An action-packed weekend of rugby league
As the last-second penalty from Wigan full-back Pat Richards drifted short to hand Leeds victory in their Super League qualifying play-off battle two weeks ago, my phone started vibrating.
"Dirty Leeds! We'll have a re-match at Headingley in a fortnight - must be due a play-off win there," read the text message from an irate Wigan-supporting mate.
That was actually one of the more considered reactions I read in the wake of one of the most controversial and dramatic play-off contests in Super League history.
Leeds Rhinos half-back Danny McGuire has been the subject of much discussion
The prediction has since come true, with Wigan winning their match against Hull KR to set up another crack at the champions for the right to contest the 2010 Grand Final. The 'dirty Leeds' jibe was a dig at Rhinos half-back Danny McGuire, whose late foul on George Carmont denied Wigan a late try-scoring opportunity, offering up instead the chance spurned by Richards to win it with his boot.
The McGuire row is one that has escalated to such an extent that there really will be no love lost when the teams meet again in Saturday's do-or-die eliminator at the Headingley Carnegie.
Wigan fans felt they had been badly wronged by Maguire's professional foul. He made a split-second decision to take out the supporting Carmont. Tragically for Maguire, the challenge resulted in a serious knee ligament injury that has ruled him out of the play-offs, England's Four Nations campaign and the start of next season.
And it is McGuire's predicament that has prompted the sparks to fly between rival sets of fans and even the clubs.
Did the stand-off get what he deserved? Do the ruptured knee ligaments serve him right for choosing to cheat to win his team the match? Many angry Wigan fans suggested as much in an animated discussion on my Twitter page in the immediate and very raw aftermath of the game, with the lion's share of those supporters retracting their comments once the dust had settled and once the severity of McGuire's injury hit home.
As such, I was a little surprised to read comments made by television pundit Phil Clarke, a terrific reader of the game and a respected figure within the sport. Clarke suggested in his own blog that the McGuire injury may act as a lesson that it doesn't pay to cheat, adding that the player was perhaps being punished by the rugby gods for his lack of sportsmanship.
Clarke's own career was cut short by the most serious of injuries - a broken neck - and the former Wigan forward's stance on Maguire's injury has incensed the Rhinos. I personally have a huge amount of respect for Clarke and was thus surprised that a man whose judgment was so good as a player, and is often spot on as a pundit, seemed to be lacking on this occasion.
"There have been some distasteful comments made about Danny McGuire," said Leeds coach Brian McClennan this week. "They will motivate us, that's for sure."
And addressing Clarke's opinions in particular, McClennan added: "It's difficult for him because he is Wigan through and through but he needs to be more mindful when describing the Danny McGuire incident. Danny had just come out of his operation when his family read all Clarke's comments."
Whatever your own view, the row has certainly added spice to what promises to be a terrific Super League play-off, with Wigan, the runaway league leaders, and Leeds, the reigning champions. I will be joining Stuart Pyke and Iestyn Harris in the commentary box and you will be able to listen to every single hit live on BBC Radio 5 live Sports Extra.
The bookies have St Helens as favourites to go all the way given their home fixture with Huddersfield in the other play-off game. I would not write off the Giants after their brilliant win at Warrington and still see Nathan Brown's Giants as Grand Final dark horses. With seven successive wins, they are the form team of the final four.
Saints opted to play Huddersfield following the second ever 'Club Call', another trailblazing concept introduced by the Rugby Football League. The highest-ranked side to win in round one get to choose their opponents in week three. Both Leeds last year (Catalans) and Saints this (Giants) simply selected the lowest-ranked side left in.
Wigan full-back Pat Richards gets my vote for Man of Steel
While I often find myself patting the RFL on the back for their ground-breaking initiatives to drive forward the game I love, I just cannot see the point in this. Saints legend Keiron Cunningham calls it a "daft" system - and I agree. It is an unnecessary addition to an already complicated play-off system and one that few players and coaches I have spoken to within the game actually like.
Where is the advantage for St Helens this weekend? The normal play-off ranking draw would no doubt have pitted them against Huddersfield anyway as lowest-ranked qualifiers. Now they will be facing a more fired-up Giants side deemed to be the easier opposition by the very fact that Saints chose them.
This weekend's Super League play-offs are just part of an action-packed weekend for the rugby league journalist, with the Halliwell Jones hosting a Cooperative Grand Final triple-header on Sunday.
I will be putting the start of my 11-a-side football season on hold for second week running to watch Warrington Wizards v Huddersfield Underbank in the Conference Grand Final followed by the Championship 1 Grand Final between Oldham and York. Featherstone and Halifax then clash in the climax to the Championship.
It is the type of weekend where I both appreciate what proper rugby league is all about and realise why I have been unable to hold down a girlfriend for several years.
Monday night sees the penguin suit dusted down for the Man of Steel dinner in Manchester. Richards, Wigan team-mate Sam Tomkins and Warrington veteran Adrian Morley are up for rugby league's most coveted individual honour.
The romantic in me would love Morley to get it. He is a man who rarely hits the wall, even as the legs get older. And if he does ever hit the wall, he just runs through it and comes out fighting the other side.
But my vote would have to be for Richards, although the player himself insists that, compared with Tomkins and Sean O'Loughlin, he perhaps has not even been Wigan's standout performer this year.
I was commentating alongside an injured Poching as favourites Leeds played underdogs Warrington in the 2006 play-offs. It was Willie's last season as a player and he would have been fit to sign off his career with a Grand Final had the Rhinos won that day.
But then Lee Briers nailed a 79th-minute drop-goal that won Warrington the game by a point, knocked out Leeds and thus ended Poching's career in front of his own eyes.
It is a moment that will stick with me forever. All the energy ran out of Willie's body as the kick went over, his microphone dropping to his side as he realised he was actually commentating on the end to his own career. The big guy shed a tear and needed a monumental hug. I wish him the very best in his next challenge.