Eight sides took the field in week one of the finals of the Telstra 2017 NRL Premiership competition and when all was said and done, it might well go down as one of the most compelling finals weeks in the annals of the game.
Fourteen total points was all the separated the four losers from the four winners. The Melbourne Storm beat the Parramatta Eels by two points, the North Queensland Cowboys beat the Sharks by one point and the Sydney Roosters came out on top of the Brisbane Broncos by two points. Only the Penrith Panthers 12-point win over the Manly Sea Eagles was a veritable blowout by comparison.
Of course, close games are compelling for spectators, especially for the spectators whose side prevailed and close games are the type that keeps home viewers in their seats, where the adverts can be viewed by the most eyes, but close games come along with the inevitable facet of loud and long lamentations about the incompetence of the referees.
The 2016 premier Cronulla Sharks will not be defending their title any longer, as they fell by a singular point 15 – 14 to the North Queensland Cowboys. The Melbourne Storm, which ran away and hid at the top during the regular season, won over the Eels 18 – 16, but that game was close down to the final plays.
Again, with the Sydney Roosters and the Brisbane Broncos, the 24 – 22 victory by the Roosters was enough to leave supporters of both sides emotionally exhausted.
Moving ahead, unlike the AFL, where sides can lose a finals game and live to play on, it is win or go home in the NRL and neither are there any breaks once the finals begin. True, the Roosters and the Storm will have a break while their opponents are determined, but that is the total extent of it.
Parramatta will play the Cowboys in the semifinals, with the winner going on to face the Storm. Brisbane will play Penrith to see which plays the other semifinal against the Roosters.