Former Sharks winger Mat Rogers.
Former Sharks winger Mat Rogers. Matt Roberts

Rogers says Sharks win will make his dad proud

NRL: Dual international Mat Rogers was close to tears when Cronulla beat Canberra to win its way into Sunday's NRL grand final.

But the tears he fought back weren't those of joy that his former club had broken a 21-year drought to play Melbourne in the biggest game of the year - but because his father, Steve Rogers, was not alive to see his beloved Sharks possibly win the club's first premiership.

Steve Rogers was known as "The Prince" of centres because of his graceful sidestep, speed, agility and ability to leave defenders standing still, much like Brisbane's Steve Renouf in his prime.

He played 203 games for Cronulla between 1973 and 1985, scoring 82 tries and kicking more than 500 goals. He also played 21 games for New South Wales (seven tries) and 24 games for Australia (seven tries), and is one of the Cronulla club's five immortals.

When he died in 2006, he was the club's chief executive.

"I almost shed a few tears wishing the old boy was here to see it," said Rogers junior, who emulated his famous father by playing 123 games for Cronulla (1996-2001), scoring 75 tries.

Like his father, he also played Origin for Queensland and Tests for Australia, before going on to become a dual international, playing 45 rugby union games for Australia.

"I'm rapt (they are in the grand final)," he said. "They've been a great side to watch all year. I believe they can get the job done."

Rogers said despite the massive occasion and the emotional wave building behind the Sharks, he didn't think the players would suffer grand final stage fright.

Rogers played for the Sharks in the 1997 Super League grand final against a red-hot Brisbane Broncos but believes Cronulla blew its best chance to win a premiership two years later.


Former Cronulla and Australian rugby league great Steve Rogers.
Former Cronulla and Australian rugby league great Steve Rogers. DEAN LEWINS

"You look at that Broncos side we played in '97 - they were just unbelievable," he said. "To be honest, the year we blew it was 1999.

"We were minor premiers that year, but we weren't just minor premiers - we led the competition from round one to round 26 and knocked Brisbane out in the first round of the finals.

"We came up against St George and got beaten that day by the brilliance of Anthony Mundine and then lost the following - it was demoralising.

"I don't think we handled the occasion very well.

"But this group of players have won a lot of grand finals and have played in a lot of big games so they're not going to be overawed by the occasion and I don't think they will let the emotion affect them on the day.

"There are a few young guys - your Jack Birds and your Valentine Holmes - that aren't seasoned, but they have a lot of seasoned players around them like Paul Gallen, Lukey Lewis and Micky Ennis."

Cronulla, one of the most penalised sides in the NRL, will have to remain disciplined.

Fiery Sharks prop Andrew Fifita suffered a brain explosion in the third Origin game this year when he ran into the Maroons celebration and grabbed Queensland forward Gavin Cooper and dragged him to the ground.

"The one thing Melbourne do better than any other team is stay composed," warned Rogers.

"Andrew (Fifita) played a phenomenal game on the weekend and he has certainly got the ability to win you a game of footy.

"But we've seen in the past a few times he has lost his head at times but it's that emotion, in a way, which makes him a great player.

"I'm sure Flanno (coach Shane Flanagan) will have a good chat with him.

"I'm pretty sure, given what is at stake, he won't be jumping on someone's head like he did in Origin."

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