The last two premiership winning teams have next to nothing in common.
The Newcastle Knights went from winning the competition last year to getting the wooden spoon, while the Cutters rose from tenth position to Intrust Super Premiership NSW premiers in the space of a year.
The Cutters finished the regular season in second position, while the Knights last year finished seventh; their premiership victories and 24-month periods could not be more different.
That is, except, for Damian Sironen.
Sironen – the nephew of Balmain Tigers legend Paul Sironen – has gone back-to-back, after remarkably being a part of both the Knights’ and Cutters’ premiership winning squads.
“I’m over the moon, I couldn’t be prouder of our effort as a side,” Sironen tells NSWRL.com.au.
“It’s a big achievement for me personally to go into a new side and go back-to-back, it’s a bit of a fairy-tale finish for me, I can’t really put it into words, it’s overwhelming.”
While winning a premiership is such an amazing experience unique to any other, Sironen admits there was a difference between winning both Grand Finals.
“Last year I was a ring-in halfway through the year at Newcastle, so this year is a bit more special for me because I was part of the side for the whole year,” Sironen explains.
“This year I felt like I was there all year and it was something we worked hard for really deserved.
“Everyone wrote us off coming into this game and said that we didn’t have a chance, which was sort of similar to last year, but this year I just felt like we deserved it a lot more.”
Sironen has grown as a player in the two years since the Gold Coast Titans released him to the Knights in 2015.
He credits that growth to Cutters’ coach, Jason Demetriou, who had an imperative influence of taking the side to their maiden premiership.
“[Demetriou] has been massive for me personally, he cleaned up my game a lot,” Sironen says.
“I had a lot of loose errors and silly offloads at the start of the year and in the back half of this year I’ve started playing some solid footy.
“I’ve really found my feet in terms of my fitness, I’ve been playing 70-odd minutes, I’m well over 100-metres a game, so I’m really happy with my form in the back half of the year and it will set me up strong going into next year.
“To the club he’s brought a real culture of family, everything we do is for each other and we’re a big happy family as a group.”
Forever in time, Sironen will be a part of the team that delivered the Illawarra faithful their first ever Intrust Super Premiership NSW premiership.
They certainly impressed the fans in the crowd, and he is extremely grateful for the support.
“I think we had four busses that came from Wollongong, that’s massive, the swing of the crowd does play a part,” Sironen says.
“Even when you go back for a kick-off and you hear blokes screaming your name it really lifts us, so I’m happy that we had a good showing of support tonight.
“For the Illawarra and Wollongong Rugby League it’s massive, there are a lot of really proud people that travelled up.”
The Cutters now have an Intrust Super State Championship to win next week against the Burleigh Bears, which will be the curtain raiser for the NRL Grand Final.
While there will be vigorous preparations, it’s safe to say the Illawarra players will still be nursing soreness from such a tough contest on Sunday afternoon.
“It was a tough battle, [Mounties] stuck it to us the whole game and there was one point in it, so that’s pretty self-explanatory on how tough the game was,” Sironen says.
“It was nail-biting, I think I had a carry with about 40 seconds to go and it had it stripped out, in times like that you’re just glad that you’ve got 12 other blokes on the field digging deep for you.”