The A to Z of the NRL 2021 season

The grand finale is done and dusted and with the atrocities of Mad Monday coming to an end, so here’s a quick A to Z guide to remind you of what you saw in the 2021 NRL season.

A. Academy Award
It seems that players these days will do almost anything to gain an advantage and the latest blemish on the game is the dive feigned injury, especially crusher tackles. In a tight field, this year’s Academy Award goes to noted lead actor Blake Ferguson in Parramatta’s semifinal loss to Penrith. Take a bow, Blake.

B. The bunker
I still hate the Bunker and so do you if you’re honest. The sooner the NRL scraps it, the better the game will be.

C. Massacre
Has there ever been a season with so many serious and often season-ending injuries? Each round seemed to bring more bad news and by the end of the season enough players were injured to fill an entire 30-man club.

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

D. Dopes
The NRL again had more than their fair share of dopes this year, as so-called professional players did not behave professionally. From the far too numerous COVID breaches to Adam Elliott’s bathroom antics, Lachlan Lewis’ innovative eBay activity, and the closing of the season with four players covered in white powder and another in charge of possession. Well done guys.

E. Involvement
Brian To’o had a season to remember: the best winger and meter-eater in the game with daylight in second, a State of Origin series win, a premiership and engagement to his beloved after the grand finale after a very public proposal. A wonderful year that could not have happened to a nicer man.

F. Faders
Many unsuspecting tipsters had the Canberra Raiders somewhere near the top of their picks for the 2021 premieres, but hopefully they didn’t put their homes on it as the Raiders quickly morphed into the Canberra Faders and comfortably finished in tenth place. ended thanks to a worse for and against than both the Titans and the Sharks. I don’t think they will somehow tip anyone for the 2022 premieres.

G. ‘Gus’ Gould
Finally, Gould confirmed what we all suspected when he advised that only those who have played the game can understand the game. Fortunately, mere mortals among us have Gus to explain what we’re looking at.

(Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

H. Crackdown on a lot of contact
The NRL eventually grew into a pair, decided to uphold the rulebook for a change, and took on the stubborn traders in a much-anticipated suppression. Sadly it didn’t last long enough and didn’t go far enough, and by the end of the season the usual suspects were back at it, and the HIA now seemed to be optional, and most importantly a vehicle to get a few extra nodes .

I. Inconsistency
This seems to be the biggest annoyance for coaches and fans this year, as the referees’ interpretations of the rules varied considerably, not only from week to week, but also within a match. Compare refereeing in the final with the rest of the season. Confusion reigns!

J. Alex Johnston
A few years ago, a genius at the Rabbitohs thought it would be a good idea to relocate then-24-year-old Alex Johnston to save salary cap dollars or something equally stupid. Thankfully that never happened, scoring a whopping 53 tries on the Souths left wing in recent years, including 30 this year from just 22 games, which is now the third-highest all-time tally after Easts’ Dave Brown’s 38 tries and Newtown’s Ray Preston’s. 34 attempts. You wonder how much he would have scored if he had played in all 28 games for Souths this year. You also wonder how many tries Tom Trbojevic would have finished with 28 tries from just 18 games if he had played for Manly in all 28 games.

K. Ashley Klein
His back-to-back appearances in refereeing the Souths versus Roosters debacle with Latrell Mitchell’s hit Joey Manu, and the sin-bin-athon between the Titans and the Warriors confirmed to me that Ashley Klein was no longer at the level of the first class is adequate. And yet the NRL sees him as the second best ref. Gosh, you wouldn’t like to be third on their ladder of mediocrity.

Referee Ashley Klein speaks to Joseph Manu of the Roosters after receiving a high tackle from Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

L. Latrell Mitchell
So there we have it, Souths lose the grand final by two points. How different it would have been for Red and Green if Mitchell had worn the number one instead of the ineffective rookie Blake Taaffe. Souths definitely win with Mitchell on the field. He is the most destructive ball runner in the game, can take breaks from just about anywhere and could have terrorized some of the less experienced Penrith backs. Wait a minute… aren’t they all? While he tends to go to MIA in some games, Mitchell is a big game specialist and would have gotten the Bunnies home. Let’s hope, for the sake of Souths, that he works on his discipline issues off-season.

M. Manly is back three
Has there ever been a back three that ended the season with so many tries and goals in between? I doubt it. Jason Saab tries 26, Tom Trbojevic 28 tries and Reuben Garrick 23 tries and 121 goals. unbelievable! I wonder if they can repeat the trick next season?

N. Next man up
The roosters must have passed under several ladders in the off season while each holding a black cat. I can’t remember a team that had so many seasonal injuries to key players. The ability of their remaining players to carry on and do their job for the team is commendable, and reaching the semi-finals was an outstanding achievement. The fortitude shown this year will serve them well in the future.

