He was one of the NRL’s most loveable larrikins but Michael Ennis’ path to premiership glory was far from easy.
In 2006, only a year after missing out on a grand final berth with the Dragons, Ennis was robbed of a place in Brisbane’s premiership-winning side after rupturing his ACL.
“Seeing the excitement and cohesion of everyone coming together as they went on that run in late September towards that grand final was gut-wrenching not to be a part of,” he told Fox Sports Australia’s Hannah Hollis.
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“To know that I had missed that and knowing I may never get a chance again.”
It was not just about missing out on a premiership ring though – it went much deeper than that.
For Ennis, the immediate priority was proving his career and future would not be defined by one injury.
“I definitely did [think I was done],” he said.
“I had an ACL [injury] when I was 17 or 18 years of age and back then you really had to try and convince people that as a young kid when you did your ACL, you weren’t a finished product so I hard to work really hard to prove myself again.
“Things slowly started to turn.”
Ennis made the switch to Belmore in 2009 and with it came a fresh start at a Bulldogs side that immediately improved on its last-place standing the season prior to finish second.
Five years later, Ennis would seemingly have another shot at finally delivering on his premiership dream.
The Bulldogs had already fallen short in the 2012 decider against Melbourne and this time it was fierce rivals South Sydney.
But for the second time in his career, Ennis would have to watch from the sidelines after breaking his foot in the preliminary final victory over Penrith.
“The greatest test I ever had in my football career without doubt was 2014,” he said.
“That prelim final was the lowest moment without doubt in my career. Leaving the field at halftime, I’ll never forget it. I knew I was in trouble. Something was completely not right and that is when the emotion hit me that was it at Canterbury.
“At that point you start thinking maybe this game doesn’t love me like I love it. Maybe it is just not meant to be. Sitting there grand final night watching the boys play Souths and seeing Souths run away with it in the second half – there was no worse feeling.”
His fortunes finally changed for the better at Cronulla though, with the Sharks taking out the title in 2016.
“It was just emotion pouring out of you that was uncontrollable,” he said.
“They are just moments you can’t replace. Without doubt the highlight of my career.
“The game was epic. It was end-to-end. There was no moment at all to stop and take a breath I remember the final moments when it was in such slow-mo, in such a bizarre way. I remember looking up and seeing the three zeros on the clock and it was so surreal.”
All the extra hours spent in the physio room and moments left wondering if it would be easier to give it all away – made the euphoria of 2016 only more special in Ennis’ eyes.
“For me personally those injuries and so many near-misses – not being able to get on the field in ‘06, 2012 the heartache of losing to Melbourne and then obviously that final night at Canterbury when I didn’t get the chance to play that grand final with my mates and the club that I loved – all those moments make it so much more special and emotional,” he said.
“It’s nice to know that through so many different challenges that you’re faced with, it’s all worth it.”
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