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The Eels played finals football in 2017 for the first time in eight seasons.

I can't believe we're here once again. Grand final week is the most exciting time of the season and no matter your state, country or club affinity, Sunday's game is not to be missed.

But as much as we're looking forward to the final game of the season, it's a good chance to glance back and see how far we've come. The 26 rounds of regular footy and three weeks of finals contained some pretty amazing/crazy things.

Cameron Smith broke more individual records than you could poke a stick at, and unsurprisingly, was crowned NRL's best and fairest player at last night's Dally M Awards. Queensland achieved one of their gutsiest State of Origin wins in history, Parramatta made the finals for the first time in eight seasons and the Cowboys have done the unthinkable to make Sunday's decider.

Players have come of age, shown their true colours and proved their doubters wrong. Trent Hodkinson broke our hearts and put them back together again when he took Hannah Rye to her high school formal weeks before she passed away from Ewing's Sarcoma. Many have faced their battles with mental health head on, both privately and publicly. We've come a long way towards player safety and wellbeing, while recognising there is still a long way to go. The women's game, as expected, has continued to boom.

And once again, we recognise there is still a long way to go. Clubs have defined themselves, rebuilt and committed to do better. Right or wrong, we've seen the sensational demise of Jason Taylor, Neil Henry, Michael Maguire and Des Hasler. We have bid farewell to Semi Radradra to the rival code and witnessed some insane tries, games and individual achievements. At Big League, we've churned out 33 magazines – soon to be 34 by Tuesday next week. We're proud of every one of them.

Looking back on the year is the best way to see how far we've come and look forward to some stirring hope for the future. But the season isn't done yet. We've still got the biggest game of the year between Melbourne and North Queensland. And then the World Cup. If you love your rugby league, it's a busy time.

Perhaps we'll use those few weeks over Christmas to look ahead to 2018 and get excited. With footy as good as this that's all the break we really need anyway, right?


Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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