Justis Kamu looks at the standout issues in the NRL from the past week.
1. Warriors playing to avoid wooden spoon
A raft of reasons can be made for the New Zealand Warriors drop in form - a lack of experienced players, deficient leadership, fundamental errors, or the supposed lack of mental toughness among Polynesian players.
The latter belief can rear its ugly head when the Warriors look incompetent and self-destruct in games, particularly in the fashion of the past frustrating five weeks.
Polynesian players are praised as great athletes when the Warriors win but are deemed mentally weak / poor leaders when they fail.
Frankly, its utter garbage and the bigots who come up with these prejudice opinions need to get out of the game.
In the end, the 2012 Warriors simply are not good enough to make the playoffs.
Regardless of race, colour, creed, they bombed out when their season was on the line.
An influx of 'hard-nosed' Australians would not have saved a side that has let in more than 500 points after 23 rounds of matches.
The development system at the club is the envy of the NRL bar none.
The Toyota Cup kids coming through the Warriors setup are just as mentally tough if not more so than the best of the Australian youth.
Hence the reason they have won two titles and most likely a third this year.
The integration of these NRL babies into the top side has been the main problem.
Too many players making debuts in one season, players out of natural positions, and a failure to implement a rotational system for the newcomers over the 26 week grind.
The Warriors are out of playoffs contention but their 2012 isn't finished just yet.
With three rounds to go the Warriors have more than their pride on the line.
They are now playing to avoid the dreaded the wooden spoon bestowed upon the side that finishes the season at the foot of the competition ladder.
Being labelled as the holders of that utensil isn't a title that this side or anyone involved with the club want to be associated with.
2. Benji coming back to form when it counts
Kiwis captain Benji Marshall is coming back to his best form.
For a while there the Tigers were playing below par and they looked out of the playoffs running.
Benji's swagger had disappeared, rumours of an apparent rift with Robbie Farah plus a paper thin defence had seen Wests fall to 11th place six weeks ago.
Marshall and co flicked the switch in the past fortnight and has built steady momentum heading into the final three rounds after two successive victories.
Their 51-26 victory over the Eels was followed by a 22-12 gritty win over the Dragons on the weekend at a wet Allianz Stadium.
Marshall was at the heart of both crucial wins with three try assists, 75% goal kicking accuracy in both games and is keeping his error rate down.
His combined with Farah will dictate where the club end up at the end of the regular season.
The Tigers hold eighth position with a two point buffer on the chasing pair of Newcastle and Canberra.
This weekend they come face to face with competition frontrunners the Bulldogs on Friday.
The clash has the added spice of two of the premier entertainers of the competition going head to head with the mercurial Marshall opposing the electric Ben Barba.
3. Hindmarsh still up to speed despite winding down
Parramatta Eels captain Nathan Hindmarsh will go out a champion regardless of his side's final standings at the years end.
If they take the wooden spoon after 26 rounds, Hindmarsh's reputation will still be intact.
The retiring 33 year old is a hero in the city and will end his career with 330 games under his belt at the season's end.
The old warhorse will call it a day after the Eels' final game in round 26 against the St George Illawarra Dragons at Parramatta Stadium.
But before he gets there 'Hindy' is leaving the Parramatta public with souvenirs of his ability after a vintage performance on the weekend against the Sydney Roosters.
Not that the Parra faithful need the reminder seeing him rise through the ranks as a 16 year old junior to Country, NSW and the Australian representative honours.
Named man of the match in the Eels' 36-22 victory over the Sydney Roosters, the shaggy haired old-timer made 111 running metres, 41 tackles, three tackle breaks and one line break over 80 minutes.
He threw a beautiful cut-out pass for Ryan Morgan to dot down in the 51st minute to put the cherry on top a typically tough but classy display.
The Eels face the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday afternoon at Skilled Park.
Keep a close watch on number 11 in the blue and yellow to put a typical effort founded on attitude and commitment.
4. Development the name of the game at the Broncos
Playing youthful sides in the NRL appears to be the trend for the Brisbane Broncos and the NZ Warriors.
Both teams are facing the pressure in their respective cities with the Broncos on a four match losing streak and on the fringe of exiting the top eight.
