It was only a little over four months ago that the Cronulla Sharks had never even won a premiership.
By Monday morning, they could be world champions.
The Sharks have traded the hot Australian summer for the bitterly cold north of England to face British Super League champions Wigan looking to add to their NRL premiership with the World Club Challenge title.
And if you thought Cronulla were only headed to the UK for a holiday – think again.
Veteran back-rower Luke Lewis, who won the Clive Churchill Medal for his man of the match performance in the historic grand final win over Melbourne, knows what it’s like to play in a World Club Challenge and understands the pain of defeat.
Lewis was part of the Penrith team that played Bradford in 2004 – after the Panthers’ 2003 premiership – and told the Leader he wanted the chance to add the WCC trophy to his collection.
“Early 2004 we went over there and played Bradford Bulls and we lost which was disappointing. I kind of feel now that I’ve got the opportunity to go over there and play in another one I want to win it,” he said.
“I want to go over and try and get that trophy. It’d be great for the club. The NRL I suppose in the last 10 years have been really dominant over there and played a lot of good footy and come away with a lot of wins. It’s something I want to achieve and I’d love to tick off as something that I have done in my career.
“It’s something that I’ve never won and it’s something the young guys haven’t won. It’s something I’m looking forward to getting over there and [being able to] say that I was in a team that was a world champion side and [to] beat the best team over in the Super League at the time would be pretty special.”
While the Sharks have lost Michael Ennis (retirement) and Ben Barba (released) from their grand final side and will be without Valentine Holmes (hamstring) and Sosaia Feki (knee) through injury, they still have plenty of experience with the likes of Lewis, captain Paul Gallen and James Maloney.
Lewis said the best piece of advice he would give to his teammates would be to embrace the experience.
“We’ve just got to go over there and take everything as it comes,” he said.
“I think it’s going to be a bit of a bash and barge fest. It’s going to be wet and cold, windy probably. And they’ve got a really good side all over the park, especially their forward pack. We need to turn up and worry about us first and not stress too much about them.”
The Sharks left for the UK on Saturday night and will be based in London until Thursday when they head north to Manchester.
Kick off at the DW Stadium, Wigan is at 2am (AEDT) on Monday.
Sharks squad: Jack Bird, Jesse Raimen, Gerard Beale, Ricky Leutele, Kurt Capewell, James Maloney, Chad Townsend, Paul Gallen, Wade Graham, Luke Lewis, Andrew Fifita, Matt Prior, Chris Heighington, Jeremy Latimore, Jayson Bukuya, Daniel Mortimer, Fa’amanu Brown, Jayden Brailey, Joseph Paulo, Sam Tagataese