• Brad Arthur is looking forward to his first tilt at finals football as an NRL head coach. (AAP)Source: AAP
Former rugby league star Owen Craigie says to expect fireworks this weekend in the NRL, as half the competition look to board their flights to Bali, Fiji and Hawaii after causing one last stir in 2017.
By
Owen Craigie

Source:
Over the Black Dot
30 Aug 2017 - 3:14 PM  UPDATED 30 Aug 2017 - 3:14 PM

We’re one week away from the NRL finals but it’s certainly already at the business end of the season and I think there’s going to be a lot of upsets this round.

Teams have booked their trips to Bali and Fiji and Hawaii for the end of season footy trips and their bags are packed so they wanna go out on a high. If they haven’t put in during the year they’ll put in for the last 80 minutes of 2017 and that’s why it’s a scary round, the last round, because you can get injuries, you can get slapped, it can muck up your momentum and throw a spanner in the works.

We’ll come back to the end of the season but first I want to quickly look at the end of something else – Laurie Daley’s contract coaching NSW State of Origin.

I knew that Laurie wouldn’t have been good for the job again. He’s had a fair run and no success and I’ve had my say on it over the last couple of months.

But at the end of the day I think what they should have done is give him some more credit and not sacked him the way they sacked him.

He’s also been made a bit of a scapegoat for some player behaviour and I think it’s been unfair on him.

They should’ve done it in a more professional manner and the way they sacked him throughout the media has put everything on show for the poor bloke. He deserved a little bit of credit there and look, we all know that he didn’t have the capacity to coach the Blues to major success, but then again, who has got the capacity to coach the Blues?

He’s also been made a bit of a scapegoat for some player behaviour and I think it’s been unfair on him.

All these players now, they know the rules and what needs to happen when they’re in camp. They get told from under-20s all the way up to the NRL so they all know what protocol and rules to follow and what they can and can’t do.

So they’re all well aware that they can’t use Laurie as an excuse for their off-field performance. On-field results weren’t that good but a lot of players’ personal behaviours need to be addressed I suppose.

And that’s where a coach that’s really successful, like a Craig Bellamy or Wayne Bennett are really good at managing people’s behaviours and urges away from the field.

And I know Freddy Fittler’s favourite to take the NSW job on and from what I’m hearing it’s Freddy Fittler head coach and Andrew Johns and Danny Buderus assistant coaches.

If that ends up being the case, well they’ve got no excuses then. You’ve got two Legends and an Immortal in the coaching staff and what these guys really need to do I suppose is go out there and create a culture, a winning culture. It’s more than just the game.

This weekend in the NRL, it’s important that no one takes this last round easy because you can either make or break your season still.

Even though it’s the last round of the season, it’s a funny system and then when it comes to the semi-finals, it’s a two horse race.

Penrith play Manly this week and whoever loses that could be out of the top eight. It’s come down to the last round of the NRL to see who comes through to the top eight, with Penrith, North Queensland, Manly and St George Illawarra all not certain.

Even though it’s the last round of the season, it’s a funny system and then when it comes to the semi-finals, it’s a two horse race. Even though the Storm are in great form, if they draw someone on fire in the top eight, you just can’t pick it now. They’re dead-set favourites to take out the comp but they have been in previous years too and when it’s come down to the crunch, anything can happen.

It’s going to be tough. If you’re talking about a pressure game, the last round of the year is the pressure round, really.

The last game of the year is always a tricky one.

Look at the Sharks who have the Knights this week and it’s the last game of the year, the boys are on a high and the end of season trip’s booked and they want to get ready for mad Monday and have a drink after the game, so they’re gonna play out of their skin.

So that’s what you’re up against in the last round of the year, ahead of playing finals for Cronulla. And if the Knights beat the Sharks, anything can happen. It could put a massive dint in Cronulla coming into the semis and it could take them off track and off pace because they got beaten by the last team in the comp.

The last game of the year is always a tricky one.

Manly shouldn’t be in this position, neither should Penrith, but it is what it is and we’re gonna see some good footy.

I personally think whoever wins out of Manly or Penrith to potentially get into the top eight will cause some upsets further along too.

This round is more important than round one. This round will set the tone coming into the semis because you don’t know who’s gonna have injuries. You don’t know who’s gonna have suspensions. You don’t what team’s gonna throw a spanner in the works.

It’s got a big question mark on the last round of the year because anything is possible and anything can happen.

To hear more from Owen Craigie and for all of your rugby league news, tune in to Over the Black Dot on NITV at 9.30pm every Wednesday.