After going to the grand final that never was, I couldn't help but feel a sense of belonging as Easts and Canterbury belted into each at Telstra Stadium last Friday night. These are the teams that all fair minded supporters look up to. What better showcase for the NRL than a Roosters v Bulldogs clash...?
But if Friday night was the unofficial grand final, then surely Panthers v Dragons clash was the quasi-unofficial grand final. Both the mighty Panthers and not so mighty Dragons have whacked the Bulldogs this year and both have ambushed the Roosters. But there's no arguing with crowd figures... the unofficial grand final was a ratings winner.
Meanwhile, the bubble has finally burst for the Canberra Raiders who went down like a lead balloon at the hands of the Melbourne Storm. I'm sure the Raiders will bounce back but not before the Panthers pound them into the turf next weekend.
The other big upset of the round was Newcastle winning without Joey Johns. I know it was only the Rabbitohs and you wouldn't back them with a steel rod. But a win is a win and the Knights are putting this one in the bank.
And finally vid-ref Mick Stone has been blotted out by referee boss Robert Finch. Poor Mick has found out that being consistent doesn't equate to consistently delivering shocker decisions. Tough luck Mr Stone. If I was you, I'd be appealing the decision. Nothing worse than being on the rough end of a ref's decision.
And last but not leastly, expect an annoucement on Wednesday that will see Nathan Blacklock coming back to Rugby League. Welcome back Tingha.
Next week (round 10, 16-18 May): City v Country at Central Coast* Dragons v Bulldogs at Wollongong Cowboys v Tigers at Dairy Farmers Raiders v Panthers at Canberra Broncos v Storm at ANZ Roosters v Knights at Aussie Manly v Eels at Brookvale *Mondays Expert match of the round
Round 9 results at a glance home team listed first
BULLDOGS 32 Tries: El Masri, Harris, Ryan, Thurston, Utai Goals: El Masri 6/6 ROOSTERS 26 Tries: Minichiello, Byrne, Hegarty, Cross Goals: Fitzgibbon 5/6 Friday 9 May 2003 Telstra Stadium Referee: Bill Harrigan Crowd: 27,132
STORM 30 Tries: Robinson, Geyer, Reynoldson, Bell Goals: Orford 7/7 RAIDERS 10 Tries: Monaghan, Croker Goals: Schifcofske 1/2 Saturday 10 May 2003 Olympic Park Melbourne Referee: Shayne Hayne Crowd: 10,014
SHARKS 40 Tries: Hilder 2, Bailey, Peachey, Kimmorley, Rieck, Mullane, Gallen Goals: Kimmorley 4/9 SEA EAGLES 16 Tries: Reeves, Cannings, Donald Goals: Walker 2/3 Saturday 10 May 2003 Toyota Park Referee: Paul Simpkins Crowd: 11,673
BRONCOS 38 Tries: Berrigan 3, McGuire 2, Tallis, Minto Goals: De Vere 3/4, Swain 2/4 COWBOYS 12 Tries: Bowen, Myles Goals: Hannay 2/2 Sunday 11 May 2003 ANZ Stadium Referee: Matt Cecchin Crowd: 13,197
PANTHERS 30 Tries: Lewis, Howland, Wesser, Campbell Goals: Campbell 3/5, Sattler 1/1, Gower 1/1, Rodney 2/2 DRAGONS 26 Tries: Firman, Cross, Barrett, Gasnier, Thompson Goals: Riddell 3/4, Roberts 0/1 Sunday 11 May 2003 Penrith Football Stadium Referee: Tim Mander Crowd: 17,862
