Crichton bemoans frustrating predicament
They might be playing some of their best footy of the season but the harsh reality is the South Sydney Rabbitohs will miss out on the finals for the second year in a row.
Back-to-back wins over the Titans and Panthers in rounds 15 and 17 had fans dreaming of a return to September action, only for the Bunnies to suffer four straight losses to drop out of the finals equation.
Michael Maguire's men could have given up at that point and accepted their fate, but instead they've rallied to claim consecutive wins over the Dragons and Bulldogs.
It's a silver lining in an otherwise bleak season, and according to back-rower Angus Crichton, 2017 could have panned out differently had the Rabbitohs stuck to their guns and held onto the ball.
"It's definitely frustrating when you're winning games at this time of the year and you're out of finals contention," Crichton told NRL.com.
"You want to play finals footy – I've never played finals footy – so it's obviously a goal for me to get there. It is frustrating, but you've just got to take it for what it is. We've got a lot of good young talent coming through and it's an opportunity for those guys – including myself – to showcase what we've got to offer.
"Not much has really changed in the last few weeks except for the fact that we're holding the ball and playing for the full 80 minutes which we hadn't been doing throughout the year.
"I think we've simplified our game a bit and players are focussing narrowly on their own role. If everyone plays their own part for the team then we've got the game plan and the coaching staff to put together a winning performance."
Rookie Cam Murray agreed it was a frustrating position to be in but told NRL.com that the players weren't feeling sorry for themselves.
"It's tough because we're in a position where we can't make the finals, but to their credit, none of the boys are thinking about what could have been," he said.
"We're just focussing on the Warriors this week and making sure our performances are to our standard."
The Rabbitohs have a chance to make it three wins on the trot when they take on a Warriors side that is spiralling out of control in the post-Origin period.
Souths have won five in a row against the New Zealanders and will start as heavy favourites, but Crichton warned it would be foolish to take their opponents lightly given the unpredictable nature of the Telstra Premiership.
"Every NRL game is always a tough game so form doesn't mean much. There are always a lot of upsets week in, week out so we've just got to be on our best," he said.
"They're a class side with plenty of big names in their side so we've got to be at our best if we want to match it with them."