Veteran back-rower Luke Lewis has controversially beaten Andrew Fifita to be crowned the Clive Churchill Medal winner in Cronulla’s historic NRL grand final win over Melbourne.
Lewis was a constant threat on the right side at ANZ Stadium on Sunday night however Fifita was the standout in the eyes of many after scoring the match-winning try.
As well as coming up with the decisive play, giving his side the lead in the 69th minute after the Storm fought their way back into the contest, the controversial prop ran for a game-high 189m and made 30 tackles.
Fifita had a tumultuous month, roundly criticised for writing a message of support on his arm for one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge.
Lewis was good – coming up with some key charges and making 128m – however he didn’t have the same impact as Fifita.
“To my boys, this wouldn’t be possible without you. I love you all,” Lewis said on the podium.
“… Thank you for making 2016 the most memorable year of my life.”
Lewis went close to scoring in the 13th minute when James Maloney put him through a hole, only to be pulled down inches from the line by a desperate Blake Green.
It was Lewis’ second premiership after winning the title as a 20-year-old with Penrith in 2003.
Even Sharks five-eighth Maloney was arguably better than Lewis, coming up with several big plays and proving a constant threat.
Melbourne captain Cameron Smith was also outstanding in a beaten side, making a stunning 72 tackles, with his defensive resolve typifying his side’s refusal to give up.