Sorensen’s crazy journey lands at AAMI Park
Twelve months ago, Scott Sorensen would have laughed if you told him he'd be playing for the Cronulla Sharks in a preliminary final against the Melbourne Storm.
"I would've been saying you're dreaming!" he says.
And given it was only 2016 that Sorensen was working on the wharves and playing park football, you can understand why.
Now the 25-year-old is one win from the Grand Final with the Sharks, the club where he debuted in 2014 before embarking on a self-described "crazy" journey.
"It really is special," he says. "Being a local junior and being back at the club that I really love and love being around, it's really exciting times."
It's even more significant given the hurdles the strapping back-rower had to clear to cement his place at Cronulla.
After departing the Sharks following his rookie year, he languished in the South Sydney Rabbitohs reserves, took a gruelling job as an operator at DP World in Port Botany, returned to amateur footy, earned a part-time contract with Mounties in the NSW Cup and joined the Canberra Raiders.
He was then offered the opportunity to "come home" to the Sharks this season and has made the most of it, featuring in 14 games thus far.
There were certainly some trying situations for Sorensen in the three years he spent away from Cronulla and he admits to occasionally questioning his NRL credentials.
"You always have a little bit of doubt. But at the same time, you're not going to get there if you don't believe in yourself," he says.
"I've got a few close friends around me and obviously family support, my girlfriend's amazing and all that sort of stuff. That really made a big difference.
"I just knew if I got myself in a first grade system and kept working hard then things would come from that. I'm very lucky where I am now, I'm really enjoying it."
Leading up to the biggest match of his life, Sorensen has allowed himself to reflect on his unique pathway to the top.
"I'm trying to focus and make sure I tick all my boxes and prepare well for what's ahead, but at the same time I do think back," says the Cronulla Caringbah junior.
"It's where I started off here and came through the Harold Matthews [under-16s] and SG Ball [under-18s] systems and that sort of thing."
Sorensen has proven a no-nonsense performer on the edge this year, locking down a permanent spot in Shane Flanagan's 17.
His club form has been rewarded with selection in the Tonga team to play Australia in October.
But when quizzed if he's felt as calm on the field as he's looked, the forward chuckles.
"I don't know about that," he says. "But it's easier with the experience that we have across the team.
"Guys like Gal [Paul Gallen], Lewy [Luke Lewis], Wadeo [Wade Graham] and those sorts of players.
"You also look at Chad [Townsend], Moyza [Matt Moylan] has been terrific for me, Ricky Leutele – across the park they've got experience, Grand Final experience, internationals, New South Wales, Queensland. It just goes all across.
"That's helped me and given me confidence and makes me feel comfortable. I really just wanted to simplify everything and make sure that I was nailing my job for the team."
With Graham on the sidelines after rupturing his ACL a fortnight ago and Gallen racing the clock to overcome a shoulder problem, Sorensen will likely see some extra minutes against the Storm.
However, he says he isn't feeling any more responsibility than usual going into the clash.
"Sometimes if you do that you can get carried away and caught up in it and start overplaying your hand," he explains.
"I wouldn't say I have extra responsibility. It's more just making sure that I'm doing the little things right, whether it's making my tackles or running hard or running the right line.
"If I do those things well, then I really feel like the rest of it will take care of itself. There's no real added pressure.