Fill-in rake leads Roosters to victory
Roosters back-rower Victor Radley is still eligible for another two years in the Holden Cup, but after his performance in Sunday's 30-28 grand final win over the Penrith Panthers, his time in the under-20s might be limited.
The 18-year-old was just about best on ground after making a shock switch to hooker in the second half to replace regular No.9 Grant Garvey (shoulder).
Having filled a number of roles since making his NYC debut in Round 13, Radley said he was unfazed by the move to the base of scrum at half-time.
His instructions from Roosters coach Anthony Branes were simple; play it safe. And that's what he did, helping turn a 28-6 deficit into a shock two-point win.
"He didn't say much to me. A few of the other boys came up to me and said 'play simple and run when it's on. Don't try to flick it out of my arse'," a thrilled Radley said after the game.
"We came in at half-time and 'Barnesy' gave us a big spray. Last week we were down 14-nil so we knew we had it in us to come back.
"We've got so much belief in the side and we've got to much talent around the park so we knew we had it in us to pull it off."
Radley finished with 38 tackles, 85 metres and two line breaks, but his biggest contribution was a crucial charge-down and regather that resulted in Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck's match-winning try.
As a local junior, it made the result even more special.
"I played Harold Matts and SG Ball with the Roosters so it means the world to me. I can't believe it," he said.
"As soon as I picked it up I was looking for someone quicker. I was on the jog because I was that tired, but as soon as I saw Johnny, I just thought 'you beauty' and threw it straight to him."
Roosters coach Anthony Barnes said he didn't want to move Radley to hooker, but wasn't complaining about the end result.
"It probably wasn't one that I wanted to make, but Garvey got hurt so it had to happen. It worked out in the end," Barnes said.
Jack Gibson Medal winner Nat Butcher was full of praise for his younger teammate, lauding him for his ability to step into the hooking role with his side under pressure.
"Victor's only 18 years of age, still got two more years in the 20s and I thought he was just incredible," he said.
"To replace Garvey, one of our best players, he had big shoes to fill and it's a credit to him he did an amazing job out there.
"He [Radley] is a great player, he's played a bit of hooker throughout the year but he's played a bit of everywhere. I think it was a big job for him to come out in the second half and played hooker and it's a credit to him, he played amazing."
Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck – the man who scored the match-winning try for the second week in a row – echoed his lock forward's sentiments.
"I think Radley at the beginning of the year didn't get too much time but then 'Barnsey' gave him his chance and he made the most out of it and ever since then he's been one of our key players," the winger said.
The Coogee Wombats junior – who was likened to former Newcastle Knights utility Kurt Gidley by Channel Nine commentator Andrew Johns – recently re-signed for a further two seasons at the Bondi-based club.
And while he's unsure what his best position is going forward, he was able to celebrate Sunday's miracle win with friends and family who have dubbed him 'Victor the Inflictor'.
"I was playing A-Grade at the start of the year so the boys gave us a little nickname," Radley said.
"They came to support us today so that was grouse from them today. I could hear them all game so it was real good."