Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
It's the type of farewell bash not many get to enjoy, but Cronulla's Lance Thompson doesn't want to get too worked up about his NRL finale.
"It's business as usual, I've done it a fair few times before," Thompson said ahead of his 239th and last game in the top grade.
Thompson will hang up the boots following the Toyota Stadium clash with Penrith, club doctors having told the 30-year-old his dodgy knee has just one more game left in it.
"I'm not going to really think like it's my last, I'm just going to say it's another game and prepare for another game," he said.
"If I go out there and try to do too much it could cost the team a victory."
It's a sentiment not shared by some of the red head's teammates, stand-in skipper Greg Bird saying the Sharks were desperate to send Thompson out a winner.
Thompson was handed a lifeline by Cronulla when cut by St George Illawarra following the 2005 season but Bird believes the Sharks were the real beneficiaries.
"He's tucked a lot of our pretty young pack under his wing and just showed them the ropes and taught them how to play football," Bird said.
"It's set up perfectly for Thommo, being our first home game, a new grandstand and then for this to be his last one.
"I don't think there's going to be too much not to get up for this weekend, I think we're going to be pretty pumped."
A wet Sydney weekend could ruin hopes of a Toyota Stadium sellout, but given Cronulla's strong 4-1 start to the season, there should be a healthy gathering.
After a poor start to the season, Penrith showed enough in wins over Souths and Wests Tigers to suggest a second straight wooden spoon may not be the formality it had threatened.
High flyers the Sydney Roosters brought them back down last week, but veteran hooker Luke Priddis said there was still a good vibe at the foot of the mountains.
"It's no secret we made a few changes around here and a happy workplace leads to a happy performance I suppose," Priddis said.
"The pressure is back on us, the players asked for a few changes and Matt (coach Matt Elliott) incorporated most of those into the training so the pressure is now back on us to perform.
"Obviously it was a bit of a downer last week, knowing that we played reasonably well the couple of weeks beforehand, but I suppose we haven't really put in a full 80."
The Sharks have been boosted by the midweek signing of Danny Nutley, coach Ricky Stuart confirming the former Sydney Roosters prop would play against the Panthers.
Stuart will wait until Saturday to cut three players from his bench while the Panthers are expected to line-up as announced.