Impending major milestones in 2017
With every year of the Telstra Premiership old records fall and new markers are set and in 2017 there are a host of individual and club milestones that will be celebrated by the 16 NRL clubs.
Here are the achievements likely to cause the most fanfare.
Cameron Smith to become the greatest
There is only one thing left in the game for Cameron Smith to complete one of the greatest careers in rugby league history and that it is to become the record holder for most number of first grade games played. The Logan Brothers junior has played a total of 335 NRL games heading into his 16th season with the Melbourne Storm and needs 21 more to pass another Queensland and Kangaroos legend, Darren Lockyer (355). If the durable No.9 plays every game for which he is available for the Storm in 2017 the milestone will be brought up in Round 25 at home at AAMI Park against the Rabbitohs.
300 Club gets major influx
Only 25 players in premiership history have reached the magic 300-game milestone yet in 2017 there could be as many as six new members of what is a very exclusive club. Former Parramatta, Penrith and Manly prop Geoff Gerard was the first player to reach 300 games in 1988 with Cooper Cronk the most recent addition in 2016. North Queensland superstar Johnathan Thurston should be the first to 300 with 292 career games to date and will be followed by Ryan Hoffman (286), Chris Heighington (285), Luke Lewis (284), Paul Gallen (279) and Billy Slater (278).
Thurston, Smith to join point-scoring elite
Only two players in the history of the premiership have scored 2,000 points for the one club and in 2017 close friends Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston should both achieve the rare feat. Thurston needs just five more points for 2,000 in his career and 45 for 2,000 for the Cowboys while Smith could hit the 2,000-point mark for the Melbourne as early as Round 1 against the Bulldogs, currently seven points shy of the milestone. Smith's 28th goal of the season will also see him pass Jason Taylor's mark of 942 for the most goals in premiership history.
Jarrod Croker to complete rare double
Bulldogs legends Terry Lamb and Hazem El Masri are the only players in premiership history to score 100 tries and 1,500 points in their careers and Canberra captain Jarrod Croker is poised to join them by achieving both milestones in 2017. In just eight seasons with the Raiders Croker has crossed for 98 tries (third in club history) and has amassed 1,424 points, leaving him with just 76 to get to reach 1,500. He has scored in excess of 200 points in four of his past five seasons and at an average of 9.8 points per game the past three seasons Croker could become the first Raider to 1,500 in Round 8 against Manly at GIO Stadium.
Try-scoring freaks ready to raise a ton
Only the elite finishers in our game rack up 100 tries over the course of their careers and in 2017 there is a trio of three-quarters on the verge of bringing up that major milestone. Josh Morris has already scored 105 tries in his career but can become just the third player to score 100 for the Bulldogs if he can cross the stripe 15 times this season. Dragons stalwart Jason Nightingale is just eight four-pointers from becoming the fourth player to score 100 tries for St George Illawarra while Steve Matai – if his body can get through a 13th season – will rack up 100 for Manly if he can score nine tries in 2017.
Adam Reynolds ready to join Rabbitohs greats
They have been around since 1908 but Adam Reynolds is on track to become just the third Rabbitohs player in the club's history to score 1,000 points for the red and green. Reynolds' point-scoring feats in his first three seasons all feature in South Sydney's top seven for points scored in a season and while 2016 represented the first time he had failed to register 100 points in a season, the 26-year-old halfback can reach 1,000 if he scores at least 147 points this year. The Blues half is currently 988 points behind Eric Simms for most points for the club.
Chris Lawrence to take Tigers try-scoring title
His move into the back-row may have somewhat quelled his try-scoring feats but Chris Lawrence is on course to surpass Benji Marshall as the Wests Tigers' leading try-scorer in 2017. Six games shy of his 200th game for the club, Lawrence has a total of 74 tries from 194 games to date and needs just three more four-pointers to claim Marshall's record for himself. If he plays at least eight games in 2017 Lawrence will also move past Marshall and Chris Heighington to be second behind Robbie Farah (247) for most games for the club.
Mannering, Johnson to claim Warriors records
Club legend Stacey Jones is poised to see two of his Warriors records fall by the wayside in 2017 with Simon Mannering and Shaun Johnson both within range. Mannering needs just four more appearances to overtake Jones (261) as the most-capped Warriors player in the club's history while Johnson needs just eight more points to move past Jones's record of 674 for most points scored for the club. Johnson twice scored 16 points in a game in 2016 but his best is 26 which he has achieved twice, both against the Raiders. He scored three tries and kicked seven goals in Round 23, 2013 and two tries and nine goals in Round 9, 2014. Jones took 261 games to score 676 points with Johnson (125) poised to break the record in less than half as many games.
Broncos to reach try-scoring milestone in Round 1
It has the potential to be the first try of the 2017 Telstra Premiership but either way, whoever scores the first try for the Brisbane Broncos this season will register the club's 3,000th try. The Broncos open the season against defending premiers Cronulla in Round 1 where Corey Oates is likely to start favourite to score the club's first of the season. With some of the greatest attacking players in the game's history having passed through the corridors at Red Hill, Brisbane can lay claim to a litany of brilliant try-scoring moments but it's 'The Pearl' who stands tall, scoring four tries in a match five times in a total of 142 tries across 11 seasons and boasting a season-best of 23 in 1994. The only other players to score more than 100 tries for the Broncos are Darren Lockyer (122), Michael Hancock (120), Wendell Sailor (110) and Allan Langer (100).
Panthers to celebrate 500 premiership wins
It took just two weeks in the then New South Wales Rugby League for the Penrith Panthers to record their first premiership win (16-10 over Newtown) and in 2017 the mountain men are almost certain to win their 500th. Given their finish to 2016 and the talented youngsters pushing through into the top grade the Panthers are seen as genuine premiership threats and need just three wins to reach the 500 mark. Of course, there are two wins in the 497 to date that Panther fans will remember most fondly; the 1991 Grand Final win over the Raiders and their 2003 Grand Final triumph over the fancied Roosters.
Roosters first club to kick 7,000 goals
No club in the history of the premiership in Australia has kicked 7,000 goals but the Sydney Roosters need just six more successful conversions before they can lay claim to being the first. Back-rower Sio Siua Taukeiaho kicked the most goals for the Roosters in 2016 with 27 but the arrival of Michael Gordon from the Eels gives coach Trent Robinson a genuine sharp-shooter at his disposal. Current assistant coach Craig Fitzgibbon is by far the most prolific goal-kicker in the club's history with 655 successful attempts followed by Allan McKean (422), James Maloney (320) and Ivan Cleary (303).
Nine players poised to pass 250
It is said that the average career span for an NRL player is just under 50 games but in 2017 there are nine players who could potentially pass 250 career games. Having racked up 247 games for the Wests Tigers Robbie Farah will be in an unfamiliar jersey when he plays his 250th game while Darius Boyd could very well be leading the Broncos out in Round 3 when he runs out for his 250th top grade appearance. Manly pair Brett Stewart (233) and Steve Matai (230) need a more fortuitous run with injury to join five others to have played 250 for the Sea Eagles while Maroons trio Greg Inglis (241), Matt Scott (231) and Jacob Lillyman (229) can also reach 250 during the course of the season. Only five Kiwi Test representatives have ever played more than 250 games in the premiership but Adam Blair (239) and Manu Vatuvei (235) could join Ruben Wiki, Stacey Jones, Simon Mannering, Nathan Cayless and Stephen Kearney in reaching the milestone in 2017.