A fact a lot of us forget in our day, is that anyone of us can be a hero. In rugby league this is associated with an inspirational performance by a first grader, well I don�t believe the club to be so exclusive.
I had a dream. That one day I�d play professional rugby league. At seven, I made my debut for Cronulla Caringbah U/8s. We dropped just one game on the way to the semi finals. We encountered Sutherland in the Grand Final, and like me, they had a player twice the size of the opposition. We played our guts out, but lost 13 � 8 in the dying minutes. Sutherland had their hero, in James McGuire.
The following season, the Under 9�s were struggling for numbers so I played once again. We went undefeated all season, until we played the Menai Roosters in the final, eventually losing 21 � 20. A try in the final 30 seconds squashed my hunger for a premiership.
A few years later, I played again for the under 15s. We finished 4th, which was something we were not associated with. We approached the Semi-final against Como, like it was any other round game. We had lost and beaten them that season, but their home ground was not a place that was kind to our team in previous years.
We fought hard and came away with a very convincing win, 48 � 14. This set up a Grand Final with De La Salle. They were minor premier�s that season and beat Menai 28 � 0 in the other Semi. They were filled with many stars, that made rep teams that season, many playing for NSW under 15�s. We knew we were up against it, but what were we going to do.
I approached my father, a former Parramatta reserve grader, about what I should do for this match. He told me �Son, do what you do best, make metres, tackle hard, and I will be proud of you�. My uncle was there for this preliminary final clash, the first time he had been out of hospital to watch me play.
We ran out on the field as tremendous underdogs, with De La beating us twice in the regular season, quite convincingly, despite our injury tolls in both games. The score was 28 � 10 at half time to De La, when our coach made his speech. He told us �Its time to stand up and be counted. You don�t have rep jerseys or contracts, but this is your domain out there tonight, rule it. You may not be at first grade standard, but you are all heroes�. I took these words and fired up for the second half.
Just after halftime, we scored, through our winger, windy. This made the scores 28 � 14. Three minutes later I made a break down the left side and passed to our centre Gav, who scored. This made the scores 28 � 20. Then, our halfback got injured, which left me with the goalkicking duties for our team.
With about 5 minutes left in the game, our hooker burrowed over to score a try in the corner. I could not convert (28-24). With 4 minutes remaining I pulled my teammates aside and said, �Pain heals boys, glory lasts forever�.
Fifty metres out, with two minutes left I receive the ball. I bust the tackle of their hooker, offloading to Windy. Windy screams down the touchline with the fullback to beat and scored in the corner, 28 all. Taking my time lining up the kick I was thinking about my heroes, Johns, Halligan, Cronin, what would they do? I lined up the kick, and struck it beautifully. It was sailing to the left but the wind was blowing to the right, and the goal snuck through. Score � Cronulla Caringbah 30 � De La Salle 28
We had tasted victory. I embraced my father. He told me � �Son, you did it, I�ve never been so proud�. My uncle was elated and crying tears of joy at the fact that his nephew had accomplished such a feat.
Not long after my uncle died. He left me a letter saying �Even the most common of us can be heroes�. I was a hero for the first time in my life, and it just goes to show you don�t need to be an NRL player to be a hero, you just need to believe in yourself and those around you, and glory will come.
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