Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
The waiting game can be the hardest game of all in rugby league.
As Wests Tigers medical staff give powerhouse winger Pat Richards every chance to get over an ankle injury for Sunday night's grand final, waiting nervously in the wings is exciting young prospect Shannon McDonnell.
It would be a cruel blow for Richards to miss the grand final after playing every game this season. Richards has been dynamic, scoring 19 tries to finish equal second on the NRL's top tryscorers.
For 18-year-old McDonnell, even if he misses out playing in the grand final, just being a part of the joint-venture club's biggest week is enough.
"To just be involved now is incredible. To see the hype around the game and how the boys are handling it, is just awesome,'' McDonnell said.
"Whether I play or not is another thing, but to just be here and to take it all in is exciting.''
Wests Tigers supporters had a glimpse of McDonnell in action when he made his first grade debut against Penrith at Telstra Stadium in round 26, replacing injured winger Daniel Fitzhenry.
"It was a weird debut. I had some ups and downs and it was a shame we couldn't get the win, but at the same time, it was just incredible to be in first grade,'' McDonnell said.
A specialist full-back, McDonnell was promoted to the Wests Tigers side after enjoying a superb season in Premier League for the Western Suburbs Magpies under the coaching of Steve Georgallis. McDonnell also played in the NSW under-19 side against Queensland this year.
"Steve was a great help and a great coach,'' McDonnell said.
"I feel I am a better player for staying down in Premier League. You gain plenty of experience and the blokes you play against are just as big as the first graders.''
It is an exciting and anxious time for the McDonnell family this week. Shannon's father, Warren, has been a revelation as the Wests Tigers recruitment manager since joining the club mid-season. He previously did a fine job as the general manager of the Magpies.
"Since I was little, Dad has always given me the right advice, sticking his head in where he can. He has been awesome,'' Shannon said.
"Dad doesn't show the nerves but I am sure he is feeling it deep down.
"I'll try to avoid mum if I play in the grand final because she will make me more nervous than anyone.''
After Sunday night's grand final, there will be little time for Shannon McDonnell to have a rest from rugby league. He already is focused on securing Richards' wing position next season.
"My goal at the moment is to have a big off season under Cherry Mescia in the gym and try to bulk up as much as I can,''Shannon said.
"I will start in the gym pretty much straight after the season is over. Hopefully I can get a start in the trial matches and go from there. To play on the wing next year in a starting position for the Wests Tigers would be awesome.''
And in news to please any Wests Tigers fan....
Gates open 11am and close at 11pm.
There will be no entry to the Oval after 8pm
Tickets: Adults $5, Children under 16 are Free
Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times
Big Screen Coverage of all the action at Telstra Stadium
Free Rides from 2pm to 8pm
Food and Beverages available from the Grounds
Picnic Baskets may be brought in - however no alcohol will be allowed into the grounds -alcohol may be purchased from the venue
Leichhardt Oval will be a great place to view the game with the family - there are no pre-sales, so get in early!