By Matt Buxton (NSWRL.com.au)
Sometimes, the bounce of the ball just has to go your way.
Illawarra Cutters’ rising star, Drew Hutchison, booted the winning field goal to defeat Mounties in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Grand Final.
It was high, it was long, and it was struck with perfection.
Or was it?
“Honestly, I dropped it pretty [poorly] actually,” Hutchison admitted to NSWRL.com.au moments after the final buzzer sounded in the Cutters’ 21-20 victory.
“It came off a bit of a spiral, but at the end of the day it went over, and that’s all that matters to me.”
Ironically, Cutters’ coach, Jason Demetriou, was on the coaching staff of the Cowboys’ fairy-tale victory last season when Thurston kicked them to victory.
Not only do the best players need the ball to bounce their way at times, but the coaches do too, as he watched on helplessly during one of the most dramatic tries of the season early in a Grand Final where every point was vital.
Hutchison’s boot was at it again when he put up an ugly bomb into no man's land, but to the horror of Mounties’ fullback Zac Santo, the ball back-tracked in the direction of Josh McCrone, who managed to toe the ball onto his outside for Kalifa Fai Fai Loa to score an amazing try.
The best players can sum up the situation in an instant - even if it is with a stroke of luck – and they were obviously elated after winning their maiden premiership.
“It’s unreal, words can’t describe it, it hasn’t really sunk in yet that we’ve finally won,” Hutchison said.
“We had a few supporter buses come up, I put the message out during the week and I think they were pretty chockers.
“We always knew if we put a full half together that we can beat them, at the end of the day we did that and we triumphed in the end, and there is no better feeling."
At the end of the game, the Cutters’ players got around Hutchison and started calling him “clutch Hutch”, and “clutch Hutchison” as they were about to receive their trophy.
On the other side of the stage stood Sam Williams – the Intrust Super Premiership NSW’s best player – moments after his last ditch field goal effort to lock up the scores was waved away.
It is a cruel twist of irony for a player that has played so well in 2016, and a team that won the minor premiership by eight competition points clear of second spot.
Williams and the entire Mounties team did not deserve to go down like that after the amazing year they have had, but that’s just footy.
The moment the ball left Williams’ boot to the realisation he had missed would have been the longest few seconds of Hutchison’s life, but he could barely describe the emotion he felt afterwards.
“When Williams missed that field goal and I saw ‘Quinny’ [Adam Quinlan] catch it, words couldn’t describe it,” Hutchison said.
“I started screaming and couldn’t run quick enough to the rest of the boys, it really went down to the wire there.”
The Cutters will dust off last night’s celebrations this week so they can take on the Burleigh Bears in the Intrust Super Championship as an NRL Grand Final curtain raiser.
But for now, they will cherish the moment
“I’m always excited to play on Grand Final day, it will be a big occasion,” Hutchison said.
“For the moment, we are going to savour this win and really enjoy it.”