North Queensland Cowboys utility Ben Hampton.

NRL NEWS

I've never watched the 2016 GF: Hampton

It was dubbed one of the greatest grand finals in history, but apart from the final frantic 60 seconds, Ben Hampton hasn't watched – and never will watch – a replay of Melbourne's heartbreaking 14-12 loss to the Sharks. 

The former Storm utility played a hand in his side's comeback as he threw the final pass to Will Chambers who crossed to give the minor premiers the lead, only for Andrew Fifita to barge over at the other end to put Cronulla back in front.

Melbourne had a chance after the siren to steal the win, but after the Steeden sailed through countless hands – including Hampton's on the left edge – the play broke down, handing the Sharks their first premiership. 

"I haven't watched the whole game, to be honest. I've seen the last minute once and that was enough to put a bad taste in my mouth. I can't really explain it but I watched it once and that was more than enough for me," Hampton told NRL.com in the Allianz Stadium sheds after his new team, the Cowboys, booked an unlikely spot in the grand final against the Storm. 

"Marika (Koroibete) got tackled five or 10 metres out after the siren and it was just such a heartbreaking moment that I try not to think about too much. I'll definitely use it as motivation to go that one step further."

‌Twelve months later, Hampton is preparing for his second grand final in as many years; a scenario he can scarcely believe.

What makes it even more remarkable is everything the Cowboys have had to overcome, from injuries to star players to three straight sudden death trips to Sydney against more-fancied opposition. 

"I guess I've learnt that grand finals don't come easy," he said, although he confessed he was in a fortunate position to have reached back-to-back deciders. 

"Every chance you get, you've just got to put everything into it because it might never come around again. The group that we've had this year, with the injuries and struggles that we've had at times, I think this group has taken their opportunities. 

"This is the ultimate goal, isn't it? I think with this group and the Cowboys this year, we've always had the belief that we could do it. 

"No one else believed in us but we always thought that we could do it and we deserve everything we're getting at the moment. We've had a pretty tough year and it's a tribute to the boys who have worked so hard for each other that we're in the grand final.

"It still doesn't feel real what we've achieved this year and I honestly can't believe I'm in another grand final."

How Hampton is used on Sunday night will depend on the situation, but regardless of what's asked of him the talented utility knows there are several non-negotiables he must deliver. 

"Sometimes when I come on I only get limited minutes so I've got to come on and lift the boys in attack as best I can," he said. 

"I've got to make sure that I defend well because I'm usually a target as a smaller body in the line, but my main goal is to try and bring a bit of energy in attack to lift the boys."

Making Sunday's clash even more special is the fact he'll be playing against the team with whom he shared all that heartbreak with a year ago. 

The 25-year-old will be forever grateful for his four NRL seasons in Melbourne but couldn't refuse the opportunity to head back to North Queensland – where he went to high school – to work alongside guys like Johnathan Thurston and Jason Taumalolo. 

"Melbourne were great to me and I'm forever thankful for everything Melbourne did for me because they started my NRL career," he said. 

"I left home as a 17-year-old and I was gone for seven years down there, but the opportunity to come home to play under Paul Green and to play with the calibre of players the Cowboys have, I couldn't refuse it. 

"I haven't even thought about that the fact I'm playing against my mates; I'm just soaking all of this up. I'll probably wake up tomorrow and realise that I'm playing all of the boys in the grand final."

Hampton still has plenty of good mates at the Storm, including Jordan McLean who is headed to the Cowboys in 2018. While the pair are close, relationships will be put aside this week as they duke it out for rugby league's Holy Grail.  

"I lived with him for four years and I keep in touch with Macca all the time," he said. 

"He asked me a few things about the club and I just explained what the Cowboys are about. He signed the deal to come up and it'll be great when he joins the club, but we'll have to put friendships aside on Sunday and then we can catch up when it's all over."