Cronulla Sharks coach John Morris is hopeful Newtown's miraculous State Championship victory has given a number of young Sharks players the belief they can challenge for a place in his NRL team next season.
The Jets scored an incredible last-gasp 20-16 victory over Queensland Cup champions Burleigh at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, adding the national title to their NSW Canterbury Cup triumph from a week earlier.
It was a perfect end to a fairy tale run. Newtown, Cronulla's feeder club, had to win four elimination finals just to win their premiership. And the match-winning try was similar to the way the Jets won the Canterbury Cup grand final against Wentworthville last weekend, when young Shark Billy Magoulias produced a desperate chip kick in extra-time.
Trailing 16-14 with almost no time left, five-eighth Magoulias produced another chip over the top. A crazy bounce of the ball evaded five Burleigh players back into the arms of Jets forward Jackson Ferris who raced away to score, sliding over under the posts as the full-time siren sounded to win the match and the title with the final play of the game.
"I don't think I've seen anything like it, to be honest," Morris said.
"Twice in two weeks in a big game like that the same player rolls the dice with a little chip over the top. It was probably the only play we could have done there. I think everyone thought the game was gone. [But] in true Sharks and Newtown spirit they never gave up."
Morris was full of praise for a number of young Sharks including Magoulias, Blayke Brailey, Will Kennedy, Ronaldo Mulitalo and Daniel Vasquez, making special mention of an incredible try-saving tackle from Kennedy that kept the Jets in the game.
"I was just talking to [Sharks forward and Jets captain] Scotty Sorensen about that [tackle]. The boys felt they didn't play well at all. But I think they go back to that play and we've got a bit of a saying, a try saved is as good as one scored. That was certainly the case," Morris said.
"What an effort from Will Kennedy. [It has been] a huge finish to the year for Will. We really look forward to him having a good pre-season and pushing for that No.1 jersey for the Sharks next year."
Morris said it had been a wonderful experience for his young players who he hoped would build on their end to the season when pre-season starts in November, with NRL jerseys on the line.
"While we can't call it the Sharks reserve grade side we certainly make up the majority of the people in this side. And it's a wonderful relationship we've got with the Jets footy club. To play in these big games on the big stages is really good for their development," Morris said.
To play in these big games on the big stages is really good for their development.Sharks coach John Morris
"I'm wrapped for all the boys for the way they've played over this last month of footy. That can only help them stake a claim for an NRL jersey next year. Toby Rudolph has come from nowhere, he's had an ACL injury, he's missed [almost] all the year. You've got young [Daniel] Vasquez in the middle and Magoulias, Brailey, Kennedy, Mulitalo and the list goes on and on. So it's certainly exciting times and this is going to be a huge part of their development for next year.
"I can't wait to get going. These guys will probably get six weeks off so they're back mid to late November and it's all on again. The way it ended for the [Sharks first grade side] over at Lottoland is certainly going to carry some pain and we won't forget that until we're able to make amends. And that starts for us round one next year, so it's going to be a big pre-season. I'm looking forward to it."