Plum dreams of finals shot
Penrith prop Nigel Plum has been around for long enough to know how quickly it can fall from here. And by long enough, we mean, almost a decade's worth of finals-less football.
You didn't hear wrong – we can reveal that the game's hardest hitter also has a legitimate claim to being the game's perennial bridesmaid given he has only played in just one game of any real significance since debuting in 2005.
And that one game back in 2008 was memorable for all the wrong reasons, not merely because of the 36-10 beatdown they copped from the Sharks.
"We came sixth and got pumped by Cronulla, [but] then Warriors were eighth and beat Melbourne, who had come first. So it knocked us out," Plum recalled to NRL.com.
"Even though we got beat, we thought we were still going to be sweet for the next week, thinking Melbourne were going to beat the Warriors. But the Warriors showed their class and played a great game of footy which put us out."
It wasn't until 2010, when a move to the foot of the mountains resulted in a second place finish come September, that the Wagga Wagga product would smell the September air again.
But that scent quickly soured when a cruel injury during the season robbed him of any opportunity to nail a spot within the top squad.
He did return, but only in time to take part in Windsor Wolves' run to the NSW Cup decider. Before that, the only game relevant enough in the post-season for Plum was that lone final four years ago, and another reserve grade grand final with the Roosters in his rookie season.
"I've played in two grand finals there in reserve grade and I lost them both. I reckon I won all my ones in junior footy, so it's probably a bit of karma," he says.
"Hopefully sometime soon we get the chance but to be honest, playing NRL is excitement enough for me. To play finals footy would be great, but time will tell."
And by time, he means the 12 rounds of football there is left for Penrith to hang onto a spot in the top eight, let alone their current status as ladder leaders.
Plum's warning for his teammates isn't a throwaway line – three months of NRL action is a pretty decent chunk of the season. As are the nine seasons of a ten-year career spent watching opposition players fight for their premiership dreams.
"Look at any other years, it doesn't matter what club it is, you see some clubs playing some good footy and they can drop their bundle," Plum, 31, says.
"Obviously we're planning on playing some good, consistent footy for the rest of the year and seeing how things go. When it comes down it, it doesn't matter how you're playing in the middle of the year, it's how you're playing at the end of the year."
So what, in his mind, makes him so confident of breaking the drought in 2014? Of being involved with a club that hasn't tasted finals success since before Plum played first grade?
And to him, it boils down to one thing: depth.
"I was talking to someone else earlier and just mentioned that the players that come in when we get injuries and whatnot, it's like those injured players were still there, just because of how well they fill the hole," he says.
"Someone like [centre] Isaah Yeo, he's been great. He's shown his potential, he's going to be a great player in years to come. In saying that, he's playing some really good footy now. The depth that we've got here enables us to do that, so it's really good."