Thirteen years after winning the NRL premiership as a spiky-haired winger with Penrith, Luke Lewis is primed for a second crack at glory with Cronulla against Melbourne this Sunday.
The 33-year-old former NSW and Test utility is the only one of the 34 players who featured in the 2003 decider between the Panthers and Sydney Roosters still plying his trade in the NRL.
And although he’s unsurprised by the Sharks’ superb campaign, he admits being resigned to the opportunity of a second grand final passing him by.
“Thirteen years… it’s a long sip between drinks but it was a great time back then, in totally different shoes,” Lewis told AAP.
“I was a young pup coming through and had some blokes I played with as juniors in the same side.
“You think ‘I’ll get there again’ but it was getting a little bit frustrating because we would get to the semis and bow out early.
“So when we got to the preliminary final this year I didn’t want to leave any stone unturned.”
Times have changed since that glorious night at the foot of the Blue Mountains when John Lang’s exciting team stunned Ricky Stuart’s star-studded reigning premiers 18-6 in an era when ice baths were for stubbies and GPS packs for astronauts.
“It was still a little bit old school,” he said.
“We didn’t have any GPS stuff or anything like that we used to train really hard and do the old long road runs which was pretty cool and we don’t do anything like that now.
“I don’t remember doing any media stuff when I was younger either.
“I really only remember the grand final breakfast, going back, having a training session with the fans around, then getting on the bus to the game.”
Having just signed a one-year extension with the Sharks, he isn’t going anywhere and wants to savour the experience.
“I think I just take this one in a bit more and understand what it’s all about – just go with the flow.”
BIGGEST GAPS BETWEEN DECIDERS IN THE NRL ERA (Post Super League)
Lote Tuqiri 2000 (Brisbane) – 2014 (South Sydney)
Luke Lewis 2003 (Penrith) – 2016 (Cronulla)
Chris Heighington 2005 (Wests Tigers) – 2016 (Cronulla)
Johnathan Thurston 2005 – 2015 (Cowboys)
Sonny Bill Williams 2004 (Bulldogs) – 2013 (Roosters)
Corey Parker 2006 (Brisbane) – 2015 (Brisbane)
Ben Hannant 2006 (Brisbane) – 2015 (Cowboys)
Sam Thaiday 2006 (Brisbane) – 2015 (Brisbane)
Lance Hohaia 2002 (Warriors) – 2011 (Warriors)