It was a historic season for the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles in 2017 after they entered the Intrust Super Premiership for the first time in their 56-year history, but they are yet to taste the experience of finals football after another disappointing campaign.
Consistent off-field dramas among the Manly Sea Eagles ranks may have played a part in an inconsistent season for the Workers, but they showed plenty of character to fight until the dying stages of the 2018 season – literally.
Their finals fate came down to the last regular season game where they required a victory over the Minor Premiers the Panthers, and other pending results (see graphic below), to storm into eighth position on the competition ladder.
But it wasn't to be despite their gutsy efforts from start to finish, with a Panthers try in the closing stages giving them a 12-all draw to all but ruin their chance of a maiden finals appearance.
Unfortunately for Steven Hales side, the result typified the story of their season having lost nine games by eight points or less, three of which by just a simple conversion. Remarkably, the Workers were also winless in all their games that were televised in 2018.
A total of 41 players were used, with the departure of Jackson Hastings proving costly in some of their tighter clashes this year, but the depth in their squad and strong efforts from the younger players will prove monumental for the 2019 season.
The Key Number
The Sea Eagles showed their worth in defence throughout the 2018 season having kept their opposition scoreless on two occasions, and their defiant efforts are best evident through the 706 missed tackles they made across the regular season – the least of any side in the competition.
It resonates to just over 32 per game, the second-best average of all teams, and in particular their stonewall defence on their goal-line that got them through the games they won by a try or less.
It lays a perfect platform to build on for next season, and with the attacking flair they boast through the likes of Jade Anderson and Cade Cust, it will certainly put them in good stead for a stronger season.
The Rising Star
It's hard to go past Tom Amone.
The rampaging forward proved unstoppable for the Workers in 2018, working tirelessly on either side of the ball and earning valuable field position with his strong carries.
The 22-year-old was ranked first in the competition for post-contact metres (1327),third total run metres (3428) and total runs (329), and averaged almost 30 tackle per game.
He was rewarded with a place on the interchange bench in the Intrust Super Premiership Team of the Year, a well-deserved reward for one of the most consistent and influential players in Workers side.
Room For Improvement
There were significant changes in the playing squad throughout the season so it was hard to establish combinations to the point where they could confidently play instinctive football, but more stability in 2019 will certainly help their attacking raids.
They managed 87 tries in the regular season, but broke the line on just 71 occasions which was the second least of any team.
With the abundance of talent they boast in the side, if they can create more opportunities and capitalise on their chances consistently, they will sure to be one of the most potent sides in the competition next year.
How it will be remembered
Both the Manly Sea Eagles and Blacktown Workers will be looking to put their respective 2018 seasons behind them, but nonetheless Hales has established some core values among the Workers side which will be largely beneficial in the short-term future.
It showed in their fighting nature towards the back end of the season some some impressive performances against some heavyweight opposition, and with a bit of luck in 2019 they will be sure to give the competition a red-hot crack.