The blame, much like the Warriors, has been put on the inexperience of the young Broncos with Corey Norman and Ben Hunt failing to fill the loss of Darren Lockyer.
Any youngster in the NRL would be uneasy having to replace Lockyer, however much like Shaun Johnson, Hunt and Norman were hyped up to be more than adequate replacements after starring in the Toyota Cup.
Their season is starting to disintegrate with the 'Broncs' operating seventh spot on the ladder after being as high as second in the middle of the year.
The word coming out of Broncos HQ is that they're going to stick with developing their players rather than look elsewhere to fill the gap.
With the Storm, Sea Eagles and Panthers to play in the final three rounds, the Broncos could be the latest 'development' club whose season could be crashing out of control.
5. Your comments
If Tuimavave is the five eighth in waiting for next year, where do you see the club putting Thomas Leuluai?
- J Maloney is a huge loss to the Warriors. Although it wasn't mentioned in last week, but he should've been re-signed. Not convinced that T Leuluai's arrival will make up for Maloney's loss. Leuluai is not the quickest halfback running around and needs to improve his kicking game. C Tuimavave and S Johnson are the future of the club. D Cherry Evans and K Foran are the example of what the pairing can become - they're both young and confident kids with superb skills.
I would like to know what you base that on? The lack of speed that he has shown this year, his ordinary defence and tendency to rush in still and then get beaten on the outside. Still. His ongoing injury issues. Or that out of all the tries he has scored this year very few have been because of his size, strength and power.
Don't get me wrong I am not a Manu hater, he has been a fantastic servant for the Warriors I do believe that he needs to come in to the middle though, much like Reuben Wiki had to because he cant foot it with the wingers opposing him like he used to.
Still be interesting to see where your faith in him comes from.
- M Vatuvei is the Warriors' best winger, period. He isn't a quitter. He's been called every name under the sun for all his faults. Yet he still manages to overcome the worst of times to show his quality. He's a special player - playing 150 games in the NRL is no fluke, when the average NRL career is 43 games (three to four years). Next time you watch a Warriors game, look at the man inside Vatuvei. Chances are it will be S Johnson (who has been deliberately been moved to that side because he's not a strong defender). On numerous occasions this season Vatuvei has to cover Johnson's backside because he's stuck in no man's land or the centre hasn't numbered up properly against the opposition. Defence on the Warriors left side isn't down to one man.
I was a big fan of Elijah Taylor last year, but over the last 4-5 weeks he is often caught out of the line rushing up like a madman, and leaving a huge hole.
Maloney leaving the club is going to strengthen our defence - he has the highest number of missed tackles in the 1st half of the season.
We need to work on Locke.he does not have the same form or confidence of a pre-injury Locke. They need to get Ridge down to coach him.teach him defence and how to run the defencive line. Barking at them like a crazed dog. Not complaining about his defence, but Ridge was the master when it came to managing the line.
- Agreed, E Taylor has looked the same this year. He started off brilliantly covering M Luck but his form has tapered off recently. Leading the team in tackles he has made racking up 775 tackles so far this season, a huge effort by the 22 year old. However this increase of tackling production has affected his all-round performances.
Locke will be back to form in 2013, his up and down season has largely been affected by injury. Plus he is only 23, Locke is still a relative newcomer to the NRL and his best is yet to come.
6. Team of the week - round 23
1. Fullback - Ben Barba (Bulldogs)
2. Wing - Sam Perrett (Bulldogs)
3. Centre - Jamie Lyon (Sea Eagles)
4. Centre - Brent Tate (Cowboys)
5. Wing - Kevin Naiqama (Knights)
6. Five-eighth - Jarrod Mullen (Knights)
7. Halfback - Michael Morgan (Cowboys)
8. Prop - Keith Galloway (Tigers)
9. Hooker - Cameron Smith (Storm)
10. Prop - Fuifui Moimoi (Eels)
11. Secondrow - Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels)
12. Secondrow - Ryan Hoffman (Storm)
13. Lock - Dallas Johnson (Cowboys)
Coach: Brad Arthur (Eels)