When Ben Hannant lined up for his last NRL grand final, he had no idea he would be waiting almost a decade for another.
The North Queensland prop’s time has finally come again, set to face his former team Brisbane next Sunday after overcoming Melbourne 32-12 in the preliminary final.
Hannant’s last title decider was with the Broncos back in 2006, when they downed the Storm 15-8.
He said he thought at the time there would be plenty more.
“I was only 21 and I thought how easy is this,” Hannant said.
“And then you realise how hard it is to actually make one, it’s an unbelievable effort.”
He said he would be reinforcing to his young teammates to make the most of the occasion, in case they too had to wait another nine years.
“It’s a week you never forget for the rest of your life.
“You have to soak this up, enjoy it and feed off it because grand final week is something special.”
Instead of winding down his career with the Cowboys after being squeezed out of the Broncos due to the salary cap pressure, Hannant has relished the new start.
He has played all 26 games and last week signed a contract extension for 2016.
Hannant holds no ill feelings toward the Broncos and said they deserved their position in the grand final.
“They’re a great bunch of blokes and I know how hard they work there,” he said.
“Brisbane deserve to be in the grand final and I know they’re going to be well-prepared.
“They have the same principles as us, the same goals, and they work hard for each other.”
He wasn’t expecting any pre-match niggle, saying there was a “mutual respect”.
“Playing against my ex team is something special,” Hannant said.
“It’s going to be 80 minutes of the toughest footy you’ll ever play.”