Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS - Round 23
Tonight a true champion of the game will once again be in the spotlight. Darren Lockyer will become the most capped player of all time when he leads the Broncos against the North Queensland Cowboys, and there is no more deserving player in Rugby League.
Lockyer's skill as a player has been discussed for many years now, but I believe that it is the manner in which he conducts himself on and off the field and in victory and defeat that places him in the highest echelon of people to play the game.
It's been 17 years and nearly 350 games since a teenage Lockyer stepped onto the national stage in Rugby League. When he leaves the game at the end of the season, he will leave behind a lasting legacy that will remain for generations to come.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS VS BRISBANE BRONCOS
When these two teams played each other in round one, it was a tough - albeit sloppy - contest that was decided by only two points. With the way that the Cowboys and the Broncos have performed this season, there's a very good chance that the outcome of this game will go down to the wire as well.
While the Broncos held off a resurgent Warriors outfit, the Cowboys were very ineffective against the Bulldogs. Both teams will not want to repeat those kinds of performances against their opponents this week.
There are two key factors in this game. We've already spoken about one: the Lockyer factor. It's a big night for the Broncos as Lockyer breaks Terry Lamb and Steven Menzies' record as most-capped player, and how they can harness those emotions and use them to their advantage will be a very important influence on this game.
For the Cowboys, they welcome back Johnathan Thurston after a lengthy lay-off from a knee injury. He'll want to return to the NRL with a bang and fire the Cowboys to a premiership-winning level.
PENRITH PANTHERS VS WESTS TIGERS
The Tigers are on a roll, and it's a very dangerous one at that. They've knocked off the Sea Eagles and the Dragons in their four-match winning streak. They will be looking to make it five in a row against the Panthers and travel deeper into the top eight.
The Panthers are in the same position as the Bulldogs were last week: they have to win and hope that the chips fall in their favour between now and round 26 to scrape into the finals.
I like the look of Michael Jennings at fullback. It gives the Panthers a sense of unpredictability that will come in handy as they try to quell a Tigers side brimming with confidence. And we all know that a Tigers team with confidence is very hard to handle.
But will playing Jennings out of position strengthen the team or weaken it? The absence of Luke Lewis may prove to be the difference in this encounter.