Luke Lewis to lead Cronulla Sharks' title charge in preliminary final against North Queensland Cowboys

On the charge: Cronulla's Luke Lewis in action earlier this season. A paraochial Sharks crowd is expected for Friday night's preliminary final. Picture: Chris Lane

On the charge: Cronulla's Luke Lewis in action earlier this season. A paraochial Sharks crowd is expected for Friday night's preliminary final. Picture: Chris Lane

He has represented his state and country and is one of the few Cronulla players with experience of winning a premiership.

But Luke Lewis isn’t finished yet. Not by a long shot.

The Sharks host the reigning premiers North Queensland at Allianz Stadium on Friday night with a simple equation in front of them. A win and the club will play in its first grand final since 1997. Lose and a season that had so much promise will be over.

And Lewis is aware more than most of how precious these opportunities are.

At just 20-years-old, Lewis won a competition with Penrith in 2003 but, despite his 17 State of Origin appearances at 16 Test caps, the evergreen back-rower has never made it back to the grand final.

Lewis told the Leader he was desperate for another taste of grand final glory – for himself and his adopted home in the shire.

Prepared: Cronulla back-rower Luke Lewis. Picture: John Veage

Prepared: Cronulla back-rower Luke Lewis. Picture: John Veage

“To be part of the first [Cronulla premiership] would be massive,” he said.

“To win a grand final with Penrith was the best feeling in the world. [But] it’d mean everything. Especially to the shire. To go to another club that I love and feel like I’ve been at forever, there’d be nothing better than going and winning a comp for them.

“The shire has been buzzing all year. We want to rip in for them. Hopefully all of them get down to the game and help get us home. We get along with our fans really well. We get to do a fair bit with them. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be who we are today.

To go to another club that I love and feel like I’ve been at forever, there’d be nothing better than going and winning a comp for them. - Luke Lewis

“They’ve been a big part of our year and helped us out, especially with our home games.”

The 33-year-old, who has agreed to terms to stay with the club next season, said his Cronulla side knew the size of the challenge in front of them after watching the Cowboys’ epic extra-time victory over Brisbane last Friday night.

“It’s something all the boys are looking forward to. It’s a massive game. Fingers crossed we can get the result but we know it’s a huge job ahead of us,” he said.

“This is the pinnacle of rugby league. Obviously you love playing for your country and your state but a massive game like this is something you always dream of as a kid.

“[The Cowboys against Brisbane] was a great spectacle. But it goes to show you how tough our game is and shows what level you need to be at to win these games.”

Kick-off is at 7.55pm.

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