Last Sunday morning saw the best NRL has to offer and it did not disappoint. North Queensland Cowboy’s Kyle Feldt did ‘a Ryan Hall’ by crossing the line after the final buzzer to level the scores against Brisbane Broncos. That left Jonathan Thurston, winner of four Dally M Player of the Year Medals, two Golden Boots, four RLPA Players’ Player Awards, and was the 2013 Rugby League World Cup player of the tournament with four Man of the Match performances, to kick the extra two points from the touchline and secure the Cowboys first Premiership title in front of 82,758 fans at the ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Thurston hit the post and, with the scores at 16 apiece, took the game to Golden Point and extra time. However Thurston is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time for a reason, and it took only two minutes and 17 seconds to make amends with a drop-goal that took his own tally to 1954 points for North Queensland and provided the one point victory over the Broncos.
If that doesn’t whet the appetite for the Super League Grand Final I’m not sure what can, but come Saturday night, in front of a sell-out Theatre of Dreams, 26 men – the best Super League has to offer – will offer up their own spectacle as they collide and battle for the Super League trophy. It will be fast, it will be furious; it will be entertainment of the highest quality.
So who should we look out for?
Ben Flower will be the focus of attention for many media outlets. Infamously banned for six months after punching Lance Hohaia in the 2014 Grand Final, Flower has redemption on his mind. Since returning, Flower has been a stalwart in Shaun Wane’s Cherry and Whites side. He has maintained his ferocity but has developed a calmness of mind that has allowed him to channel his passion and intensity into a positive force. Flower is a force to be reckoned with and on Saturday night he will hopefully show the world how far he has come as both a player and a man.
At the age of 37, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai will be playing their last game of Rugby League. What they have both brought to the game is something you cannot measure. It is heart and devotion; “you push yourself to your absolute physical edge” in order to win, said Peacock in a recent interview. This season both players have rolled back the years and put in performances that have driven the Rhinos team forward. Peacock explains that he has realised “there are no limits if you put your mind to it. I decided I wouldn’t be limited by people’s perceptions of what a 37 year old should play like”. With this in mind, the Leeds Rhinos side know that Peacock and Leuluai won’t settle for anything other than victory. Let’s hope they get the send-off they deserve, regardless of the result.
Wigan full-back Matty Bowen will also retire after the Grand Final and will be looking to draw upon his inner Queensland magic. The 33 year-old from Cairns has silenced the critics with his performances this season and has regained the high standards he set back in 2012 with the North Queensland Cowboys. With 114 points to his name from 42 games for Wigan thus far, Bowen will be looking to win his first Grand Final.
Finally, Kevin Sinfield cannot be overlooked. Like Peacock and Leuluai, this will be Sir Kev’s final game of Rugby League (for the time being) after a 19 year association with Leeds Rhinos – Sinfield has agreed a switch to Championship Rugby Union side Leeds Carnegie. Nevertheless, this season Sinfield has maintained his high standards, and with 66 minutes on the clock in the play-off Semi Final last week, Sinfield again showed his value with a 40/20 kick that changed the flow of the match and lead Rhinos to a 20-13 win over St. Helens. So after 520 games, two Challenge Cup wins, and six Super League titles (so far), Sinfield will want to end his Rhinos career on the highest of notes, and if on Saturday night the match is tight and entering the latter stages it wouldn’t be a surprise if Sir Kev again stepped up to the plate with a bit of magic to secure victory.
So there you have it; the players to look out for in the Super League Grand Final. But for 80 minutes at 6pm on Saturday put your allegiances aside, put your expectations and bias to bed, forget about the Rugby Union World Cup and all its failures; relax, switch over to Sky Sports, and embrace all that Rugby League has to offer. You will not be disappointed.