Dolphins halfback's risk almost pays off
Redcliffe Dolphins halfback Darren Nicholls went without sleep heading into Sunday's Intrust Super Cup grand final, with the off-contract Bronco doing everything in his power to be fit to play in the biggest game of his career.
Nicholls was ruled out of the decider on Tuesday by coach Adam Mogg, but he defied the odds to care for his torn quad around the clock, icing and resting his leg in a bid to make a miraculous recovery.
A last-minute inclusion, he took the field just over two weeks after suffering the grade two tear, a courageous achievement that almost paid off.
The Dolphins may have suffered a 26-16 loss, but Nicholls was one of their best as he did all he could to try and get his side over the line.
The 27-year-old scored in the second half to keep Redcliffe in the game, slicing through Burleigh's defensive line from close range to score next to the posts.
However, it was all in vain, with Bears five-eighth Cameron Cullen scoring the decisive blow inside the final 10 minutes.
Despite the result, Dolphins captain Sam Anderson was full of praise for his injured halfback, admiring the bravery and dedication it took for Nicholls to take the field.
"Darren did everything he could to be right for today," Anderson said.
"He had some sleepless nights with the ice pack trying to get his leg right for the grand final.
"He's a true professional and I'm sure he's got higher honours to come his way in the near future."
Redcliffe have now gone 10 years without a Queensland Cup title, and the feeling of falling at the final hurdle hit Anderson hard after the match.
"I'm pretty gutted. I think the better team won today though, they were on their game," he said.
"I thought we matched it well with them to start with, but a couple of lapses in defence really cost us.
"We'll need to sit down and have a look at what went wrong, but I feel like we just made a few mistakes defensively out wide.
"We matched them pretty well in the middle, but out wide they just scored too many times and that was the difference."
The result means it will be an off-season of soul searching for Redcliffe who finished the regular season as minor premiers.
There is an old saying that you have to lose a grand final to win one, and Anderson is of the belief that this will ring true in 2017.
"At the moment it's still sinking in that we haven't won this year, but I've got no doubt that we'll be back in the off-season even hungrier," he said.
"This loss will drive us to go one better in 2017."