Sheridan Gallagher has capped her incredible mid-2023 switch to rugby league after Newcastle were crowned NRLW premiers on Sunday.
In a pulsating grand final, the Knights twice had to come-from-behind to secure a 24-18 victory over Gold Coast at Accor Stadium. Gallagher was exceptional for the winners, scoring a try and delivering a vital one-on-one steal which turned the momentum in the second half.
However, just days after claiming the NRLW Dally M Medal, it was Tamika Upton who proved the match-winner, scoring the final two tries to seal back-to-back title victories for Newcastle.
The dynamic fullback received the Karyn Murphy Medal on Sunday as player of the match.
"That was one of the toughest matches that I've been part of," Upton told Channel Nine post-match.
"Their pack works so hard, but our forwards did so well. I'm so proud of our forwards, they got us down there, and that's all that mattered. They all wanted to work hard for each other and I think a lot of our pack goes unnoticed, a lot of our players go unnoticed. But they just go into training, do the hard work and turn up on game day.
"They're absolutely incredible, I wouldn't want to play with anyone else."
The win was the cherry on top of a remarkable first NRLW campaign for football-convert Gallagher, who had previously looked on the trajectory to one day becoming a Matildas player.
Instead, it was Gallagher who got play under way with the kick off in Sunday's grand final.
The Titans were the first side to grab the ascendancy, with Jaime Chapman scoring the first try. They then took an 8-0 lead inside 22 minutes via a penalty - however, it was all Newcastle for the remainder of the half.
The Knights got on the board when winger Jasmin Strange dived over, before Gallagher was able to score her seventh try of the season minutes later. The Knights shifted the ball right, with the last pass from Shanice Parker sending Gallagher over in the corner.
Newcastle then had their third try in quick succession when Parker found some space to score. The Knights missed all three conversions, but led 12-8 at halftime.
It was the Titans who came out firing after the break, as the Knights were caught surprised by a Chapman blitz. The former Dragon beat a couple of defenders to score her second try, and then completed her hat-trick inside 45 minutes as Gold Coast led 18-12.
The Titans were able to maintain that six-point buffer heading into the final 10 minutes on Sunday. Newcastle needed a moment of inspiration and it was Gallagher who delivered with a one-on-one strip to give her side great field territory.
It would prove crucial, with NRLW Dally M Medallist Tamika Upton cutting through Gold Coast's defence to score. Jess Southwell nailed the conversion as the Knights drew level at 18-18 with eight minutes left.
Upton then stamped her authority on the match, putting through a grubber and re-gathering to score her second try. Southwell's conversion then gave the Knights a 24-18 advantage heading into the final two minutes, with the side holding on to secure victory.
Gallagher's journey to becoming a Knights player in June has been well documented.
The 21-year-old had parted ways with A-Leagues club Western Sydney Wanderers and was expected to return to Wollongong to her local NPL NSW club, Illawarra Stingrays. Instead, an unexpected opportunity arose for the former Young Matildas captain to try her hand at rugby league.
Reading this on mobile web? Download our news app. It's faster, easier to read and we'll send you alerts for breaking news as it happens. Download in the Apple Store or Google Play.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.