O. Origin
NSW regained Origin dominance by shooting Queensland off the park in Games 1 and 2, scoring 76 points for Queensland’s six. Oddly enough, NSW coach Brad Fittler gave up every chance of a NSW clean sweep when he selected flaky debutant Mitchell Moses and the hopelessly out-of-form Jack Wighton in the halves for Game 3, instead of in-form Souths pair Adam Reynolds and Cody walker.

James Tedesco wins Origin

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

P. Penrith
Congratulations to the Penrith Panthers for an excellent season and a well deserved third premiership. No flashy big blowout scores for them in the last three games, with win margins of just two points, four points and two points respectively. What won it out for them in the end was their young team’s confidence, defense and ability to bash the opponent forward for three weeks in a row. Good stuff.

Q. Queensland
Despite losing their very first, and hopefully last, three Origin series of home games, they have fared much better against COVID than the southern states so far, and their success has allowed the game to continue. Thank you Queensland. We may never see another season where the entire Origin series and every final match is played in Queensland.

R. Rabbitohs
So close and yet so far for South Sydney. After holding out Penrith 16-10 in the first week of the final and then destroying the resurgent Manly 36-16 in the preliminary final, Souths seemed to have the momentum to advance to the grand final. Unfortunately, the Penrith boys had other ideas and never let Souths get into the game. However, the final 14-12 deficit in favor of Penrith was a surprise as the Panthers dominated for most of the game. I wonder if a Wayne Bennett/Adam Reynolds Souths post can bounce back and do better next year?

Souths Celebrate Grand Finals Attempt

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

S. Storm
Like most years, the Melbourne Storm set the pace for most of the season, winning another minor premiership. They got through week one of the finals with a 40-12 contact training session against Manly, but then ran into something uneasy in the form of the Penrith Panthers in the preliminary final, losing 10-6 in a game full of mistakes after losing both Brandon had lost. Smith and Christian Welch early in the game. Harry Grant didn’t have the answer, and Cameron Munster’s figure can be described as dusty at best. Would they have lost this game if Cameron Smith was still playing? I doubt it.

T. ‘Turbo’
This has been the year when Tom Trbojevic announced to the world that he is a unique talent, destroying Queensland in Origin, then almost single-handedly dragging the Manly team from the bottom of the ladder and them all the way to provisional last. Some of his stats in just 18 games are just off the scale:
• 28 attempts
• 28 assists on attempts
• 33 line breaks
• Average 209 running meters

He can’t play that well next year, can he? Of course?

Tom Trbojevic is tackled.

(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

U. Ugly Incidents
Like any other season, 2021 had its share of ugly incidents on the pitch, and the three at the top of my list were:
• Round 9 – Parramatta Roosters’ Dylan Brown knees pulled Hutchison in the back as he slipped over the try line, resulting in Hutchison being taken to hospital with broken ribs and a punctured lung. The incident was somehow reported alone, with Brown subsequently receiving a three-game suspension while Hutchison spent the next six weeks on the sidelines.
• Round 10 – Tyrell Fuimaono, the center of St. George, hits Ryan Papenhuyzen in Melbourne high and late, leaving the Storm star out for eight weeks and leaving him very shocked. Fuimaono is sent off and then suspended for five games.
• Round 24 – Souths Latrell Mitchell breaks Joey Manu’s face in the middle of Roosters, ends his season, leaving Manu with three metal plates in his head. Mitchell is eventually thrown into sin and then given a six-week suspension, effectively ending both his season and Souths’ chances of winning the premiership.

V. Paul Vaughan
As long as the game of rugby league is played, there will never be another player whose $800,000 contract to host a barbecue is torn apart. Hall of Fame material there.

Paul Vaughan of the Dragons plays against the crowd

(Photo by Speed ​​Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

W. Wooden spoon
The Bulldogs seemingly had their eye on this unwanted trophy as they were narrowly plucked by the Broncos last year, and despite some valiant attempts by some equally disappointing teams to race them to the bottom, the Dogs eventually grabbed the spoon at a gallop, or no matter what dogs do, win just three games for the second year in a row and end up with a minus 370 points difference. Let’s hope for better days for the Bulldogs and their supporters next year.

X. Xavier Coates
Another talented junior has escaped Brisbane but don’t panic Broncos fans, 33-year-old David Mead has one year left on his contract. Good enough to play five Origin games for Queensland at the age of 20, watch out for Coates going to the next level in Melbourne where he actually gets some coaching on both defense and how to win the dogfight for the ball.

Y. Yawn
The constantly nagging fans who spend countless hours telling the world that the umpires, the Bunker, Peter V’landys and almost every rule change are solely responsible for their side’s shortcomings. Let it rest.

Z. Zzzzz
The sound you make shortly after listening to the booming tones of Michael Ennis on Fox, or the unintelligible Sonny Bill Williams on Channel Nine. And yet they are both still preferred over Gus Gould.

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