Throughout my junior footy days, I won grand finals almost every year. I quickly got used to the excitement of finishing first and the confidence that comes with knowing you’re the best team in the comp.
In round four of the 2000 NRL season, I made my debut for the Sydney Roosters as a 19-year-old. Six months later, I was running up and down the wing in my first NRL grand final!
We lost against a clinical Broncos side that year, but as a rookie things weren’t going too badly.
Two years later, I played in my second NRL grand final – this time tasting victory over the New Zealand Warriors in front of 80,000 fans at ANZ Stadium. More of the same, thanks! Grand finals had become a familiar way to close out my seasons.
Experience and perspective
It’s funny how over time you begin to see things differently. Next year, I turn 33 and will play my fourteenth season for the Roosters.
Only as I have gotten older have I been able to appreciate just how special and rare grand final weeks are. I understand the impact pressure can play on different players. I see faces at full-time and recognise those looks of agony and elation.
My record in top grade deciders stands at one win and four losses from five games. Not exactly fairy tale statistics, but that’s the way the dice have rolled.
The win in 2002 obviously stands out and remains the most memorable night of my football career. Our team was jam-packed with stars: Mullins, Hegarty, Hodges, Fittler, Wing, Morley, Fitzgibbon, Ricketson, Crocker and Fletcher – guys who remain my close mates today.
We came in full of confidence, having played well throughout the season, and wiped them off the park 30-8. What a feeling!
Which team is going to be experiencing that wonderful feeling on Sunday? Only time will tell!
Tune in on Thursday to read the concluding part of Mini’s blog about Grand Final, when he talks about Grand Final preparation, and his hopes for the future.