We’re half way through the countdown of the 21 biggest moments that defined this year.
Over the last couple of days foxsports.com.au has been counting down some of the most memorable moments of the 2021 season.
We’ve revisited the likes of Wayne Bennett and Ivan Cleary’s finals feud, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s emotional send-off and the Ronaldo Mulitalo State of Origin eligibility debacle.
Tomorrow we’ll reveal the top five. But for now, let’s take a look at the moments ranked 11 to seven.
Catch every moment of The Ashes live and ad-break free during play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free now.
11. NRL’S CRACKDOWN ON HIGH SHOTS
“Jesus, we’ve got a game that’s quite unique, but it’s not a game for everyone — it’s a tough, brutal contact sport — and if we want to take that away, let us know (and) I’ll start recruiting different types of players” – Raiders coach Ricky Stuart on the crackdown on high shots.
If only we had a dollar for every time the word ‘crackdown’ was mentioned from Round 10 until around Round 20…
The NRL got in touch with every club ahead of Round 10’s Magic Round to warn them that referees will be coming down hard on contact with the head.
Four players were sin binned in the first game of the weekend and another four players were binned in the second game. Raiders star Josh Papalii was the first player to be sent off for a high shot under the crackdown.
By the end of the round there were 14 sin bins and three send offs and fans, ex-players and experts started to agitate.
The NRL must have heard the criticism loud and clear because by the end of July the crackdown seemed like just a memory. In Round 19, Thomas Flegler’s high tackle knocked Isaah Yeo out. Back in Round 10 it would have been a send off, but instead he was just sent to the bin.
In response to the criticism around the inconsistencies, the NRL’s head of football Graham Annesley admitted there had been small adjustments to that crackdown.
10. TERRIFIC TURBO WINS DALLY M
“If Tom’s body holds up I think he’ll be the best fullback that’s ever played rugby league” – Michael Ennis on Tom Trbojevic’s dominance in 2021.
The Manly Sea Eagles superstar had arguably the best individual season of the modern era and raked in a tonne of awards, despite missing the first five rounds due to a hamstring injury.
Trbojevic had a bit of a controversial — and a little funny — start to the year when he told the media he injured his hamstring while slipping in the shower only for a video to emerge of him racing a guy called Harry through Manly Corso on a Saturday night.
Whether it was a shower accident of the Corso race it doesn’t really matter because the gun No.1 returned in sensational fashion, scoring a try and setting up two more in his first game back.
Trbojevic went on to have an incredibly dominant year — remember when he beat NINE defenders to score? His form had many experts dubbing Turbo’s 2021 the best individual season in NRL history.
The 25-year-old claimed the Dally M Medal, the Wally Lewis Medal and the Brad Fittler Medal. He was also named the RLPA’s Player’s Champion and cleaned up at Manly’s presentation night with Best and Fairest and Members’ Player of the Year among other awards.
9. JOHN MORRIS SACKED
“It is quite devastating to be honest. It is quite surreal, I didn’t think I would be in this position” – John Morris in an interview to Channel 9 after he was axed by the Sharks.
Who would want to be an NRL coach?
John Morris guided the Sharks to the finals in his two seasons at the helm despite operating $350,000 under the salary cap in both seasons due to penalties handed down by the NRL for previous infringements.
But the Sharks decided he wasn’t the man that could take them to a premiership and made the call to not renew Morris’ contract beyond 2021 and instead sign Roosters assistant Craig Fitzgibbon.
The club then ended up just terminating Morris immediately and Josh Hannay stepped up as interim coach.
Morris revealed in an interview that he had spoken to Sharks powerbrokers 24 hours before he was sacked and he was told he was still in the running.
Amid the criticism from fans and even some players Sharks CEO Dino Mezzatesta said the club had to “accelerate the process” and stressed that sometimes the tough calls have to be made “because you know what’s right for the long-term viability of the club.”
MORE NRL NEWS
TRANSFER CENTRE: Ex-Origin star’s brother one of THREE new Dolphins signings
“When it first came out, I was 50-50 but now that I’ve experienced that sort of carnage (I’ve changed my mind)” – Ex-Sharks coach John Morris on following NSW Cup’s lead in introducing an 18th man system after he lost four players before half time.
The NRL brought in an 18th man concussion sub rule from Round 5 last season in a huge step forward for player welfare.
The move came after a strife of concussions in Round 3, including the Sharks-Eels game where Cronulla had no players left on the bench in the second half.
Wade Graham, Briton Nikora and Will Kennedy all failed their HIA’s, while Sione Katoa suffered a knee injury before half time.
Morris and his coaching staff decided to leave the coach’s box and sit on the bare bench in the second half as his team bravely pushed on.
He then called on the NRL to follow the lead of New South Wales Cup, which implemented the 18th man system last year.
The NRL sprung into action and two weeks later it was brought into the game. It was stipulated that a team can activate their 18th man when three players fail their HIA, or when a player suffers a match-ending injury caused by foul play where the opposing player is sin-binned or sent off.
7. ADAM REYNOLDS SIGNS WITH BRONCOS
“South Sydney will be sorry to lose him and we all are, but that’s the way it worked out” – Ex-Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett on Adam Reynolds signing with the Broncos.
It was the player transfer we never saw coming. Adam Reynolds, a Rabbitohs local junior and the club’s captain, inked a three-year deal with the Broncos after he and South Sydney couldn’t agree to terms on an extension.
The 31-year-old’s contract situation was widely reported. He was hoping for a three-year extension, but the Rabbitohs were only willing to offer him one year.
It became pretty clear before last season even started that Reynolds wasn’t going to be a Rabbitoh beyond 2021. All that was left to do was for the star halfback to lock in his next move.
He came close to signing with the Sharks but knocked back their offer to sign with 2020’s wooden spooners, the Broncos because he deemed it a “fresh start” for him and his family, while he was also drawn to the challenge of getting the Broncos back to being a powerhouse club.
Reynolds signed the deal in May and went on to play an integral part of the Rabbitohs’ 2021 season. The sharpshooter also broke South Sydney’s all-time pointscoring record set by Eric Simms.
Get all the latest NRL news, highlights and analysis delivered straight to your inbox with Fox Sports Sportmail. Sign up now!!
6. BRETT MORRIS’ CAREER-ENDING INJURY
“You’ve got a guy that’s a legend of our game, one of the best wingers we’ve seen and he’s possibly just finished his career… It’s just flattening, extremely flattening” – Roosters coach Trent Robinson in his post-match press conference.
Injuries are a part of the game. We’ve seen players sidelined for an entire season because of them and we’ve seen careers ended because them. But it’s hard to remember a more emotional scene than when Brett Morris tore his ACL.
The veteran winger turned back the clock and was in, what some would say, career-best form until he suffered the injury late in the Roosters’ Round 8 clash with the Knights.
He stayed down and was screaming out in pain before trainers — and his twin brother, Josh — comforted him.
Morris was assisted off the field in a pretty clear sign this injury was bad.
After the game, cameras inside the Roosters’ sheds caught an emotional Brett being consoled by Josh. It was all fans needed to see to know this was the end for Brett.
Injuries caused a lot of head aches for the Roosters. Boyd