If there were any lingering doubts about who is the most devastating footballer in the NRL, Sonny Bill Williams put that to rest at the ANZ Stadium last night.
In front of 81,491 fans, and millions of television viewers in 91 countries, the 28-year-old cut loose after an hour of slumber to turn an 18-8 deficit to Manly into a 20-18 lead for his Roosters.
Those 12 precious points in as many minutes lifted the Roosters to an eventual 26-18 victory.
And it was pure SBW magic, two midfield busts that ended with Shaun Kenny-Dowall scoring the first try, and Michael Jennings the second, both memorable. and both converted by Maloney.
Kenny-Dowall’s for the blatant forward pass from James Maloney to his skipper Anthony Minichiello, the second for Michael Jennings’ athleticism to slip between David Williams and Brett Stewart to touch down a millimetre from the dead-ball line for a sensational try.
And when one footballer can produce something as special as SBW did in an epic decider, stamps him as someone quite out of the ordinary.
He will be lost to league next season when he re-signs with the Chiefs to play Super Rugby, so he can qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The Roosters will miss him badly, as any team would – he’s a born winner.
So far he has won two NRL premierships with the Bulldogs and Roosters, a Super Rugby title with the Chiefs, and a Rugby World Cup with the All Blacks. He just keeps chalking up the big ones.
SBW has plenty if support with James Maloney having one of his best games, with the bonus of kicking five shots at goal from five.
Jake Friend, and Sam Moa, weren’t far behind. The exciting winger Daniel Tupou and skipper Anthony Minichiello both put in as well.
For Manly, Daly Cherry-Evans won the Clive Churchill Medal for best on ground, despite the poor sportsmanlike performance from Roosters fans who let go with prolonged boos.
He was clearly the best over 80 minutes, even for being on the losing side.
Not far behind in Anthony Watmough, he would be among the first picked in any side I was selecting, he just doesn’t know how to play a bad game. Elsewhere both Kieran Foran and Matt Ballin were tireless.
Did the best team win?
The Roosters were the Minor Premiers, while Manly played one game too many, there was nothing left in the tank for those telling last 20 minutes where SBW cut loose.
The referees, Shayne Hayne and Ben Cummins, were off the cracking pace, but their mistakes – missing that blatant forward pass, and the Jamie Lyon penalty try – were balanced both ways, so neither side can really bleat, or cry foul.
And that leaves Trent Robinson, the youngest winner of the Dally M coach of the year award at 36, as the latest addition to an elite club.
He’s the sixth rookie coach Premiership winner after Ian Walsh (St George 1966), Leo Nosworthy (Balmain 1969), Phil Gould (Bulldogs 1988), Michael Hagan (Knights 2001), and Ricky Stuart with the Roosters in 2002.
A mighty hard club to break into, but its the second year that’s even harder.
Especially for Trent Robinson in 2014, with no Sonny Bill Williams.