Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Wests Tigers comeback kid Mathew Head has little doubt that South Sydney will target his dodgy knee at the SCG on Sunday.
"I suppose they will, but I suppose that's going to be (the case for) the rest of my career," said Head, who got through his first NRL game for the Tigers last Sunday.
"I'm a little fella and I've been targeted my whole career. The knee's fine now - they can come at me, I've just got to work hard in defence."
The world was at Head's feet only a matter of years ago, the diminutive No.7 forging out an impressive career at St George Illawarra playing inside the likes of Trent Barrett, Mark Gasnier and Matt Cooper.
Premierships and representative jumpers seemed a matter of when, not if.
Unfortunately, Head's body failed to hold up and he spent the majority of 2005, 2006 and 2007 battling a succession of knee injuries.
When the Dragons cut him lose last year his career seemed over, but the Tigers threw him a second chance in the form of a 12-month deal.
He took his first tentative steps against the Raiders last week and now he'll look to back it up against the Rabbitohs in Sunday's historic clash, 100 years to the day the first game of rugby league was played at Birchgrove Oval.
"It's been a pretty long time, it's been frustrating, a lot of disappointments through there, changing clubs, going overseas, coming back," Head said.
"Now it's a fresh start and I'm really enjoying the club.
"I don't think you really lose your ability, you just lose confidence and probably your timing. Hopefully that's what I can get back this year ... it's just a matter of backing it up each week and hopefully now that the knee's sweet I can do that."
South Sydney, too, are looking for some long-lost confidence, the Rabbitohs still searching for their first win of the season.
While most of the attention centred on coach Jason Taylor's sideline theatrics last Monday night, the Bunnies mentor said he was hopeful his men were starting to turn the corner following their narrow loss to Cronulla.
"We're climbing our way out slowly but surely," Taylor said.
"To only lose by two points to a team that's beaten the best teams in the competition so far this year.
"The commitment and effort form the boys for the 80 minutes was there to see.
"There were enough signs there (against Cronulla) to make me think that we can really get some good results in the coming weeks, but it's one step at a time ... it's certainly going to be a bit of a climb to get up the ladder but there's a long way to go in this season."