With a week off to refuel, Cronulla’s Matt Prior reckons he’ll have enough in his tank to repeat his gargantuan effort against Canberra in the NRL grand final qualifier.
The unheralded forward proved pivotal in the Sharks’ 16-14 win over the Raiders on Saturday night, scoring a momentum-changing try just before halftime at GIO Stadium.
He backed it up with 36 tackles, three tackle busts and a huge 233 metres off 22 runs to win man-of-the-match.
Stand-in skipper Michael Ennis said Prior’s form all year had been exceptional, but labelled his performance against the Raiders as good as he had ever seen from a front-rower.
“I hope it’s one I can back up,” he said.
“I feel like (I can).
“I’m looking forward to the next few weeks and the challenge of it all. I’m excited about it.”
Prior said he had little choice but to step up his game in the absence of workhorse Paul Gallen, who succumbed to a back injury suffered during the week at training.
With Gallen out and Wade Graham sidelined with concussion, the 29-year-old was forced to play 73 minutes – half-an-hour longer than what he has averaged per game this season.
“We’ve had a few games during the year that Gal’s been out and everyone’s lifted,” he said.
“We know that’s what you have to do when he’s out because he does do so much of the work.”
Prior admitted he was in shock when, in the 39th minute, he came face-to-face with Raiders fullback Jack Wighton who was the only man standing between him and the tryline right under the posts.
“I thought I’d be able to step him, but I got to him and I froze,” laughed the 2010 St George Illawarra premiership winner.
“I didn’t know what to do.
“I got lucky and bumped him off and got it down.”
The try was his fourth in 23 games this season, his highest tally since making his NRL debut in 2008.