GRAND FINAL DAY LOCKED IN | Three big fixtures next Sunday at Sydney's ANZ Stadium! Burleigh and Ill...
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Hill has been battling a rib injury all week but proved his fitness at the Storm?s final training session this morning and will take his place in a Melbourne side looking to record its first ever win over the Tigers at Leichhardt.
After beginning his career with Canterbury in 1996 Hill went on to play with the now defunct Hunter Mariners in 1997, before joining the Storm in its inaugural season a year later. Despite claiming numerous representative honours since crossing to the Storm, Hill?s journey to 150 first-grade games has been punctuated by injury in recent times.
After playing just eight games last year due to shoulder injury Hill lost his prized New South Wales and Australian jerseys but has made a successful return to the NRL this year playing in all but one of the Storm?s matches so far this season.
?Everything is going OK this year, I?m staying fit which is a real positive, particularly in light of the injuries I had last year,? Hill explained.
?Last year I just knew I had to get on top of where I was at and as soon as I had a good off-season this year, I knew I was going to be able to put plenty of games together.?
Hill admits it was tough watching from the sidelines last season as his teammates made the finals in Craig Bellamy?s maiden year as head coach.
?It was tough, especially with the shoulder injuries I had, I just needed time to recover and when you?re in the middle of the season you just don?t have that time,? Hill explained.
Despite playing a pivotal role Melbourne?s surge to the grand final in 1999 Hill cruelly missed out on playing in the Storm?s victorious premiership side due to yet another shoulder injury. But the 27-year-old still has many fond memories of his past seven years in Melbourne.
?Obviously it was disappointing to miss out on the grand final but just being a part of all the good wins with the club has been a highlight for me,? Hill said.
?The first year here in Melbourne was enormous, what we achieved in that initial season was great. We had a few scrappy years after the premiership season but we?re starting to get back to our best footy and things look very positive for the future. I?m just happy to be fit and a part of the progress the club is making.?
Hill?s return to form this season has been one of the reasons the Storm finds itself inside the NRL?s top four and had many suggesting that he was ready for a return to the NSW side. An Origin recall didn?t eventuate but Hill believes he still has much to achieve in the game.
?Missing Origin was a little bit disappointing but on the flipside I have been able to play here with the club to get us through that Origin period without Cameron (Smith) and Billy (Slater),? he said.
?There are many more goals ahead of me for this year, like the finals series and there?s a Kangaroo tour at the end of the season, so there?s plenty more to play for.?
A fit Hill has also meant more time with halves partner Matt Orford and the two have significantly benefited from more game time together, something they haven?t always enjoyed after being paired on only six occasions in 2003.
?We are starting to read each others game a lot more and helping each other out at certain parts of the game. If we keep winning games together we are just going to get better and better which is a real plus for the side.?
Hill and Melbourne skipper Stephen Kearney (hamstring) both passed fitness tests this morning as the Storm finalised preparations for Saturday night?s match against the Tigers (7.30pm).