Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend has turned his NRL finals humiliation into happiness, steering the Sharks into the grand final two weeks after being hooked by coach Shane Flanagan.
Townsend had nowhere to hide as he was dragged during the second half in the Sharks’ gutsy qualifying final defeat of Canberra at GIO Stadium.
Flanagan and his side rallied around the Sharks junior during the week off and he repaid their faith by starring in the 32-20 win over North Queensland at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
Townsend scored a crucial first-half try, almost scored another and put Luke Lewis over in the 52nd minute to seal passage through to the decided for the Sharks.
The 25-year-old has been a key part of Cronulla’s success this year.
However, he was anything but in the final against Canberra, struggling in defence and failing to provide direction in attack.
But that is all a sidenote in the Sharks’ charge to just their fourth decider after 1973, 1978 and the 1997 Super League grand final.
“There has been no second guessing for Chad Townsend tonight. His passing has been crisp and decisive,” Peter Sterling said on the Nine Network.
“He has been wonderful and that carried on the season he had put together.”
Townsend’s kicking game was also crucial for the Sharks as it put repeated pressure on Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote.
The Yarrawarrah Tigers junior was key in gaining revenge for the Sharks after their 39-0 thumping to North Queensland in the 2015 finals series, winning his head-to-head battle with Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston.
He can earn the ultimate redemption next week if he can help Cronulla to their maiden title in the decider at ANZ Stadium.