NRL Expert @JennaBrooks
NRL talking points: Closest finals race in history, and Johnathan Thurston retires
Last Updated: 04/09/18 12:34pm
Jenna Brooks has the latest from the NRL as the finals race proves to be the tightest in history, and a legend of the game bids farewell...
The Sydney Roosters beat Parramatta to finish top of the ladder and claim the minor premiership.
After Melbourne lost at home to Penrith on Friday night, the Roosters knew they had to beat the Eels by at least 27 points to leapfrog Melbourne at the top. They did it comfortably, winning by 34 points.
Since former Catalans head coach Trent Robinson took charge of the Sydney side in 2013, the Roosters have finished top of the ladder four times.
"It's really nice but we only came into this year to do one thing and we've put ourselves in a good position to do it," Robinson said.
"It's not an easy thing to win - 24 rounds - tough competition, one of the toughest physical contact sports in the world. So to finish on top is a quality moment for the players and the club."
As for Parramatta, they finished the season last - a third wooden spoon in seven years.
Finals footy is here and it is the most open play-offs in the competition's history. For the first time since the NRL was formed in 1998, just two points separate the Roosters in first place and the Warriors in eighth.
It is the tightest on record, with the margin between the top eight only ever being as small as eight points, until now.
The Roosters, Storm, Rabbitohs and Sharks all finished the year on 34 points with 16 wins, while the Panthers, Broncos, Dragons and Warriors won 15 matches to finish on 32 points.
The finals begin on Friday with second-placed Melbourne hosting third-placed South Sydney in a Qualifying final.
On Saturday, the eighth-placed Warriors travel to fifth-placed Penrith in the Elimination final, before Minor Premiers Roosters host Cronulla - who finished the season in fourth - in a Qualifying final.
Finally, on Sunday, sixth plays seventh in the last Elimination final, when Brisbane take on St George Illawarra.
You can see every game LIVE on Sky Sports Arena.
On Saturday night the game bid farewell to one of its greats. A sold-out Cbus Super Stadium in Queensland watched rugby league legend, Johnathan Thurston, play his 323rd and final game.
In typical Thurston fashion, he orchestrated a brilliant North Queensland comeback as the Cowboys beat the Titans 30-26.
Before kick-off, Thurston's team-mate's ran out wearing headgear to show their respect for the superstar. Less than 24 hours after playing for the Storm in Melbourne, Cameron Smith was in the stands watching his Australia and Queensland team-mate and good friend play his final game before retirement.
During his career, Thurston has often been regarded as the greatest to have ever played the game, and rightly so, as he has achieved everything there is to achieve in the sport.
He has played 294 games for the Cowboys, represented Australia in 39 Tests, and played in 37 State of Origins for Queensland.
The 35-year old has won two premierships, been awarded the Dally M four times, won the Golden Boot on three occasions, and was given the Clive Churchill medal for player of the match during North Queensland's 2015 Grand Final win.
"I can't thank the game enough for the life it's given me," Thurston said. "I'm in a privileged position to play this game every week for the last 17 years.
"I've enjoyed every moment, but I'm looking forward to retirement."
Paul Green, Thurston's coach at the Cowboys, was full of praise for his player.
"If there is one thing I can say about Johnno, we all know how great he is on the field but it is his demeanour and the way he carries himself off the field," Green said.
"His humility, he's just got time for everyone. That is probably the one thing that sticks out for me."
Thurston - a future immortal. A player I will never forget.
It looks like we will not see Sam Burgess playing in Super League any time soon. Reports suggest the England international is set to sign a new long-term contract with South Sydney.
It is understood talks between Burgess and the club have been ongoing for a while, with the Rabbitohs offering the forward a new four-year contract, which would see the 29-year-old likely finish his career in South Sydney.
Burgess sent a scare through his team, when he felt a 'pop' in his left hamstring, which forced him from the pitch during the second half of Thursday's 51-10 thrashing of the Wests Tigers.
However, the star forward insists he is fit to play in their Qualifying final in Melbourne on Friday.
"I feel good, I feel alright," said Burgess. "I know mentally I can get myself up for a game. I know I'll play, 100 per cent.
"I'll find a way to get on the field. It's genuinely not about me, it's not about anything else, it's about the team."