Sport Rugby League NRL Set of Six: What we learned from Round 17

NRL Set of Six: What we learned from Round 17

Mr 400: Cameron Smith has made an enormous contribution. Photo: Getty
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 King Cam makes it a mighty 400

Phenomenal. Outstanding. The greatest of all time. It’s almost impossible to run out of superlatives to describe Cameron Smith.

On Saturday night Smith made history when he played his 400th game, a feat achieved by no other in the Australian game.

Smith has been a marvel of consistency and excellence since 2002, when he made his debut for Melbourne Storm.

After 400 games, 43 tries and 1175 goals for Storm, 42 matches, five tries and 19 goals for Queensland, and 56 Tests, nine tries and 67 goals for Australia, at 36 years old he is still going strong.

The Storm crowd line up for a picture with their hero Cameron Smith. Photo: Getty

A leader and a modern freak, Smith is one of a kind.

It’s hard to explain how he has managed to stay at the top for so long and win every trophy on offer.

He has genuine claims to being the greatest rugby league player to ever lace up a boot and the Melbourne crowd certainly shared the love when invited to share his milestone on Saturday night.

Ground-breaking Benji

While Smith was always cool, calm and consistent, Benji Marshall was flashy, entertaining and exciting.

On the same weekend Smith brought up his 400th game, the Kiwi reached his 300th.

It was a fair feat considering the ups and downs Marshall has gone through during his 15-year-career.

Marshall burst into the NRL in 2003 all speed, outrageous step and flick passes.

The competition had never seen a player like him before. His silky skills and X-factor memorably led Wests Tigers to a grand final triumph in 2005.

Benji Marshall chalked up his 300th game. Photo: Getty

He then suffered several serious shoulder injuries, had to rebuild his body, and almost led the Tigers to another grand final in 2010.

He eventually left Wests in 2013 on bad terms, had a brief and unsuccessful stint in Super Rugby with the Blues, before returning to the NRL with the Dragons in 2014.

After a season with the Broncos, he finally came home to Leichhardt in 2018 as his ability has evolved from an excitement machine into a game-managing halfback. Congrats to the wonder from Whakatane on his milestone.

Brennan bumped

It came as no surprise but Gold Coast Titans have finally ended Garth Brennan’s reign.

Under Brennan the dire Titans won just 12 of 40 games, and the final straw was their 24-2 defeat to Penrith.

“No one at this organisation, or anyone involved in rugby league, wanted Garth’s time as head coach of the Titans to end this way,” executive chairman Dennis Watt said in a statement.

“However, the results the club has achieved on the field this season have not met expectations, and the team’s performance in recent weeks has fallen to a level that is unacceptable to the board, our members, fans, sponsors and partners.”

Assistants Craig Hodges and Luke Burt will be in charge as interim coaches until the end of the season, with Queensland Origin coach Kevin Walters and St Helens coach Justin Holbrook the favourites to get the gig permanently in 2020.

Folkes identified as CET sufferer

It has been revealed Canterbury and Hull FC forward Steve Folkes, who played from 1978 to 1991, suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – the brain disease linked to repeated head injuries.

The brain disease was found in an autopsy of Folkes, who also coached the Dogs from 1998 to 2008 and the Australian women’s national team, after he died of a heart irregularity last year at the age of 59.

It is stunning news that could have huge ramifications for all of rugby league and the NRL. While today’s protocols around concussion are strong, there was nothing of the sort in the past.

Legal firms are already assembling class actions on behalf of former players who may have suffered brain injuries, which could end up crippling the sport.

Tim Simona returns after betting ban

Two years after being banned from the NRL, disgraced Wests Tigers star Tim Simona was back in rugby league playing for Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles in the Canterbury Cup.

Simona was suspended in 2017 after the NRL Integrity Unit found he had bet on games that he played in.

It was also revealed that the centre had taken the proceeds from the sale of signed jerseys auctioned for charity to fuel his drug and gambling addictions.

The bad boy’s return to the code has been a hot talking point for many.

Panthers bite back

Penrith started the 2019 season poorly, badly out of form and unable to get many wins.

But it has certainly hit its stride now, making it six victories in a row with an easy smashing of sorry Gold Coast.

The Panthers entered the top eight on the back of their great run and are looking like the real deal.

James Maloney was again the master, but he had great support from Dylan Edwards and Brian To’o.

Both scored two tries apiece, with To’o showing some freakish finishing ability.

All the pressure was on coach Ivan Cleary early in the year, but he’s got to be sitting pretty right now.

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