AAP Rugby

Luke Lewis feared his NRL career was over

By AAP Newswire

Luke Lewis feared his glittering 18-year NRL career was over before Cronulla's great escape against Penrith thrust the veteran to within a win of a third grand final appearance and a potential fairytale swan song.

After hobbling off with a calf cork, the retiring star watched on helplessly as the Panthers - the club which yielded the 35-year-old's first of two premierships back in 2003 - fought back from 18-0 down to level up Friday night's heart-stopping semi-final at 20-20 as the clock wound down.

"I was sitting there in the last five minutes thinking 'wow, this could be it'." Lewis said.

"The week was just a different sort of preparation, knowing that you were preparing for a do-or-die clash and, if you lose, you're out and that's it, football's all over.

"I was thinking they're a great side, Penrith, and they're probably one of the best teams in the competition at chasing points and running teams down and they'd done that pretty well in the second half."

But a Chad Townsend field goal five minutes from fulltime extended Lewis's 323-game career and left the Storm standing between the 2016 Clive Churchill Medallist and a place in the title decider.

"So I'm very happy and stoked that the boys got me across the line and it gives me another week at training, to be honest," Lewis said.

"It was definitely a relief when Chaddy put that field goal over."

Lewis insisted he'd be "sweet" to tackle the Storm.

"I'll be fine mate, to be honest with you," he told AAP.

"I've just got to get through the next couple of days, get all the swelling down.

"But it' just a cork in a crappy position. It is what it is, though. I'm not too stressed about it."

Lewis is more concerned about the Sharks shaping up for Craig Bellamy's clinical minor premiers.

"The one thing I've always realised about Melbourne the whole time I've been playing rugby league is if you don't prepare, don't turn up ready to play for 80 minutes, they'll give you a hiding," he said.

"They've got great players all over the park. They've got one of the best coaches, I believe, in the world. He knows the game like the back of his hand and he knows how to prepare a side for big games.

"So, for us, it's a massive challenge and we need to do everything to get ready.

"We need to tick all the boxes, we need to get down there feeling healthy and fit and we need to be ready to go for 80, not 40."