After the disappointments of the NSW Origin campaign and the Dragons' failure to reach the finals Tyson Frizell admits he didn’t dare to dream he would be part of a World Cup final win for the Kangaroos.
A valued member of the Australian bench, the 26-year-old former Welsh international now has played 10 Tests for the Kangaroos with a 100 per cent winning strike rate.
While savouring the 6-0 win over England in the sheds Frizell, who conceded it was the toughest game he had played in his life, spoke of the stellar end to his topsy turvy 2017.
“To be able to finish the year on a high like this alongside such great players is something I will remember forever, after what was a bit of a rollercoaster year for me,” Frizell said.
“People say you dream of these things, but winning a World Cup final isn’t something I thought I’d ever be a part of.
“Mal [Meninga] showed great faith in me and I was able to get an opportunity in the Four Nations last year.
“I went OK and I was just hoping I’d get another opportunity, but I wasn’t too sure how things would pan out after Origin and the season that we had [at the Dragons].
“So winning a final like this is something you feel like you might watch but that you’d never achieve. It felt like it was too hard to reach, but I am part of it now and it does feel surreal.”
Australia’s bench throughout the World Cup, and including the final, was outstanding.
Frizell, Wade Graham, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Jordan McLean all felt a heavy responsibility to continue the work of the starters.
“That is something that Mal has spoken about, making a difference when we come off the bench, and we spoke about it as a collective” Frizell said.
“It is not something that I am used to and it is tough sitting there when you just want to get on and have an impact.
“Reagan and Macca have been outstanding, as has Wade who was playing a different kind of utility role.”
Cameron Smith said the final was among the five toughest games of rugby league he had played in his career and Frizell, one of the game’s more imposing physical presences, couldn’t recall anything like it.
“I can’t remember the last time I have been in such a physical and grinding style of a game,” he said.
“I didn’t know it was going to be that tough.
“We knew they’d come out swinging and they wouldn’t give up right until the end.
“The last 10 minutes felt like hours, but we hung on.
“We prided ourselves on our defence the whole campaign and keeping them to zero is what got us the win.”
Frizell has been one of the Dragons best forwards for several years and had a wonderful Origin debut in a beaten NSW side in 2016. While the teams he has been playing for haven’t fired, Meninga did not forget what he had to offer
“I was part of this team in the Anzac Test and I think that if you can play some decent footy and show Mal you can play well and want to be a part of this team then he will repay you,” Frizell said.
“When you get in these kind of rep teams all you need is someone to give you belief. Mal and his staff give us the game plan but Mal is the one who makes us want to work hard for each other. He drives our standards on and off the field.”
This article first appeared on NRL.com