I can’t remember the drive to the game on the team bus or what was said pre game in the sheds. The buzz was incredible, nothing like I’d ever been a part of.
I’d played in front of some big crowds in State of Origin and international tests but there was none bigger than that one. To play in front of a crowd of 110,000 was very special.
It was our first season post-merger, a monstrous achievement to get to the Grand Final.
We’d had a pretty good record against Melbourne coming in to the game. We had beaten them in the regular season and in the first semi, so we were very confident.
We jumped out of the blocks just as we’d imagined, scoring a couple of early tries thanks to Nathan Blacklock and Craig Fitzgibbon. At Half Time we went in up 14-0 and I felt comfortable with how the match was playing out.
When the second half started, it unfolded into a nightmare.
With visions of holding the trophy up at 18-4, I remember Anthony Mundine dropping the ball over the line, which was extremely unfortunate. Easier said than done but if he’d scored we would’ve been up 22-4 and it would’ve been hard for Melbourne to come back.
To their credit, the Storm clicked into gear and became very physical. They scored a couple of quick tries and got on a roll. I recall Brett Kimmorley’s kicking game really hurt us in the latter stages of the match.
You can feel when teams are finding momentum and at times it’s bloody tough to halt.
I suppose you’ve got to try and regroup and the leaders in your team need to speak up. We felt that it was slipping but they just kept coming.
We defended our hearts out on that goal line. I’ll never forget watching that Kimmorley kick across the field, it felt like it was in slow motion. Melbourne’s Craig Smith vs Jamie Ainscough in the air. Ainscough didn’t really have much of a choice, he got outleapt, so he tried to do anything he could to knock the ball out and unfortunately had clocked Smith in the head.
The decision felt like it took forever. They just replayed and replayed the moment.
We were just hoping it wasn’t going to be a penalty try and that they’d come up with another call.
It’s like no other feeling when you grow up just wanting to play in a grand final and craving to win one, and now it was out of our hands.
When that green try signal came up, it was shattering. Our heads went down and that was that.
When they were awarded the penalty try, they got to take the kick right in front of the posts. To see that ball go through was just heartbreaking.
I remember in the sheds seeing grown men in tears, I was one of them too.
There’s not much that can be said. At the end of the day, it was a great achievement to get to the GF but we just fell short. Grand finals are not easy to come by, so looking back now, I’d swap all my rep jersey’s over just to win a GF for the Dragons.
There were guys growing up who I looked up to like Brad Mackay and Rod Wishart who were retiring and to see the disappointment on those guys faces was really tough.
I only watched the replay for the first time the other week when it came on the TV.
A mate texted me that it was on and I flicked the channel over and started watching it, I couldn’t help myself.
The only thing I couldn’t bring myself to watch was to see Melbourne celebrating again. I’ve never been able to enjoy watching Grand Finals as much anymore, there’s still that bit of envy there.
It probably gets a lot harder when you retire and you realise it’s not every year that you get to play in a Grand Final. It was the only one I was fortunate to play in and it ended in that fashion.
Looking back now, the penalty try probably was the right call. The thing that pains me the most was a try scored by Melbourne earlier in the match which doesn’t get much attention as the penalty try. It was a clear forward pass which led to the try. When watching the replay it grinded my gears more than the last try.
When the Dragons won in 2010 there was mixed emotions I guess.
I suppose there was a hint of jealousy but I was so glad for some of the players I’d played with for a couple of years.
Players like Dean Young, Ben Hornby and Mark Gasnier, to see the joy on their faces was special. I was especially happy for the club, as I’ve got a lot of friends behind the scenes that I have a lot of respect for.
The thing I learnt is that Grand Finals don’t come around that often and they’re hard to reach.
When you get the opportunity, you’ve got to take it. It’s a long road to get there so when you do you don’t want to let it slip.
As a young 23-year-old I thought getting to the GF was going to happen quite regularly, but it didn’t happen again.
Feature Image credited to St George Illawarra Dragons
Shaun Timmins is an Australian retired professional Rugby League footballer of the 1990s and 2000s. St George Illawarra Dragons and New South Wales Blues Player.