This article was first written for and published by NRL.com.
On Sunday night another remarkable NRL Telstra Premiership season ended with the Melbourne Storm defeating the North Queensland Cowboys 34-6 to be crowned 2017 Premiers.
It was one of the oddest grand finals I have ever had to tip. The only outcome I could not see happening was the Cowboys winning by plenty.
The Cowboys were the fairytale, but there did seem to be a sense of injustice if the Storm did not prevail – after all, they had been the best team all year.
And prevail they did.
While the Melbourne Storm might have been the focus of the evening, NRL Grand Final week always gives me the opportunity to reflect on the season that was.
When I look back on season 2017, there are several moments that stand out in my mind.
Parramatta Eels make the finals
At the start of the season, success for Parramatta looked like making the top eight. Not only did Parramatta make the top eight, but they managed to creep into the top four despite losing one of their best players in Clint Gutherson to injury. This was the first time since 2009 that the Eels had made the finals and the first time since 2005 that they had finished top four. Despite exiting the finals in straight sets, I’m confident that the Eels are on the right track for 2018 and will feature come September once again.
Newcastle Knights win three in a row
When Newcastle snapped Parramatta’s six-game winning streak in August, it was the first time since the start of the 2015 season that the Knights had won three consecutive games. It was also the first time since 2015 that the Knights had won a game away from home.
It’s always great for the players to get a win, but I enjoyed this streak so much because there are very few places in Australia that embrace their rugby league team quite like the people in Newcastle do. It has been slim pickings in recent years for Knights fans so it was good to see them smiling.
I have a funny feeling though that the future also looks bright for this team with the addition of players like Aidan Guerra, Connor Watson and Kalyn Ponga.
Round 18: Canterbury Bulldogs v Newcastle Knights
Who could forget this game when the Bulldogs managed to score two tries in the final five minutes of the game to give Josh Reynolds the send-off he deserved from Belmore Sports Ground.
When the game was over, Fox League’s Yvonne Sampson was trying to interview Josh when scenes erupted. The microphone flew and so did the speakers as Bulldogs faithful stormed the ground to lift Reynolds up onto their shoulders and carry him off.
This speaks volumes about the sort of player Josh is and how much he meant to the Bulldogs faithful. For a man going to another club to be farewelled almost as if he had played 300 games for the club or as if he was being farewelled after winning a grand final was quite extraordinary and a moment I will never forget.
Success in the Interstate Challenge
It may have been a period of dominance for the Queensland Maroons in the men’s State of Origin, but when it comes to dominance in the Women’s Interstate Challenge, I feel like the NSW Blues’ run has only just begun.
Jessica Sergis scored three tries on debut to help lead the Blues to a 22-6 maiden home win and back-to-back victories in the Interstate Challenge for the first time in history.
It has been a pleasure to watch women’s rugby league go from strength to strength this year. Earlier this year Harvey Norman announced a joint partnership with each of the New South Wales Rugby League and Queensland Rugby League which means that from age six to opens, women now have an unbroken pathway to play rugby league for the first time ever.
And it’s not over yet.
I’m expecting Brad Donald to name his Australian Jillaroos squad for the Rugby League World Cup later this week.
League Life steals the show at the Dally Ms
Speaking of women in league, how about a round of applause for Yvonne Sampson, Hannah Hollis, Jessica Yates and Lara Pitt who have taken women in media to a whole new level with their show League Life on Fox League. I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing these women debate the most important issues in rugby league and watching them uncover the stories behind some of the most important people in our game.
They handled hosting the Dally M Awards last week with elegance, grace and aplomb.
We are lucky to have these women involved in our game and I look forward to continuing to watch them go from strength to strength.
Macklemore and the NRL stand up for inclusiveness and diversity
It was rather fitting that my favourite moment of the 2017 season came at its grand finale.
Watching the NRL and Macklemore join together to tell the world that the game of rugby league is an inclusive one and that the rugby league family is one which welcomes everyone was just amazing.
To see Macklemore perform Same Love at the NRL Grand Final was a moment I will never, ever forget. It almost felt like a coming of age for our game and I have never been prouder to be part of rugby league.
That’s a wrap for Telstra Premiership season 2017. I look forward to seeing you all for season 2018, if not before at the Rugby League World Cup.
And to all those people that support a team other than the Melbourne Storm, I end this article the same way I have ended every season so far as a Parramatta supporter – there’s always next year.