In the lead-up to the Telstra Premiership Grand Final, Cronulla hooker Michael Ennis says he couldn't help but dream about going out with the perfect finish – a maiden premiership in his last ever NRL game.
A young Ennis missed Brisbane's 2006 grand final win with a knee injury while a foot injury in the grand final qualifier forced him out of Canterbury's 2014 grand final loss to South Sydney. His only previous grand final appearance was Canterbury's 2012 loss to Melbourne.
Having made the shock announcement earlier this year that 2016 would be his last hurrah despite playing some of the best football of his career, the 32-year-old hoped to get the perfect send-off in the lead-up to playing a key role in Cronulla's drought-breaking 14-12 win over the Storm.
"I probably did [allow myself to dream about it]," Ennis said in the sheds after the historic win.
"I did because I wanted it so bad. I've been so close, I wanted to feel what it was like to win it."
He said it was his team's overwhelming hunger for a maiden title that helped them edge a Storm side that almost never lets a lead slip if they earn it late in the game as they did in Sunday's Telstra Premiership decider.
"We were so hungry and we showed that in the first 40, we showed it in patches in the second half. We knew Melbourne would keep coming. They're a great side and when they get in front they don't normally get beat. But we were too hungry," Ennis said.
A frantic final minute which saw countless passes from the Storm as they desperately searched for a last-gasp match-winner sent the Sharks scrambling.
"The brain was going everywhere, I was going 'no, please don't'," Ennis said of the frantic final stanza.
"Those two wingers of theirs [Marika Koroibete and Suliasi Vunivalu] are try scoring machines. They were both just roaming the field looking for the footy and it was dangerous but somehow we did it.
"When we tackled Koroibete [on the final play] and I saw the clock tick over to zero I was just like, far out, it's done, we've done it."
Ennis said the highly physical match – which saw Cronulla at one stage reduced to a single fit player on the bench with Jack Bird playing through a serious elbow injury, Sosaia Feki forced off with a knee injury and three players sent for concussion checks – was as tough a game as he's ever played.
"They're a big side; (Jordan) McLean and (Jesse) Bromwich and those boys, and their edge boys are big boys. We just had to keep getting our bodies in front and turning them away from our tryline. They kept coming at us and found a way through but in the end we got it done," Ennis added.
He reflected on where the desperate Sharks started to get away from their game plan in the second half in search of what they hoped would have been a match-sealing try.
"Melbourne don't get beat when they get back in front, it's so hard to peg them back. They just seem to get it done, they graft away and kick into corners," Ennis said.
"We forced a couple of errors there, we were playing too lateral. We were trying to play around Melbourne.
"Early on in that first half we were going through the middle of them and second half we tried to go around them to find that extra try. We needed an extra try.
"If we had have got (the lead) to 14 it would have been handy but by doing that we tried to play lateral. When it got to 12-8 we said we need to get back to doing us."
Ennis was quick to brush any suggestion the premiership high would force him to reconsider his retirement decision as he looks to spend more time with his young family.