A season that started controversially off the field finished the same way. At least this time it had something to do with the footy.
Putting the contentious refereeing calls to one side for a moment, one can't but be impressed with the manner in which the reigning premiers made it "back-to-back" last weekend. An exceptional squad and well coached, the Roosters were the standard-bearers for excellence in attack and defence all season and are again worthy champions.
The expected closeness of the contest didn't disappoint as the combatants slugged it out in front of 82,000 delirious fans. At 8-all with seven minutes to go, it was as if this titanic struggle was ordained to finish as the best game in years.
Then the ref changed his call, mid-play. "Hey, what's going on? You can't do that," came the incredulous calls from my lounge room. A howler.
Who knows what the Raiders may have achieved with the extra possession. But in response, Joey Leilua, perhaps still confused by the capricious call, failed to get to marker during the ensuing set and allowed Luke Keary to scoot, link up with his edge and the Roosters were away. On the cusp of greatness, a lack of concentration conspired to end Canberra's dream. The referee didn't help, to be sure.
It's all academic now, but did the ref get it right? There seem to be views either way. For this columnist, it's explained by coaches to captains and players from time immemorial: "The referee will never change a decision. Accept it and get on with it." A foundation principle to the betterment of any game. Indeed, the rugby league rules confirm in section 16 that the referee: "Shall not subsequently alter those judgements," other than for foul play. Is that bedrock of certainty now under threat?
Watching on, referee Ben Cummins simply didn't back his judgement, flawed or not, precipitating a lightning committee meeting and the mess we saw. Once upon a time, it was play on and be damned. It could be argued that the chirping and second guessing in his ear, at the frantic, critical moment, triggered the uncertainty, and therein lies the problem.
The professional refereeing scene these days reminds me of my father's advice before buying my first car: "Too many moving parts in the foreign jobs".
Similarly, has the complex environment in which NRL referees ply their trade reached a tipping point ? Too many rules, not enough discretion, loss of control, all accompanied by the kind of scrutiny and insecurity that would cause any referee to reconsider the career choice.
It's been building for years as the game, chasing appeal, ratings and perfection, lurches from one quick fix and rule change to another.
Almost as contentious was the bizarre early call after four minutes against the Raiders when Sia Soliola charged down a kick, which ricocheted into the Roosters trainer, handing the ball back to the Roosters. One wonders, with trainers camping out on the field these days, why a rule hasn't already been devised to address sponge-toting loiterers. With the effect they stay out of the way. The only way to achieve that is to penalise the side whose trainer interrupts play.
In the aftermath, the post-match hysteria was unjust and raised the question of who would want to be a ref?
Were the Raiders not afforded plenty of chances to compensate any "dodgy" call? In the second half they dominated possession. Cooper Cronk was off the field for 10 minutes, Mitch Aubusson was gone an hour earlier and the Green Machine were coming home with a wet sail. In fact, Leilua had the perfect tonic to press home their gathering advantage by passing to his winger with 15 minutes to go to take the lead. But he didn't, predictably, and their chance was wasted.
Indeed, soon after the two incidents in the spotlight, the Raiders conceded tries.
That the Roosters were able to take that advantage highlights their steel-edged mindset and ruthless tactical awareness. That's the mark of a great team who will start hot favourites to make it a hat-trick in 2020.
The curtain-raisers last week reminded fans of the ways in which the game unfolds.
The women's league was won in emphatic fashion for the second season by the girls from Brisbane. Under the pump all game courtesy of Brisbane's ability to hold the ball and play enterprising footy down the money end of the field, the Dragons were always playing catch-up. Manning product Hollie Wheeler and her teammates got a masterclass that has taken the new competition to new levels.
Earlier in the day, the Newtown Jets reprised their glory days upsetting the Burleigh Bears in the State Championship. Wearing the name Tom Raudonikis on both shoulders, they produced a last-play miracle, just as they did in their NSWRL grand final win the week before.
The other major league carnival to wind up last weekend was the annual Koori Knockout. This most prestigious of sporting gatherings for the aboriginal community of NSW attracts 140 teams across junior and senior divisions across the long weekend. Teams compete for family and community, promoting health and heritage. Players of the quality of Andrew Fifita, Josh Addo-Carr and Greg Inglis were involved.
There were no refereeing controversies, only a style of football based on skill and grit, rather than a focus on the play-the-ball. Everyone connected should take a bow. What a great way to finish off the season.
Phew, I could go on and on but it's time to call full-time. Another campaign down with not much to cheer about around these parts. Still, many great games played by many great players, some of whom will never again pull on the boots. That makes 2019 a year to remember.
Can't wait for March.