KANE Linnett only had to wait 13 games to get his first taste of an NRL grand final.
Then with the Roosters, Linnett was in the centres the day St George Illawarra broke their 30-year premiership drought by claiming the 2010 title.
It took five more seasons, and 111 more NRL games before he again found himself on the game’s biggest stage – this time on the right side of a breakthrough crown for the Cowboys in 2015.
This year’s charge is a different feeling altogether, for the Shellharbour-born 28-year-old, as the Cowboys look to complete a sporting fairy tale Hollywood screenwriters would dismiss as too far-fetched.
“You could definitely say that [it feels different],” Linnett said.
“This time we’ve really come through as underdogs and no one’s really given us a chance. With everything we’ve overcome this year, it’s pretty special.
“I’ve been quite lucky, I’m in my third grand final now. There’s a lot of good players who’ve played Tests and Origin and that sort of thing and never got to play in one.
“It’s a massive occasion and such a huge opportunity not every player gets.
“You work so hard to get there you don’t really want to miss that chance.”
It’s a grand final charge that appeared unthinkable a matter of weeks ago as the Cowboys – without skipper Jonathan Thurston – lost five of their final six games, leaving them clinging to eighth spot on for and against.
Linnett admits thoughts had turned to Mad Monday before the Dragons final-round capitulation against Canterbury gave them a finals reprieve.
“I think we all thought the season was going to be over but then the Dragons got beaten and we really connected as a team,” he said.
“We got a lot of belief from that Sharks game [in week one]. The Sharks are always really hard to beat in finals footy and they were obviously the premiers.
“Getting them in a game like that really gave the team that belief and we’ve just ridden that momentum through. We’ve played some quality teams in the Eels and Roosters and we’ve just worn them down over 80 minutes.
“On the weekend against the Roosters, that first 20 minutes was back and forth, real finals footy, but we’ve been able to stay in the fight and the other team’s been the first one to crack.
“We’re going to need to be a lot better this week because Melbourne have been the benchmark all year so it’s going to be a tough game.”
The shot at a second title in three seasons is part of an incredible career trajectory for the 28-year-old, who was deemed surplus to requirements by the Dragons and Roosters before becoming a mainstay in Townsville.
Having first kicked a footy with the Windang Pelicans before shifting to Port Kembla, Linnett is relishing the chance to bring a second premiership ring back to where it all began.
“Windang’s obviously where it all started for me so I’m hoping to make a trip down there at the end of the season for a little visit,” he said.
“I still talk to players I played with down at Port Kembla a lot and my family’s all down there.
“They come up for every game in Sydney and they’ll be up there again on Sunday.
“That’s what it’s all about, playing for my family and my friends and all the people who’ve been there through all the ups and the downs.”