Illawarra halfback Jayden Sullivan turned on a masterclass in the UNE SG Ball Grand Final at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday 4 May to get the Steelers home 34-23 in a thrilling match against the Manly Sea Eagles.
The scores were locked at 22-all with only eight minutes to go when Manly halfback Jamie Lawler landed a field goal from right in front of the posts to give the Sea Eagles a slender lead.
The Steelers refused to give in and benefitted from a freakish play after Illawarra five-eighth Talatau Amone put a kick through that rebounded off a Manly defender and was regathered by Steelers winger Tyrell Sloan. The next play Amone took on the line to put his side back in front 28-23.
There was still plenty of time left on the clock for the Sea Eagles but the Steelers ensured it would be their day when fullback Treigh Stewart sold the defence a dummy before racing away to score and spark wild celebrations behind the posts as players piled on top of each other.
"It's an unreal feeling to get the win," Amone said. "It's the best feeling of my life so far.
"Full credit to the boys, if they weren't there I would not have scored that try.
"We knew they were going to be tough and big in the middle but we just had to be tight and that's what we did. Listen to the coaches plan, follow it and look at what the outcome is."
The grand final lived up to expectations after both sides finished in the top two positions on the table but had failed to meet in the regular season after being posted on different sides of the draw in the 17-team competition.
The Steelers got off to the perfect start after halfback Jayden Sullivan put a deft grubber kick through for Aaron Schoupp to pounce on and score the opening try of the game.
Sullivan missed the conversion but more than made up for it after laying the groundwork for a spectacular 80-metre try. The Steelers No.7 found a gap in the Manly defence and sprinted upfield before picking up Schoupp in support who in turn passed back to Sullivan to finish it off.
The Sea Eagles needed something special to spark them into life and five-eighth Joshua Schuster provided it when he spilt the Illawarra defence before racing away to score underneath the posts and help reduce the deficit to 10-6.
The Steelers took charge again after prop Blake Dowel powered his way over the line from close range but the Sea Eagles stayed in touch after fullback Kaeo Weekes finished off a backline move to leave them trailing 18-10 just before the break.
Manly closed the margin again after Sione Fainu powered his way over the line before Sullivan took on the line again to score and extend the Steelers lead to 22-16.
"We just play with eyes up, we don't guess, we all know each other," Sullivan said. "We had a rough start to the season but to come out on top is just amazing.
"It was a risky play (for my first try), I didn't back myself with speed. I should've just taken the tackle but it came out good.
"I'm absolutely amazed. Without these boys I'd be nothing. Just because I'm captain doesn't mean I'm above anybody, we're just one team."
Ben Trbojevic displayed all the talent of his older brothers and Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues, Tom and Jake Trbojevic, when he busted the line before popping a pass away for Weekes to streak away, lock the scores up at 22-all and set the scene for a grandstand finish.