WE’RE five rounds in and it’s been great to see several sides in the Hardware Man Illawarra League stake their 2017 claim.
There’s no doubt Thirroul have been the biggest improvers having knocked off both of last year's grand finalists’ in consecutive weeks.
Having missed the finals for the first time in 25 years last season, anyone vaguely familiar with the Illawarra league and the Butchers club would have expected them to come back with a point to prove.
It’s one they also needed to make early after a poor start came back to haunt them at the back-end of 2016. Their performances against the Canaries and Devils also show how good unbeaten Collegians were to beat them at home in round three.
A heads-up play from former NRL half Ben Jones got the Dogs across the line that day and Nathan Fien's men will have their chance to prove they’re the real deal when they take on Wests at Parrish Park on Saturday.
Dapto and Wests have had some minor hiccups but people shouldn’t mistake that as chinks in their armour.
Few realise how battered both sides were heading into last year’s decider after setting the pace from the jump last season. Both powerhouses are mounting a steadier build into 2017 but they still the remain the sides to chase.