Sunday, October 5
(Pride wins NRL State Championship, defeating Penrith 32-28)
What an amazing feeling. I’m sitting here now just coming down from it … the realisation of that euphoria of winning.
It was pretty tough out there in that heat. You can say we’re used to the heat in Cairns, but we still had to play in it. Both sides, especially the big fellas, were feeling the pinch but it made for an open game.
The try I scored at the end was a great way for me to finish my time at the Pride. Roosy held it up perfectly, I could see the gap and was screaming for it. I thought he was going the other way, but he put it on a platter for me and all I had to do was dive over.
I’m sure plenty of people were writing us off when the Panthers ran out to a 12 point lead early in the second half. We’ve spoken all year about banding together and that got thrown up then.
We knew we could score back to back tries. But we knew we didn’t have to score straight away or from every set. We worked our way back into it and from there, our kicking game started to come into play and that’s what started to turn the game around.
Shaun Nona’s short kicking in the first half was outstanding and his longer kicks in the second half brought us back into the match.
I’ve said it before, getting to the Intrust Super Cup grand final and then the NRL State Championship match was something we had planned from the start. To finally get here, to come from behind and stick together like we did, to get that reward, it’s unbelievable. It will live with me and the rest of the squad forever.
We’ll enjoy ourselves now. Our presentation night is this Wednesday and it’s a great chance to spend time with loved ones. They’re the ones who have made sacrifices as well, so we’ll make sure we all celebrate together.
Jason Demetriou is a really good coach ... man management, the tactical side; and he can really motivate the boys. I came out here to enjoy my footy again and he’s really helped me do that. I’m pretty sure he won’t be too far away from an NRL club.
I’m heading back to the English Super League now and my time here can’t finish up any better. I’ll always have this place in my heart. I love Cairns and the club.
From day one the club has been outstanding with me and the boys have too. They’ve taken me on with open arms and I can’t thank the club enough and everyone involved in it.
Saturday, October 4
You’ve got to take advantage of a good breakfast when you’re staying at a nice place like this so that’s exactly what I did this morning.
After brekky, our team gathered for another tactical meeting before heading out to Wentworthville’s Ringrose Park for our captain’s run. It’s always good to get around to new places and experience new environments.
The big thing is adapting to each environment and obviously we’re playing somewhere different tomorrow, so you need to cope with that.
We ran through a few sets and worked on our shape. Everyone is switched on and nice and relaxed. We got through our sets without too many errors.
Probably the only hiccup was the close call on the bus as we tried to navigate our way out of the car park. It was a tight squeeze but the driver was good enough to finally get us out, much to the delight of the boys!
After training wrapped up, we went straight back to the hotel for lunch. A couple of boys headed out to the cinema and local shopping centre … a few coffees and chilling out was the order of the afternoon. The more you think about the game, the more you get worked up about it.
For me personally, I’m just trying to sit back, relax and take my mind off it. Obviously it creeps in there with the odd conversation, but you’ve done all the work beforehand so it’s about turning up with the right attitude on the day.
I’ll probably catch up with a few boys from the Ireland squad tonight if they’re around but if not I’ll just be shacked up with roomie Blake Leary. The only downside is he likes to talk in his sleep, but I’ve roomed with him all year so I’m used to his random comments! I snore so it’s a compromise of sorts.
On social media earlier today it was great to see Jason Roos and Kevin Kingston pictured with a very impressive trophy. It would be awesome to lift that tomorrow evening and take it back to Cairns and the people of Queensland.
Friday, October 3
After breakfast this morning I headed straight out to training at Barlow Park (Cairns). We did a bit of a ‘preview’ on Penrith for this weekend. From there we went out on the field and practised some of our defensive structures and worked on our attack.
The afternoon was all about bags and airports with a flight to Sydney via Brisbane. It’s been quite a long day but overall it hasn’t been too bad. We’re used to the travelling now, every second weekend you usually come down to Brisbane so you kind of get used to it.
We’ve got some great characters in this team to keep us all entertained. You’re always guaranteed a good conversation with Alex Starmer or Benny Spina. You could be there for hours if you go too deep. You have to wind them up sometimes, especially ‘Starms’.
Upon arrival at our Parramatta hotel, we went straight to the pool to freshen ourselves up before training tomorrow morning at Ringose Park. I think mentally the last session before you play is really important.
It’s an old cliché, but you play how you train, you want a good session leading into that game. That was something we talked about today, going into the game full swing.
There’s been a lot of talk now about representing Queensland and the rivalry between the two states. It’s something that we’re really proud of doing. We just want to go out there and enjoy it and we know it’s going to be a tough test, but we’ve earned the right to have this test so we have to make the most of it.
Winning the Intrust Super Cup grand final last weekend at Suncorp Stadium was such a special occasion. All the boys were really pumped after the game, especially as we knew we had qualified for this game too.
We enjoyed the celebrations but we knew we couldn’t go too hard because of this week. On the Tuesday evening, we had a light training session and a BBQ to celebrate with all the families.
The highlight was simply achieving what we actually set out to do from week one in the pre-season. After what happened last year, this was special for some of the boys. I wasn’t part of that team in 2013 but to come in this year and be part of this group is really rewarding for myself.