Ever the professional, Luke Lewis always manages to get the little things right, often the aspects of the game that go unnoticed by the fans but which are loved by coaches.
The one percenters as they say, the tough carries, the tackles that matter, the extra effort on kick chase, all aspects which epitomise the way Lewis plays the game.
And in 2016 his attention to detail, his leadership and his effort, belied the fact Lewis was in his 16th season in the NRL and is approaching 300 top grade games.
The Grand Final man of the match, Lewis managed 26 of 27 Sharks games in 2016, scored seven tries, some in crucial moments in significant games, in a season he will look back upon with a great amount of pride.
With this also the year him and wife Sonia welcomed their first child into the world and 2016 will certainly be one Lewis fondly remembers.
Fans, teammates, coaches and media commentators were all given an idea of how serious Lewis was about the 2016 season when he put the ‘tackle of the year’ on former Panthers mate Matt Moylan back in round 8.
With Penrith hammering the Sharks line and the ball in the hands of their most lethal attacking weapon, Lewis not only made a try-saver but at the same time put on a bone crunching hit, one which was still being played on highlight reels at seasons’ end.
It was this moment perhaps more than any other that showed Lewis still was had what it takes as an elite player in the NRL and the desire to turn his team into a premiership threat.
In the final wash-up it may not have been the try which decided the game, however when Lewis crashed through the tackles of Johnathan Thurston and Gavin Cooper in the Grand Final qualifier against the Cowboys, the Sharks were well and truly on a path to victory.
With the score 14-6 and considering the attacking weapons the Cowboys possess the game being far from over, Lewis ran the perfect line onto a Chad Townsend short ball, touching down adjacent to the uprights.
At around the 60-minute mark in the match, it was right about this time the Sharks knew they were headed for the ‘big dance’ at ANZ Stadium in a little over a week’s time.
It was a great moment in a celebrated career, with Lewis going on to win his second premiership ring, coming 13 years after collecting his first, as well as the Clive Churchill Medal as best player on the ground in the Grand Final.
While a vital cog to the Sharks on the field, the experience of Lewis may have been just as important off it.
With expectation comes pressure, along with external noise trying to tell the playing group what is and isn’t possible. Lewis made sure that noise wasn’t loud enough to disrupt what they were trying to achieve.
“We’ve made a pact that it doesn’t matter what’s going on outside, what people say or what the paper want to write about us, it’s about what we do as a group and as an individual.
“It’s about what we are willing to sacrifice and what we are willing to put forward to make sure we are at our best come semi-final time.
“I think everyone has bought into it and we just need to keep moving forward.
“We don’t listen to anything outside of footy and that’s been a real bonus for us this year,” he said.
He also gave an insight into why this team, the Sharks of 2016, were able to bring home the trophy on Grand Final day.
“To be honest this is the best group I’ve been involved with over the last 10 years.”
Year in Review: Luke Lewis*
Games played 2016 - 26
Tackle Breaks: 56
Line breaks: 7
Try assists: 5
Average tackles: 25.9
* Statistics courtesy Big League Magazine