Mini owns up to biggest blunder
Anthony Minichiello has had one hell of a career, and the veteran Chook admits it flashed before his eyes when he produced a massive blunder amidst an avalanche of Cowboys points in Friday night's thrilling semi-final at Allianz Stadium.
History will record that a James Maloney field goal in the 76th minute saw the Roosters home 31-30 over a gallant North Queensland outfit.
But the hearts of over 18,000 Roosters fans were firmly in their mouths 26 minutes earlier when Minichiello gift-wrapped the Cowboys a crucial try, drawing them to within six points of the premiers having trailed by 30 after little more than half an hour.
Minutes after a Johnathan Thurston try had clawed the visitors back to a 30-18 deficit, the champion half punted downfield from outside his own 40-metre line.
Playing in his 301st career game, equalling Luke Ricketson's club record for appearances, Minichiello misread the kick, and thinking it was a potential 40/20, raced across to the right touchline and batted the ball back into his own in-goal.
Normally the definition of calm under fire, as the Cowboys' kick chase defence bore down Minichiello broke character with what had to be the worst pass of his 15-year career, wobbling the ball across to winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Tuivasa-Sheck slipped, the ball skidded into the path of North Queensland five-eighth Robert Lui, and the Cowboys fourth try in 15 minutes had them breathing down the premiers' necks.
Minichiello admitted afterwards that for a split second, he did fear the mistake might have ended his glittering career.
"In the moment, obviously it crosses your mind," a relieved Minichiello told the post-match press conference.
"I thought it was a 40/20 at the time. It was definitely my mistake there, it was a bad pass to Rog there. It was all on me. It wasn't the fact that the boys were panicking."
Instead the Roosters held on and Maloney's wobbly one-pointer ensures they will take on arch-rivals South Sydney next Friday night in the first finals clash between the two clubs since 1938.
While Maloney's match winner got them over the line, redeeming the five-eighth's failed shot at field goal last weekend against the Panthers, Minichiello also dusted himself off and jumped straight back on the horse soon after his mistake.
Soon after Lui's try in the 56th minute, the Tri-colours' custodian was targeted by two spiralling bombs from Thurston as the result hung in the balance.
Having earlier spilled a high ball that led to the Cowboys first try to Ethan Lowe, Minichiello took to the skies without reproach and claimed both crucial balls for his side. Hooker Jake Friend lauded his skipper's resilience, and admitted sending their captain out with another premiership ring was a significant motivation for the Roosters.
"You're not going to bag a bloke for one mistake when he catches all those balls under pressure and he does all the work in our first and second runs," Friend said.
"If you stuff up we just get on with it. We just deal with it there. No-one points fingers.
"He's been playing unreal. We've talked about that Mini equalled the record this week for matches for Roosters players.
"So it's great that next week he'll get the record on his own. We definitely talk about that. We want to send him out on a good note; he's a club legend so we'll be doing everything we can against Souths to get into the big game the week after."