(Eds: Note language in fourth par)
By Matt Encarnacion
SYDNEY, Sept 14 AAP – Three years ago they were fighting for the same jumper, but now there’s a whole lot more at stake.
Cronulla fullback Michael Gordon will meet North Queensland counterpart and long-time friend Lachlan Coote in Saturday’s NRL semi-final in Townsville, with the winner to advance to the first preliminary final of their careers.
The former Penrith duo spent the summer of 2012 going toe-to-toe for the No.1 spot at the foot of the mountains, a battle that was reported to have almost led to the two coming to blows at training.
Not according to Gordon, though.
“That was complete bullshit,” he told AAP.
“But me and Cootey were the worst two fighters in the club. It would’ve been terrible.
“Some of the stories I used to hear were hilarious, because they couldn’t be any further from the truth.”
Three years on and both have since found greener pastures.
Gordon shifted to the Shire at the end of 2013, going on to make the finals in his first year at the Sharks, where they were eventually knocked out by Manly in a thrilling semi-final.
“We were in pretty much the exact same position as this year, playing at Allianz in the first week,” he recalled.
“And if it had gone on an extra five minutes against Manly, we probably would’ve won.”
Coote, meanwhile, failed to play a game in his first season with the Cowboys after tearing his ACL in the 2014 Auckland Nines.
Gordon, 31, said he had stayed in touch with his former teammate for most of his recovery.
“I’ve been there twice and it’s not a nice feeling. It’s something hard to come back from,” he said.
“And then he would’ve watched Michael Morgan kill it last year at fullback and probably think, `Where am I going to play now?’
“But I know Cootey would’ve worked hard, and he would’ve stuck at it. It’s just gone to show, hard work pays off and he’s been playing fantastic all year. I’m really happy for him.”
Now the pair square off for the right to play in the NRL decider, a final neither player has yet to achieve over their combined 18 seasons in the game.
“You appreciate it when you do get a chance because you look at blokes that have played over 300 games and never won a grand final,” Gordon said.
“Once you get a chance, you’ve got to make the most of it.”