Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
Terry Hill, in his 2nd outing for the Sea Eagles, bagged a hat-trick of tries in a blistering 16-minute period to ensure his new club Manly triumphed 26-16 in an NRL trial against St George Illawarra at Albion Park.
The 33-year-old Hill, and former Australian rep player, showed he still had plenty to offer at the top level.
Hill, who retired in March last year after failing to play for South Sydney due to a chronic knee complaint, crossed for tries in the 47th, 52nd and 63rd minutes which put the Eagles up 26-10.
Hill had previously said he would use Manly's two trial games to gauge whether his injury-prone body could handle the rigours of the NRL.
Judging on his performance, Manly coach Des Hasler would be mad not to bring him back for a second stint at Brookvale Oval.
The Dragons, minus 12 regular first graders, were best served by makeshift halfback Aaron Gorrell, second-rower Lance Thompson and rookie centre Brent Kelly.
Kelly scored a hat-trick of tries himself to almost certainly sew up a starting spot in the centres alongside Matt Cooper for the Dragons' premiership opener against the Bulldogs in a fortnight.
NSW Origin centre Mark Gasnier (wrist) is not due back until at least round four.
The Sea Eagles opened the scoring in the fifth minute through centre Chris Hicks, who was the beneficiary of some clever play from hooker Chad Randall.
Randall took advantage of some slack marker defence to charge down field from inside his own half before sending Hicks under the post, with Michael Witt converting to make it 6-0.
The Dragons hit back immediately thanks to two tries to centre Kelly, both of which came on the back of 40-20 kicks from Gorrell.
The halfback failed with his first conversion attempt from wide out but nailed the second from a similar position to put his side up 10-6 after 12 minutes.
Eagles winger John Hopoate, who copped both boos and cheers from the 7,000-strong crowd, capped off a strong first half performance with a try in the 28th minute which levelled the scores at 10-all.
Hill then took centre stage with his hat-trick to put the result beyond doubt but he's yet to decide whether he'll play out the season with Manly.
"I'll have a couple of meetings with the club this week, but I'm just over the moon with tonight's performance," said Hill, who has shed 13kg in the off-season.
"I'll have a talk with Des (Hasler) on Monday and we'll go from there. So far, so good.
"But the main thing is that I got through the game injury-free and at the moment it's all about not breaking down."