Sharks' secret move finally pays off
Coach Shane Flanagan banned his players from practising it to keep it from Craig Bellamy's prying eyes, while skipper Paul Gallen refused to even tell his teammates it was happening.
It was the set play from a scrum 15 minutes into the NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final that had yet to bear fruit in previous attempts, yet would give Cronulla a handy half-time buffer on their path to a maiden premiership.
Despite close to 60 per cent possession spent almost exclusively in the Storm half of the field Cronulla could only come up with one try in the opening 40 minutes but it was one neither Gallen nor try-scorer Ben Barba will soon forget.
It was simple in execution – Gallen breaking from the back of the scrum and passing inside to a flying Barba – that was made all the more effective by the subterfuge employed to carry it out.
At the behest of Michael Ennis the Sharks decided to put the play on, and while Gallen and Barba were the only two aware of what was about to take place, the skipper was convinced they had blown their cover in the set-up.
"It's a play that we've been working on all year and we've probably put it on once or twice but haven't scored from it all year," a euphoric Gallen said after the game.
"Micky Ennis called it and we said yes and I said to Benny to look like he was hurt. He was sitting with his hands on his knees and looked like he wasn't doing much and thankfully the Storm didn't pick it up.
"Jack Bird didn't know what was going on, we had to call him into the scrum so I thought they would have woken up to it but they didn't.
"Chaddy Townsend didn't even know what was going on. I had to bump him out of the way to pick the ball up and thankfully it just opened up for Benny and it worked.
"But it worked once all year."
The set move was a talking point ahead of the captain's run on Saturday but Flanagan stopped the players from practising it, fearful that somehow, somewhere, rival coach Bellamy would be watching and that their cover would be blown.
"We spoke about it on Friday and whether to practise it at Saturday morning's captain's run," Flanagan revealed.
"I'm a bit superstitious and I know what 'Bellyache' (Bellamy) is like, he probably had a camera crew upstairs filming away so we didn't run it.
"Gal's had that in his repertoire for a couple of years that play and only two people need to know about it and they did a good job."
Given that it was one of only four tries scored in the grand final its importance cannot be understated.
After James Maloney's earlier penalty goal to open the scoring it gave the Sharks an 8-0 lead, that while could have been even greater at half-time, was still a mountain the Storm knew would be tough to climb.
"That eight points was always going to be hard to drag back," Storm coach Bellamy said.
"I just thought that they got the jump on us in the first half and we never really got back into the game in the first half.
"I thought our fellas did a great job not to be more than eight points down to be quite honest."