FLASHBACK FRIDAY: BROWN SENDS WARRIORS INTO GRAND FINAL
As the finals series in CRL’s 2023 senior competitions get underway this weekend, Flashback Friday relives arguably the greatest finals moment in the Australian premiership involving a Canterbury product.
Lewis Brown, a grand final winner with Riccarton Knights and a Canterbury Bulls rep as a teenager, played 198 NRL games for the Warriors, Penrith and Manly from 2009-18, while his versatility helped him earn 15 Test caps for New Zealand.
Brown honed his crafted for several Sydney clubs in the lower grades, before being picked up by the Warriors and making his NRL debut as a 22-year-old.
Best suited to the second-row, the robust ball-runner also proved a quality option in the centres or at dummy-half for the Warriors. He came off the bench on Kiwis debut against the Kangaroos in 2011 and laid on a try for fellow Canterbury junior Matt Duffie.
Brown plugged a troublesome centre gap at the Warriors for much of the 2011 regular season and was back on deck for the finals after an injury-hampered couple of months. The sixth-placed Warriors went down heavily to Brisbane in week one of the playoffs but received a second chance due to the McIntyre Finals System that was in place for the last time.
A memorable, last-gasp 22-20 semi-final upset of Wests Tigers – after they had trailed 20-6 early in the second half – pitched the Warriors into a preliminary final against minor premiers Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.
The rank outsiders led 14-12 at halftime, steeling themselves against what seemed an inevitable surge from the Storm. But in a pulsating second stanza, there was no addition to the scoreboard for the first 35 minutes.
Brown was denied a 69th-minute try when the video referee detected a small knock-on in the lead-up.
But as the prelim continued to unfurl on a knife’s edge with the Warriors holding onto their slender lead, Shaun Johnson and Brown etched their names into finals folklore with less than four minutes left.
Rookie halfback Johnson skipped, stepped and dummied along the Melbourne defensive line on a hypnotic, now-iconic cross-field run, then hit the accelerator and offloaded for Brown to dive over out wide – sparking pandemonium on the Warriors’ bench and among a healthy contingent of the club’s supporters in the stands.
James Maloney’s sideline conversion sealed a 20-12 result and the Warriors’ passage to their second grand final appearance in one of the great finals boilovers.
The gallant Warriors went down 24-10 to Manly in the following Sunday’s decider, Brown producing an impressive performance opposite brilliant Sea Eagles centre and captain Jamie Lyon.
Brown linked with former Warriors coach Ivan Cleary at Penrith in 2013 – playing in another prelim with the Panthers the following season – and finished his first-grade career with a three-year stint at Manly. But his NRL legacy is inextricably tied to one magical September night in Melbourne.