The women that powered Lewis to 300

The women that powered Lewis to 300

Luke Lewis has done it all in rugby league. 

Two premiership wins, two Origin series victories and a World Cup triumph. 

‌He went from a blonde, blue-eyed outside back starting at Penrith to a hard-running and underrated back-rower, performing strongly on a consistent basis for the Cronulla Sharks.

Lewis will notch up his 300th NRL Telstra Premiership appearance on Saturday night in deservedly a round he has been most passionate about throughout his career to date: celebrating Women in League.

Lewis has spoken publicly over the years on the impact four women – mother Sharon, wife Sonia, sister Krystie and more recently baby girl Hazel, have brought to his life as both a player and person after growing up without a father. 

"It's funny how [my 300th] landed on this weekend because I wouldn't be where I am today without those four women so it's going to be very special," Lewis said at the Women in League launch on Monday.

"Obviously mum played a big role when I was a child with my sister who has been supportive my whole life, and now my wife has been nothing but an angel, I can't say enough words about her. 

"She got me through everything when times were down and times were up, I always kept level-headed."

A strong advocate of women in sport for the past 11 seasons, it is fitting that the 33-year-old will become the 28th player to join the illustrious 300 club alongside names that include Australian skipper Cameron Smith and former legends Darren Lockyer, Terry Lamb and Andrew Ettinghausen.

"It's come around really quick and doesn't feel like it was that long ago that I made my debut. It's been an amazing ride with ups and downs but I wouldn't change anything," Lewis said.

"I really never expected to play one game, I will never forget the day I was sitting in a room and people said only one player in here might play first grade.

"To be here coming into the 300th I still don't take for granted and I still have to get through the week. The last two years my body has held up well.

"The players around me at Cronulla really drive me and if they're changing their diets or doing little things they'll help me be involved in it. I'd have to give credit to the whole playing group."

It was in 2012 that Lewis went through a cancer scare fresh after news he had agreed to join Cronulla after his local club Penrith told him he was no longer required.

Early detection was the key for the 33-year-old, who went on to play 20 games for the Sharks in 2013 before donning the Australian colours and being a part of the winning Rugby League World Cup squad a season later. 

"[My family] all took it a lot harder as much as I did at the time because I felt healthy and good. They were rattled and scared but I would reassure them it would be fine and it worked out to be," Lewis said.

"I'm just glad I had them beside me otherwise I probably would've been rattled myself. The only disappointing thing was that I didn't finish that season off with Penrith and missed the rest of the year."

Lewis first became involved in the inaugural Women in League round back in 2006 and along the way has jumped on board as a White Ribbon ambassador to help spread the message on violence against women in society. 

The development of the women's game has come a long way since Lewis first laced on a boot back in 2001 and with the exposure expected to grow even bigger by the end of the season with the NRL committed to constantly evolving the current player pathway for young females. 

"When I first come into the game I wasn't aware of women in sport but to see what the NRL has done and the Jillaroos compete or the Sharks' female side now, it's amazing," Lewis said.

"It's so good to know that if my daughter wants to play rugby league when she's older that there is a pathway to allow her to pursue that.

"Girls just want to put their hand up and represent their state or country and show they've got the skill set that the boys have got. "

The Blacktown junior recently announced he would extend his career to an 18th season after agreeing to a new one-year deal for 2018. 

"I don't want to be greedy but I just want to keep pushing forward and winning as many premierships as I can before I retire," he said.

"I just want to enjoy my footy and I really believe if we can put our head down and focus then we can do really well at Cronulla.

"We can definitely get to the end of the season again in that big game."