Some fans, players and pundits would say that 2016 was a disappointing year in terms of quality. I say what a load of rubbish! 2016 was full of shocks and surprises and high quality rugby league and the positives certainly outweigh the negatives. So let’s have a reminisce about the top 10 moments of 2016.
1- Parramatta Winning the Auckland 9’s
The first competitive competition of 2016, the Auckland Nines. After the numerous set backs and downfalls Parra endured during 2016, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that they actually won the 9’s last February. Despite featuring big name players such as Semi Radradra, and Corey Norman (who was the tournament’s MVP), the Eels weren’t fancied to be victors. However outstanding displays from Norman and the free-scoring winger/full-back Bevan French, enable Parramatta to shocked all and run out as 9’s champions, their first major trophy since 2005.
2- Million Pound Game
For neutrals, this was by far the game of the season, for Salford fans possibly the best in their history (certainly since being known as the Red Devils) and for Hull KR fans possibly the worst. The game had sweat, blood and tears and was exhilarating to watch. Salford were down by 8 points with 100 seconds left on the clock, unbelievably they scored twice in 100 seconds and drew level. This lead to Golden point and what could only be described as the best drop-goal in rugby league history by Gareth O’Brien. The MPG has been criticized by experts, but i think it is a good, fair measure to see who should/shouldn’t be a Super League team. Without Promotion and Relegation, Championship clubs have nothing to play for and therefore I am glad the RFL are sticking with it!
3- Denny Solomona’s Try-Scoring Heroics
Although we now of course know this story has a sour twist, no one can deny Solomona’s ability to score a try (or 2, or even more) is almost unparalleled and lit Super League up in 2016. Scoring 42 times in a single season is remarkable and I can’t see that record being beat any time soon.
4- World Cup 2025
When the RLIF announced that North America would host the 2025 World Cup, it showed clear intent to spread the game internationally. We must do this to even stand a chance competing with Union globally. This announcement is a victory for world Rugby League and the only question mark in my mind is, Why not give them it sooner? With the Wolfpack expected to be a top-end Championship side, if not a Super League side by 2021, why not give them the 2021 World Cup? This would allow for accelerated growth surely.
5- Up, Up Cronulla!
2016 was a year for underdogs in lots of sports, Leicester winning the Premier League and Danny Willett’s Masters Masterclass amongst others. However one of the biggest underdogs tales of 2016 was undoubtedly Cronulla Sharks’ first ever NRL victory! It was 50 years in the making but the 2014 Wooden Spoon team manged to break their Premiership duck by beating the Minor Premiers Melbourne Storm 14-12.