2014 REVIEW: Euphoria as droughts broke across the code
RUGBY League droughts broke across the code in 2014, as New South Wales lifted the State of Origin Shield, South Sydney supporters wept tears of joy after 43 years of heartbreak, and the longest-running drugs probe in the game's history ended.
Jarryd Hayne quits
ONE of the biggest stories broke when Parramatta superstar Jarryd Hayne announced he was quitting the game to try to make it in the NFL.
"I'm always telling other people to chase their dreams and follow their hearts. If I don't live by that then I'm not being honest with myself," he said.
The 26-year-old said he hoped to make it within two years, and would return to Parramatta if it didn't work out.
Rise for Alex
MONDAY, March 24, will forever remain one of the toughest nights rugby league has endured.
Twenty-two year-old Newcastle player Alex McKinnon was stretchered from Melbourne's AMMI Park with his neck in a brace and with grave fears for his future.
Those fears were realised when he was diagnosed with a broken neck, signalling the end of his career and raising doubts whether he would walk again.
A "Rise For Alex" Day at his home ground in Newcastle proved an amazing success, bringing grown men, including his Knights coach and close friend Wayne Bennett, to tears.
THOSE words rung out around Redfern for weeks as South Sydney supporters celebrated a premiership victory that was 43 years in the making.
Englishman Sam Burgess, who revived memories of former Rabbitohs great John Sattler by playing 79 minutes of the final with a shattered cheekbone, hugged part-owner Russell Crowe and his mum after breaking into tears as the siren sounded and ANZ Stadium erupted.
The win was the club's 21st premiership, and its first since downing St George 16-10 in 1971.
NZ wins Four Nations
BLISTERING speed and the ability to step at pace make Warriors wizard Shaun Johnson one of the game's most dangerous players.
His talents were on full display in the Four Nations final against Australia, when he laid on most of the Kiwis' tries and scored a four-pointer himself.
New Zealand had been unbeaten in the three qualifying games, but somehow went into the final as underdogs.
Without a host of stars, Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens was forced to blood several rookies, with Wests Tigers prop Aaron Woods, Souths centre Dylan Walker, 18-year-old winger Sione Mata'Utia and Bulldogs forward David Klemmer showing they were not overawed.
One in a row
COACH Laurie Daley and captain Paul Gallen finally gave NSW the State of Origin series its players and fans had craved since 2005.
Queensland's amazing eight-series winning streak came to an end in a spiteful match at ANZ Stadium on June 17, in front of a crazy crowd of more than 80,000 fans, giving the Blues an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the 2014 series.
Any thoughts of a power shift were quickly eradicated when Queensland, with halfback Cooper Cronk back from a broken arm, won game three 32-8.
NSW captain Gallen was named the player of the Origin series.
RUGBY league's longest-running drugs probe into Cronulla's 2011 supplements program involving the controversial Stephen Dank came to an end in August after 18 months of investigations.
The players involved were offered, and accepted, one-year bans, which were backdated to November 21, 2013 meaning they would serve just a three-week suspension, a penalty, blasted by the World Anti-Doping Authority. Coach Shane Flanagan, previously suspended for 12 months for his role in the matter, has since resumed coaching the Sharks.
Dally M deadlock
BOOKMAKERS were unable to split previous winners Johnathan Thurston or Jarryd Hayne for the sport's top individual honour, and that was exactly how it turned out, the pair becoming the Dally M's first joint winners.
Thurston's win saw him become the second three-time winner, joining former Newcastle great and Immortal Andrew Johns.
Rabbitohs forward Sam Burgess was third, three votes behind the winners, and went on to be named rugby league's International Player of the Year.
Union's 'theft' of stars
RUGBY Union just can't seem to develop its own superstars. Once again it turned to its rival to poach two of the biggest names in league, Sam Burgess and Sonny Bill Williams, for the second time.
English club Bath handed Souths a reported $A930,000 to lure Burgess back to England, with the ultimate prize being a World Cup jumper next year for England, while Williams has already returned to the All Blacks.
IT seems a year can't go by without Todd Carney getting a dishonourable mention.
This time it was the Sharks who decided they'd had enough of the human headline after pictures were posted on social networking sites of him urinating into his own mouth in a toilet.
Coaches' revolving door
MATTHEW Elliott got the ball rolling, when he "walked" from the Warriors after just five rounds.
Others to either be shown the door, or walk were Steve Price (St George-Illawarra), John Cartwright (Titans), Peter Sharp (Cronulla), Mick Potter (Wests Tigers) and Anthony Griffin (Broncos).
Wayne Bennett also stepped down from Newcastle before being announced as Griffin's replacement at the Broncos.