A recurring wrist injury that once required Josh Aloiai to have his own hand reconstructed using a graft from his own rib has proven the one constant in 12 months of unprecedented upheaval.
Only problem for the Manly front-rower was the fact it was his other wrist.
Aloiai sits just 80 minutes from an NRL grand final – albeit with an in-form Rabbitohs pack standing in Manly's way – after the most dramatic year of his footballing life.
This time last year Aloiai was digesting another failed Tigers campaign ahead of one of the ugliest contract fall-outs in recent memory, club officials left stunned by a text to CEO Justin Pascoe that told him "I have no desire to put a Wests Tigers jersey on again".
Aloiai's agitating for an early release eventually landed him at the Sea Eagles where he played three games earlier this year with busted ligaments in his right wrist.
During the 2019 off-season Aloiai had extensive surgery to remove an errant screw from his left hand while rib cartilage was used to rebuild his hand.
The surgery proved successful, only for his right hand to start causing serious issues this year, sidelining him for almost three months as Manly surged up the ladder.
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"I tore my scapholunate ligament, if it was up to me I would have just tried to keep playing," Aloiai said.
"I ended up playing for a month or so, I would have tried to keep playing, but I think the medical team made the right decision and we got it fixed so I could get right for the big time of the year which is now.
"It was painful, but that's OK. That's all part of footy. There's so many players out there playing with niggles and some players with tears and breaks."
Aloiai's reward for his lay-off was a "hellish" two-month mid-year pre-season under long time Manly trainer Don Singe.
The Sea Eagles went 7-2 while Aloiai was sidelined with the 25-year-old returning in time for a round 19 win over Wests Tigers at Suncorp Stadium.
After a month off the bench he has been restored to Des Hasler's starting line-up, where his influence up-front will prove critical if Manly are to get past the Rabbitohs.
"It's one of those things you dream of, but when you're that close in the moment like we are now, it does feel a little bit surreal," he said.
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"It's probably the most adversity within a 12-month period that I've faced in a really long time.
"It's just been one of those years where you kind of have things thrown at you from every angle.
"I just feel very blessed to be a part of this place. I feel lucky and never want to take it for granted, never want to feel entitled."
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