KNIGHTS 42 Tries: Abraham, Perry, Quinn x 3, Price, Buderus, Tahu Goals: Abraham 5/8 RABBITOHS 28 Tries: Kativerata, McKinnon, Russo, Fletcher, Kearney Goals: Smith 4/5 Sunday 11 May 2003 EnergyAustralia Stadium Referee: Steve Lyons Crowd: 14,268
League Unlimited's Player of the Year Awards Points awarded for round nine: 3 points: S Price (Bulldogs), P J Marsh (Warriors), M Orford (Storm), D Nutley (Sharks), S Webcke (Broncos), P Campbell (Panthers), A Quinn (Knights) 2 points: B Harris (Bulldogs), L Swann (Warriors), R Kearns (Storm), D Peachey (Sharks), S Berrigan (Broncos), S Sattler (Panthers), M Gidley (Knights) 1 point: A Minichiello (Roosters), M Witt (Eels), D Kidwell (Storm), B Kimmorley (Sharks), G Tallis (Broncos), C Gower (Panthers), D Abraham (Knights)
Tally update: 16 points: C Schicofske (Raiders) 12 points: L Bailey (Dragons), A Minichiello (Roosters) 11 points: D Lockyer (Broncos) 10 points: C Fitzgibbon (Roosters), PJ Marsh (Warriors) 9 points: A Johns (Knights), S Price (Bulldogs), J Smith (Rabbitohs), R Wesser (Panthers) 8 points: J Ferris (Sea Eagles) 7 points: L Hohaia (Warriors), S Kearney (Storm), B Slater (Storm) 6 points: T Carroll (Broncos), B Drew (Raiders), M Orford (Storm), B Sherwin (Bulldogs) 5 points: P Campbell (Panthers), B Fittler (Roosters), C Gower (Panthers), J Morris (Eels), M Sing (Cowboys), P Stringer (Rabbitohs), G Tallis (Broncos), S Woolford (Raiders) 4 points: D Abraham (Knights), S Berrigan (Broncos), B Hodgson (Eels), B Kennedy (Knights), D Peachey (Sharks), T Puletua (Panthers), M Riddell (Dragons), A Watmough (Sea Eagles) 3 points: S Bell (Storm), D Buderus (Knights), T Byrne (Roosters), K Campion (Cowboys), H El Masri (Bulldogs), B Firman (Dragons), A Guttenbeil (Warriors), T Hill (Tigers), J Lowe (Cowboys), J Lyon (Eels), M McClinden (Raiders), D Nutley (Sharks), F Meli (Warriors), D Myles (Cowboys), M O'Meley (Bulldogs), C Pearson (Wests Tigers), J Perry (Knights), J Seu Seu (Warriors), B Walker (Sea Eagles), S Webcke (Broncos), C Wing (Roosters), L Withers (Wests Tigers) 2 points: M Bowen (Cowboys), D Carlaw (Broncos), J Caine (Wests Tigers), B Finch (Roosters), M Gasnier (Dragons), M Gidley (Knights), J Hannay (Cowboys), B Harris (Bulldogs), S Hill (Storm), S Jones (Warriors), R Kearns (Storm), J Lolesi (Raiders), W Mason (Bulldogs), N Merritt (Rabbitohs), L McWilliams (Cowboys), G Morrison (Cowboys), C Pearson (Wests Tigers), S Rudder (Knights), S Sattler (Panthers), D Senter (Wests Tigers), J Seu Seu (Warriors), L Swann (Warriors), S Tadulala (Storm), B Tate (Broncos), S Timmins (Dragons), N Vagana (Bulldogs), P Whatuira (Panthers), R Wiki (Raiders) 1 point: P Bailey (Sharks), T Barrett (Dragons), S Donald (Sea Eagles), S Dunley (Eels), B Fletcher (Raiders), B Galea (Wests Tigers), R Girdler (Panthers), P Graham (Raiders), S Kelly (Broncos), D Kidwell (Storm), B Kimmorley (Sharks), F Meli (Warriors), S Menzies (Sea Eagles), R O'Davis (Knights), L Priddis (Panthers), A Quinn (Knights), L Ricketson (Roosters), R Swain (Broncos), L Thompson (Dragons), J Thurston (Bulldogs), B Webb (Warriors), M Witt (Eels), A Woolnough (Knights)Like