Sport Rugby League NRL straight six: The men that made the grand final great
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NRL straight six: The men that made the grand final great

Sam Verrills gets over the tryline early in the NRL grand final on Sunday night. Photo: AAP
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Super Sam snags first

It took just six minutes for Sam Verrills to stamp his name on the NRL grand final.

Just 20, and after only making his NRL debut this year, Verills wasn’t overawed.

The hooker saw his chance and took it, sniping from dummy half and showing some great footwork to score the first try. What an entrance from the young forward.

The Avalon junior doesn’t get a lot of plaudits in a star-studded team, but his stint as replacement for the injured Jake Friend in 2019 has been nothing short of stunning.

Verrills is the star in the making with his workrate, speed and toughness.

Manly will be wondering how the hell it let this talented local junior go.

Jumping Jack is back

Jack Wighton’s career was at a crossroads 16 months ago.

He was stood down by his club after admitting in court to assault and urinating in public after a drunken night out.

Canberra was close to sacking Wighton. But they kept faith with the 26-year-old and he has well and truly paid them back, winning the Clive Churchill Medal.

Wighton has been a wonder at the new position of five-eighth and continued that form in the grand final. His try was a thing of beauty, stepping and brushing past defenders to get over the line.

Jack Wighton scores for the Raiders at ANZ Stadium. Photo: AAP

His kicking was on point and every time he had the ball the Roosters defence was on high alert.

A country boy from Orange who has spent his whole career in the ACT,  he didn’t let anyone down in his first NRL grand final. He was a fitting winner of the medal.

Big, bustling Kiwi

Grand finals are big occasions made for big performers, and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is certainly one.

The towering Kiwi is a grand final regular and he made his mark with some huge carries and massive metres.

Every team needs a prop to lead the way forward and do the tough stuff, and the New Zealander is that man for the Roosters.

Waerea-Hargreaves made two carries in the first set of the game, 41 tackles in total and ran himself to the bone with 185 metres.

Sometimes he loses his way and falls foul of the referee, but the 30-year-old enforcer was at his excellent best as the Chooks made history with back-to-back grand final wins, the first team to do so since 1993.

Big Papa carried his load

Just like Waerea-Hargreaves, rival Josh Papalii threw everything and the kitchen sink into the decider.

The fearsome front-rower churned through metre after metre, keeping the Roosters honest and getting his side on the front foot.

He just did not stop with 164 run metres, 54 post-contact metres, 14 hit-ups and made 34 tackles.

These are super-human numbers. It was hard to see Papalii on the losing team, such was his impact at ANZ Stadium.

Teddy turns up on time

James Tedesco is living some charmed life.

The Dally M player of the year, he scored the amazing match-winning try in Game III of State of Origin to win the series for NSW.

Then he did the same in the grand final, popping up in support for Daniel Tupou to grab the magnificent match-winning four-pointer.

James Tedesco realises he may have just won the grand final for the Roosters. Photo: AAP

Whenever someone makes a break Tedesco is there in support, wanting to make things happen, wanting to attack.

It’s an invaluable quality, something that is uncoachable and that wins you games.

It’s no wonder he is regarded as the best rugby league player on the planet.

Mitchell kicks on in defence

This match wasn’t the best you’ll see Latrell Mitchell play.

He didn’t score a bundle of tries, or make a ton of line breaks, or fend opponents off at will, as he usually does.

His kicking was so-so, landing three of five attempts.

But in defence he was heroic, his error count was low and he came up with the big, important play when it was needed.

It was his outrageous offload with eight minutes left, drawing the attention of two tacklers and putting Tupou away, that created the try that won the game for the Roosters.

He opened up the space for Tupou, the winger found Tedesco in support and the rest, as they say, is history.

That sensational skill just make history. Mitchell certainly knows how to produce magic in clutch moments.

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