The 38-16 defeat was the club’s 10th loss at home – equalling the record for the Knights’ worst season at McDonald Jones Stadium in club history.
Respected head of performance Hayden Knowles has already parted company with the Knights recently for daring to question the club’s culture, which is clearly on tilt.
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Coach Adam O’Brien has lost much of the playing group and despite having a near State of Origin pack, the Knights have failed to fire up front.
Club supremo Phil Gardner has stated O’Brien’s job is safe for 2023 – but that may change once he interviews staff and players.
The Knights traditionally fire up on the annual Old Boys Day – but were sadly out-gunned by the talented Cronulla outfit as fans sat through much of the game in silence.
Raiders ready to do some damage in the finals
Canberra have snuck into the finals in eighth spot – but with 11 wins from their last 15 games have built up plenty of momentum and can’t be taken lightly.
The demolition of the hapless Tigers at Leichhardt yesterday showed just how much heavy artillery the Raiders have and they enter the finals with a confident, nothing to lose attitude.
Fiery forward Hudson Young, who bagged two tries against the Tigers, is one of the big improvers this season.
Young has now scored 13 tries in 2023 – the most by a Raiders forward since big Ben Kennedy way back in 1997.
Calamitous finish for Brisbane
Never before in the NRL era has a team been in the top four after 19 rounds and missed out on the finals.
And after a fine first half of the season, it’s hard to feel sorry for the Broncos, whose playoff hopes disappeared with barely a whimper in recent weeks.
With so much on the line, the Broncos meekly surrendered to a Dragons team that had nothing to play for.
The post mortems have already started in Brisbane – and they won’t be pretty.
North Queensland’s unsung hero
Scott Drinkwater isn’t one of the glamour fullbacks in the NRL, but he comes into the final series in red-hot form for the Cowboys.
The consistent Drinkwater had another fine game in the Cowboys’ 38-8 win over the baby Panthers on Saturday night, scoring a try and having a hand in several others.
Recently signed to a new long-term deal with the Cowboys, Drinkwater is the perfect number one for the team’s attacking style of football.
He’s scored 11 tries this season, creating 15 more and rival defences will need to keep a close eye on him in the final series.
Feagai’s message for Griffin
After playing all season on the wing, Mathew Feagai was given a chance in his preferred position of centre for the final two games of the year by Dragons coach Anthony Griffin.
And Feagai responded with a five-star performance in the Dragons’ 22-12 win that ended the Broncos slim finals hopes on Saturday.
Feagai was in everything, scoring two tries, including one of the best solo efforts of the season, ran for over 150 metres and defended well.
It was a clear message from player to coach – give me a crack closer to the play next year – and Feagai certainly deserves first go at a centre spot in 2023 on that performance.
Fermor re-writes history books
The Titans have had little to celebrate in 2022, but did set a club record in their remarkable 27-26 last gasp win over the Warriors on Saturday night.
Beau Fermor – the team’s most consistent player all season – became the first Titan to score tries in five consecutive games.
A powerhouse edge runner, Fermor actually scored six tries in his last five games – a fine effort in a team struggling for wins.
Big and hard to stop, Fermor gives the Titans something to build on for next year after a poor season from the club in 2022.
Warriors crumble again
Could any team other than the Warriors lead a game 26-12 with five minutes to play and get beat?
Possibly the Tigers – but even they would hang on for the win… you would think.
The Warriors were the better team for 75 minutes at Mount Smart Stadium before crumbling to a late Titans surge.
The game emphasised what the 15 Aussie clubs all believe – the Warriors can be a threat at times but struggle to match it with the big boys for the full 80 minutes.
Crichton eyeing Aussie call-up
Roosters back-rower Angus Crichton is fast playing his way into a Kangaroos jumper.
The rampaging back-rower was the best player on the field in Friday night’s 26-16 win over Souths, scoring one try and setting up another.
The Roosters have now won eight games in a row and Crichton has been a key figure in their impressive late run.
He is playing as well as at anytime in his career and Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga is doubtless keeping a close eye on his form coming into the finals.
Lesson for Souths in Roosters defeat
Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou needs to find a way to better protect slightly-built halfback Lachlan Ilias in round two of the derby against arch rivals the Roosters next weekend.
The Roosters clearly targeted Ilias on the Rabbitohs’ right edge defence on Friday night and came up trumps.
Ilias struggled with his reads and the size of Roosters back-rowers Angus Chrichton and Egan Butcher.
The youngster missed four tackles – and three of them led to tries as the Roosters opened the new Allianz Stadium in slashing style with a 26-16 win.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson is certain to again attempt to isolate Ilias in defence in the opening weekend of the finals, leaving Demetriou with a dilemma and only a few days to fix it.
TPJ back to his best
Tevita Pangai Junior left a lasting impression on incoming Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo in the club’s final game of the 2022 season.
Pangai, often criticised for his talent but lack of involvement, came up with arguably his best performance of the year in the thrilling 21-20 win over Manly.
The big man ran for 161 metres, his second-best haul of the year, and produced a try assist with a wonderful pass in atrocious conditions.
Pangai has had a mixed season but was a key figure in the Bulldogs’ comeback after a horror start saw them trailing 16-0 in quick time.
A player with x-factor skills, Pangai could thrive under a new coach and playing in a stronger pack in 2023.
Manly’s shambolic end
I moved house to the northern beaches four years ago and was immediately impressed with the pride the locals had in their beloved Manly team.
But over the last couple of months, the Sea Eagles faithful have become embarrassed by their team’s efforts.
Ever since the infamous rainbow jersey debacle, the Sea Eagles have been a club divided and some players have clearly not been putting in on the field.
The club that looked finals bound finished the year with seven straight losses – many in woeful fashion.
Against the lowly Bulldogs last weekend, they led 16-0 early only to lose 20-21 and many players marched off the field well and truly ready to start their off season break.
Huge future for Penisini
A couple of years ago, Will Penisini was playing GPS rugby union for the Kings School.
Fast forward to 2022 and Penisini is shaping as one of Parramatta’s attacking aces in the NRL final series.
The 20-year-old was dynamic in the 22-14 win over the Storm on Thursday night, scoring a determined try and making several other strong bursts.
For a youngster, he reads the play well in defence and has the confidence of the players around him.
The kid has a huge future and will only get better as he gains experience outside playmakers Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown.
Crunch call for Storm
Melbourne can forget about winning the comp unless they can get Jahrome Hughes back on the field in next weekend’s finals.
Hughes was a late withdrawal from the team that was outclassed by the Eels on Thursday night.
And the result didn’t surprise me given the absence of Hughes – the man at the heart and soul of the Storm’s attack.
Melbourne looked like a lost legion with the ball at CommBank Stadium and need Hughes back desperately to call the shots.
The Storm have missed a top four spot for the first time since 2014 but have the strike power to win the premiership… if Hughes is out there as conductor.
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