Hodgson plans top 8 raid against boss Bennett
WE still haven't made it through State of Origin and yet the NRL top eight could be locked in this weekend.
And the wildcard heading into round 16 is the flighty little Englishman holding the reins for the Canberra Raiders leading into their clash against the Brisbane Broncos.
Josh Hodgson made a spectacular return from the knee injury he suffered at last year's World Cup in the recent 48-12 flogging of Wests Tigers.
And this weekend he goes up against his England coach Wayne Bennett in a crucial clash for both clubs.
With the Broncos in eighth spot on 18 competition points and equal with Cronulla, the ninth-placed Raiders and 10th-placed Tigers, both on 14 points, are now the only two teams outside the eight who still have a genuine hope of making the cut.
While the Tigers have reinforcements in Robbie Farah and Moses Mbye ready to play against Gold Coast on Sunday at Leichhardt, most view the Raiders as the real dark horse in this race to September.
But if they don't beat the Broncos on Saturday night, they will be six points adrift of the eight and needing at the very least to win seven of their remaining nine matches.
While there is no such thing as an easy game in this competition, Canberra's run home is particularly hard.
After Brisbane, they face the Bulldogs followed by the Cowboys, and then it's uphill with the Sharks, Storm, Panthers, Tigers, Roosters, Rabbitohs and Warriors.
Put simply, six of those teams are ahead of them on the ladder and you wouldn't want to be walking into that run knowing you can only drop two games to make it to the usual cut-off of 28 competition points.
The Tigers' run home consists of the Titans followed by bye and then the Dragons, Rabbitohs, Bulldogs, Knights, Raiders, Dragons, Sea Eagles and Rabbitohs.
HAYNE PLANE TROUBLE
Jarryd Hayne might think he is fooling some people, but his performance for Fiji last weekend would have to scream alarm bells at Parramatta.
Mick Ennis said on Fox League this week: "I'm starting to wonder if Jarryd Hayne really wants to play anymore. His body language at times gives me a sense to think that he doesn't have that love for it anymore."
The most worrying thing in what Ennis said is it is exactly what Preston Campbell said late last year, even before the Eels decided to sign Hayne on a $500,000 contract.
I've given up on Hayne ever recapturing the form that led him to two Dally M Medals.
And I will be stunned if Hayne, at 30 years of age, gets another contract at any NRL club next year.
Yes, Hayne has already accomplished a hell of a lot more than most players will achieve.
But you still wonder if we ever saw what Hayne was really capable of, had he had the mindset of a champion.
USA TEST CASE
What a wonderful weekend it was for the celebration of representative football.
From the women's State of Origin to the Pacific Tests, the Denver Test and State of Origin, everyone involved should be applauded.
The only hope now is that the issues involving the Kiwi players returning from Denver don't become the catalyst for blocking this Test next year, given there is already a commitment to stage the 2025 World Cup in the United States.
It's worth pointing out the NRL is planning to play a round one match in the US in 2019 and I just wonder if concerns about possible flight delays will stop that going ahead.
Surely, you can't have rules for the NRL and different rules for England and New Zealand. Now wouldn't that shock you?