Brisbane Broncos skipper Sam Thaiday. Photo: Cameron Spencer
Brisbane forward Sam Thaiday has revealed the tough times as Darren Lockyer's successor last season tested his passion and love for rugby league to the limit.
Had Brisbane missed the finals for only the second time in 20 years, Thaiday says it would have been "crushing".
The early NRL pacesetters went into an end-of-year spiral. At one point late in the season, as losses piled up, it looked like the Broncos might not be involved in finals action.
Thaiday, 27, regards the experience as a massive learning curve even though he has won a premiership and played a lot of State of Origin and Test football.
His goal is to be a better leader and a better person in 2013.
"I enjoyed it, but it was tough," admitted Thaiday as he continues his recovery from off-season shoulder surgery.
"You learn a lot of things about yourself and you ask a lot of questions of yourself.
"What it did for me, it tested my passion and my love for the game and I've come out of it alright.
"It's still there."
The losses, though, hurt more as captain and there were plenty of them towards the back end of 2012.
"Ask my wife. She knows on a Saturday if we won or lost on Friday night - she doesn't even have to come to a game," he laughed.
"There's a little bit more passion and a little bit more feeling behind every game now.
"I want to do the best for the boys and I want the boys to do their best as well."
With Petero Civoniceva retired, at least from NRL action, Thaiday smiles at the mention of having to play in the front-row at some time next season.
Ben Hannant will be the senior prop in 2013 with Josh McGuire, Mitchell Dodds, Scott Anderson, David Hala and Dunamis Lui all in the mix.
"If I don't lose a couple of kilos, I might end up in the front-row," Thaiday joked.
"But that's the beauty of this team. Across the board, we've got great depth and everyone wants to play and no spot is guaranteed for anyone, not even mine."