Plenty of strife in a spectacular rugby league season
WHETHER it was good news or bad, 2012 had everything in what was arguably the greatest year in the history of the NRL.
Coaches were sacked, the chief executive was sacked, Melbourne put its troubled past behind it to win the competition, the State of Origin series was extraordinary from start to finish, and everywhere you looked the referees were in trouble.
Here are the highlights:
1: The Storm's premiership - September 30
THE Storm was left in ruins in 2010 after being caught cheating the salary cap.
The club was stripped of two premierships, made ineligible to play for competition points that season and had to shed players in 2011, including stars Greg Inglis and Ryan Hoffman.
This year provided redemption, the Storm overcoming a late-season form slump to beat the Bulldogs 14-4 in the decider.
While the Storm players covered themselves in glory, the Bulldogs went into crisis control after prop James Graham copped 12 weeks for biting Storm fullback Billy Slater on the ear and the club was fined $30,000 following unsavoury Mad Monday celebrations.
2: The Greg Inglis try in Origin I - May 23
UNDOUBTEDLY the biggest talking point of the year came in Origin I when Queensland star Greg Inglis was awarded a controversial try that put the game out of reach for the Blues. New South Wales players, officials and fans were in uproar, arguing replays showed the ball was clearly knocked on before Inglis grounded it.
The debate continued for days - the decision just the first of what became an avalanche of clangers from under-fire referees on the field and in the video box.
3: Queensland in seventh heaven - July 4
ONE of the most anticipated, and arguably the best, Origin series was sealed with a memorable field goal from Queensland halfback Cooper Cronk at Suncorp Stadium in game three.
The kick came from 40m out with five minutes left on the clock and was all that separated the teams, which had thrown everything but the kitchen sink at each other. After the game, Cronk's teammates revealed the Storm star had practised kicking field goals from all over the park in case one was needed on the night.
4: The Greg Inglis shoulder charge - July 21
IT WAS the hit that changed the rules. Inglis's shoulder charge on Dean Young, where the Souths fullback raced in to put a blind shot on the Dragons back-rower, was compared to a car crash.
Inglis copped a three-game suspension and the tackle was subsequently banned from the game after the season. Young was in such a bad way after the match he thought his coach was former Dragons mentor Nathan Brown, not Steve Price.
5: Try of the year: some Barba magic - June 24
IN FRONT of a Mackay stand full of family and friends, Bulldogs fullback Ben Barba set up the try of the year against the Storm in round 16.
Picking up the ball in his side's in-goal area, Barba beat six opponents in a mesmerising dash downfield, before chipping ahead at full speed for centre Josh Morris to gather and score. Barba finished the year
with 22 tries, many of them similarly brilliant efforts, and was a worthy winner of the Dally M medal.
6: David Gallop sacking - June 5
JUST a week before the highly anticipated Origin II kick-off, the NRL's worst-kept secret was confirmed when chief executive David Gallop was sacked.
His 10-year reign - notable for punishing the Bulldogs and Storm for salary cap breaches, and bringing in strict off-field rules - was brought to an end due to his strained relationship with ARL Commission chairman John Grant. Gallop was later appointed CEO of Football Federation Australia.
7: Kieran Foran's hand of God incident - September 14
FANS from both the Cowboys and Sea Eagles were left stunned after another video referee blunder in a big game cost the Cowboys victory in the semi-final clash at Allianz Stadium.
Replays clearly showed Sea Eagles five-eighth Kieran Foran knocked the ball forward in the lead-up to a try by teammate Michael Oldfield.
The bizarre decision led to the sacking of referees bosses Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper following a flood of criticism, including Cowboys coach Neil Henry labelling some NRL match officials incompetent.
8: Broadcast deal - August 21
THIS deal, worth $1.025 billion, put rugby league at the top of the Australian sporting landscape. While it wasn't as much as the AFL's unprecedented $1.25 billion deal, on a per-minute basis rugby league was the winner.
Starting from next season, NRL games will be worth $1275 every 60 seconds across 80 minutes, as opposed to the AFL's $1170 per minute over 100 minutes of game time.
9: Joey becomes an Immortal - September 27
NO ONE can deny what former Newcastle halfback Andrew Johns did on the field was freakish, and on his playing ability alone he deserved to be crowned an Immortal.
But what angered many Queensland league fans was his off-field history of misdemeanours, and that he received the recognition ahead of Mal Meninga.
As well as being a Canberra, Maroons and Kangaroos great, Meninga has a clean off-field record and has coached Queensland to an unprecedented seven straight series. Perception is everything.
10: Big Petero retires - May 8
ONE of the toughest props to play the game, Petero Civoniceva announced early in the year that he would retire at season's end.
After 307 first-grade games, he did not get the farewell he wanted, but although the Broncos were bundled out in the first week of the finals, Civoniceva was chaired off the ground by his Queensland teammates after Origin III.
In 2012, the game much-loved players Nathan Hindmarsh, Luke Burt, Ben Hornby and Dean Young, Aaron Payne, Colin Best, Micheal Luck and Casey McGuire also retired.