist in the Robbie Farah saga and another bunker blunder.
The final round of the NRL season has arrived, and after Cronulla beat the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne lost to Brisbane last week, it promises to be a blockbuster.
The minor premiership isn't the only thing on the line; top four and top eight spots will be decided in a thrilling finale.
Round 26 begins on Thursday when Wayne Bennett's Broncos look to beat the Roosters for a chance to finish in the top four. The biggest game of the weekend is on Saturday between first-placed Storm and second-placed Sharks in Melbourne. The equation is simple, the winner becomes 2016 minor premiers.
Also on Saturday, the reigning premiers North Queensland take on the Gold Coast. The match sees Jarryd Hayne and Johnathan Thurston play against each other for the first time since they were joint winners of the 2014 Dally M award.
Both players are full of praise for the other. Hayne said of Thurston: "He'll go down as one of the best ever and I've got a lot of respect for JT."
Thurston said: "(Hayne) is back playing full-back and each game he seems to be getting better, and I think Neil's got them playing their best football."
While the pressure is off the Cowboys, who have already secured a finals place, the Titans must win in Townsville to clinch a top-eight spot after they lost to Penrith last weekend.
If the Titans lose, then the Wests Tigers have a shot at making the finals. Jason Taylor's side must then beat Canberra on Sunday, but it will be a tough ask as the Raiders have now won eight in a row.
It turns out South Sydney are not the only NRL club interested in Robbie Farah - Cronulla have also shown their interest in the New South Wales representative.
Reports in Australia suggest both the Rabbitohs and the Sharks have met with the out-of-favour Tigers hooker and his manager Sam Ayoub, but Ayoub insists his player is in no rush to make a decision. Watch this space.
The NRL bunker has again come under scrutiny this season after the Warriors were denied a contender for try of the season on a technicality.
The New Zealand outfit scored a spectacular try against the Wests Tigers in the first half, but it was reviewed and eventually disallowed for an obstruction.
Former Penrith legend Mark Geyer said the NRL could learn from the RFL. "After I watched the Challenge Cup final over the weekend… one referee, there were a couple of contentious issues in the game, the biggest game of the year, and the referee just backed himself," Geyer said "He got it right every time."
Geyer is just one of a number of pundits who have criticised the system, with former St George Illawarra centre Mark Gasnier and former Newcastle player Matty Johns both questioning the use of the technology.
After 10 seasons, Monday night football came to an end last week when Parramatta beat St George Illawarra 30-18.
Since 2007, one game has been played on a Monday night, but after struggling to attract crowds, the concept has been abolished.
After watching matches this year played at ANZ and Alliance Stadium in front of terrible crowds, I believe all Sydney clubs should play at local stadiums.
The NRL has lost its way in terms of crowd attendance. In 2015, the average crowd attendance was 15,078, down five per cent from 15,906 the previous year - and it is likely to be lower again this year.
Bringing games closer to each supporter base is one way to fix the problem. The Wests Tigers, Manly, Cronulla, Parramatta, Penrith and when St George Illawarra play at Jubilee or Wollongong, shows how successful this can be.
However, for South Sydney, Canterbury and the Roosters, work needs to be done. It will require some infrastructure development, but how good would it be to see every home game played at Redfern, Belmore and a more local Eastern suburbs oval?