Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan has revealed how Mitch Brown ditched best man duties at his brother’s wedding to play his first NRL game of the season in a win over Penrith.
With five State of Origin players absent, Brown was one of many back-ups to fill in, scoring a try and helping the Sharks secure their 13th straight victory of the season.
“The wedding’s done and dusted now but he’ll head off to reception,” Flanagan said post-game.
“He was in the bridal party and he had to pull out. He had no hesitation about it. I said, `Don’t you have your brother’s wedding? And he replied, `Don’t worry about it, I’ll be ready to play.”
Flanagan was delighted with him team’s depth in the absence of their representative stars, including Wade Graham, Andrew Fifita, Jack Bird, James Maloney and skipper Paul Gallen.
Among the call-ups were Cronulla debutants Matt McIlwrick and Jesse Sene-Lefao, while Kurt Capewell also made his first NRL appearance.
“I recruited all those players so I had all the confidence that they’re quality players,” Flanagan said.
“It’s been hard because some of them are knocking on my office door week after week asking ‘When am I going to get my chance?’
“We haven’t had any injuries touch wood but they have always been ready to play. They’ve trained really hard for six months waiting for this opportunity and they got it.
“We knew it was going to come, we didn’t know we would have five in Origin, but they over exceeded my expectations and I’m really pleased for the club.”
In a shortened round 18, Parramatta put yet another disrupted week behind them by outlasting the Sydney Roosters 22-18 on Friday night before being officially stripped of 12 competition points the following day.
The NRL handed their final determination for salary cap breaches, dropping the Eels to 12th on the ladder and needing to win all eight of their remaining regular season games to make the finals.
Canterbury showed courage to twice come from behind and score a 32-22 win over a gallant Wests Tigers unit, with winger Brett Morris nabbing his second brace to take him to seven tries in just three games.
Canberra and North Queensland complete the round in the nation’s capital on Monday.