Top 100 stories of 2016: 10-1
Here it is, the list of the top 10 stories on NRL.com this season and surprise, surprise, State of Origin stands tall as the dominant force. Yes, we said at the start of this that team lists would be excluded but the announcement of a Blues or Maroons team isn't merely the naming of a team but the trust of a state being placed in the hands of 17 men willing to put everything on the line.
It will be hard to look back on 2016 and not remember the strife-torn season endured by the Parramatta Eels yet the most viewed story of the year came late with the player movements that will shape the 2017 season for each of the 16 NRL clubs.
Can't wait for it all to begin again after the Christmas break.
Down 1-0 in the Series and heading deep into enemy territory to try and keep their hopes alive for another year, Blues fans were eagerly awaiting to see who coach Laurie Daley would entrust with the unlikely rescue mission.
An injury to Boyd Cordner opened the door for Wade Graham to earn his first Blues call-up, a selection that later had to be rescinded when the Sharks back-rower was found guilty of a Grade 1 Careless High Tackle.
Greg Bird was promoted to the back row, Tyson Frizell earned an Origin debut and a state collectively held their breath and hoped for the best.
On the surface it appears to be the easiest rugby league team to pick on the planet but the decade of success by the Queensland Origin team hasn't dulled Maroons' fans interest in who will be representing them in the game's greatest arena.
With new coach Kevin Walters at the helm for the first time the possibility of some fresh blood was very real but other than handing debuts to Justin O'Neill and Corey Oates and moving Darius Boyd to his preferred position of fullback for the first time at Origin level, Walters very much remained with the status quo.
Like the man who succeeded him with the Maroons, Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga went for minimal changes when he named the Australian team for his first game in charge against the Kiwis in the mid-year Test.
But while the core remained the same there were four players who were named to represent their country for the first time, Blake Ferguson, Josh McGuire, Michael Morgan and the controversial inclusion, Semi Radradra.
Having pledged his allegiance to Australia the former Fijian rugby representative was eligible for selection and given his performances for the Eels over the past two seasons Meninga could see no reason not to pick him.
It's not an Origin build-up without some fervour around possible injuries and while all focus was on Cooper Cronk in Game One, the fitness of centre Josh Morris became a major issue for the Blues in the lead-up to Game Two.
Rather than waiting until close to game-day a decision to omit Morris with a groin injury was made on the Saturday prior to the game, paving the way for Dylan Walker to come into the starting side and Jack Bird to be added to the bench.
After all the rumour and innuendo surrounding the Parramatta Eels and potential rorting of the salary cap the hammer finally came down on May 3 with the NRL announcing their preliminary findings.
It was deemed by the NRL Integrity Unit investigation that "since at least 2013 the Parramatta Rugby League Club has been operating a system designed to enable it to exceed the salary cap without detection and give its team an unfair advantage".
The preliminary findings detailed punishment of a $1 million fine, docking of all competition points accrued to that point and stripping of the Downer NRL Auckland Nines title the club won in February.
The NRL also issued notices to three members of the club's board and two members of the executive requiring them to show cause why their registrations should not be cancelled.
The club was afforded the opportunity to provide responses to the preliminary findings before the final determination was delivered but it became very clear that there was next to no return from the path they had gone down.
He may have stuck loyal back in May but Mal Meninga wasn't afraid to throw some selection shocks into his squad to contest the Four Nations tournament in England in November.
In the wake of the Sharks' grand final win over the Storm seven potential debutants were named in the 24-man squad with another, Manly's Jake Trbojevic, later added to the squad when Josh Papalii was ruled out with injury.
The other debutants – all of whom are now in the history books as Kangaroos representatives – were Shannon Boyd, Jake Friend, Tyson Frizell, Valentine Holmes, James Maloney, Matt Moylan and Justin O’Neill.
Including the Test win over New Zealand in Perth the combined for-and-against for Meninga's new-look squad read an impressive 164-52 from five games and the reclaimed status as the No.1 rugby league nation in the world.
The series was gone for another year, the Queenslanders were up north revelling in their ninth series win in a decade yet still the insatiable appetite for news on Origin team announcements remained as the Blues prepared for a final fling on home soil.
Suspended for Game Two, Wade Graham finally earned his first Blues jersey with Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco also invited into the Origin arena for the first time. Josh Dugan was the other change made by Laurie Daley, recalled after missing the first two games of the Series.
Greg Bird made way in what signalled the end to his Origin career and South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds was omitted through injury, Jack Bird named in the halves after impressing in a short cameo in Game Two.
And wouldn't you know it, the Blues boys had a win.
Like his team-mate Semi Radradra, Eels five-eighth Kieran Foran was the subject of many headlines throughout 2016 with the club making statements during the season on issues relating to his private life and also his future at the club.
On July 8 the Eels reaffirmed their position that Foran remained contracted to the club beyond the 2016 season and that they had not received a request from either Foran or his management for a release from the final three years of his deal.
Three weeks later that release had not only been requested but granted by Parramatta and the talisman seen as pivotal to the future success of the Eels left the club having played just nine games for the blue and gold.
The humiliation of their 52-6 record defeat in Game Three of the 2015 Series remained very much ingrained in the minds of Blues players and fans and coach Laurie Daley took decisive action prior to the opening game of the 2016 Series.
Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Adam Reynolds and Dylan Walker were all named to make their interstate debuts with Sharks five-eighth James Maloney earning a recall as Reynolds' halves partner.
Only eight players from the Blues' last outing survived the cull and there would be late drama, with Bulldogs centre Josh Morris initially released from the 19-man squad only to earn a last-minute recall when Josh Dugan was ruled out with an elbow injury.
The Blues threw some new ingredients into the mix searching for the winning formula but again came up agonisingly short.
Feels a bit wrong to be honest, that the most viewed article of 2016 on NRL.com is actually a story pertaining to what will unfold in 2017, but that's the prerogative of rugby league fans: There's always next year to look forward to.
Although the player market has not been as volatile perhaps as it was 12 months ago there have been many notable movements between clubs including Kieran Foran's yet-to-be approved move to the Warriors, Robbie Farah signing with the Rabbitohs, Kevin Proctor leaving the Storm to join the Titans, Jamal Idris returning to the NRL with the Wests Tigers and Benji Marshall finding a shock home at the Broncos.
There will be more to come before the 2017 season kicks off and with so many players off contract at the end of this season, we can only imagine what the top story of 2017 might turn out to be.