MALONEY IS LEWIS’ MAN OF THE MATCH
Clive Churchill winner says pivot’s stirring speech lifted them off the canvas
CLIVE CHURCHILL MEDALLIST Luke Lewis has revealed it was Cronulla’s grand final expert, James Maloney, who provided the impetus for the Sharks to fight back and win their maiden title. Lewis says Maloney, who was playing his third grand final in six years, seized a nowor-never moment and gave a stirring in-goal speech after Will Chambers had scored a try to put Melbourne ahead for the first time.
“When they scored I thought, ‘This can’t be happening’,” says Lewis [below]. “I thought we’d been playing really well, but Will Chambers is a class player and he’s very good at getting to the line and we sort of put our heads down for about 30 seconds after that.
“But then Jimmy said, ‘Boys, we knew it wasn’t all going to go our way tonight, but how we respond is all that matters now, we can get back into this game and we’ve got 15 minutes to do that, so let’s go’. And then we responded.
“Jimmy spoke up and everyone listened to him. We needed someone to say something like that so we could refocus. He’s a great leader, Jimmy – he’s been around in big games and he really stood up for us in this game.
“I think it was a big moment of the game when he said that. If no-one says anything you end up going back to halfway in a bit of a daze. You can go quiet and go into your shell and the next thing you know they’ve put another two tries on you.
“James Maloney [ inset] stepped up and said what needed to be said and everyone took it on board and got on with the job.
“We had to defend well if we were going to get back into it and we did that. Our next set off the kick-off was outstanding and we got the ball back and ended up scoring not long after through Andrew Fifita. That put us back in front and then we defended until the end and here we are.”