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Handshake deal: How Sorensen saved career, then finals series

Scott Sorensen revived his chances of appearing in his first grand final with what started as a handshake, nine months after doing the same with his career.

For a year that started not just without an NRL deal but knockbacks from several rivals and little interest from Super League outfits, a dislocated wrist in round 25 should have been the end of it.

The Panthers forward was initially told he'd miss up to 10 weeks, and even with a "clean dislocation" involving no fractures or breaks, a quick return seemed fanciful.

But after surgery, Sorensen's bloody-mindedness took over.

"He just had the mindset that he'll be playing," Penrith head of performance Hayden Knowles told NRL.com.

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"The first few days were quite funny when he got his arm out of his cast. When he shook your hand, he'd make sure he squeezed that hard that you went, 'Aw, shit - his wrist must be good'.

"I think he was making sure he shook every staff member's hand for a couple of days there just so everyone knew that he was serious about coming back ... That's just him as a person."

Typical of the perseverance and meticulous preparation that have come to define the 28-year-old forward since his Sharks debut in 2014, he returned in a fortnight to suit up for week two of the finals.

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Fighting back from the scrap heap

While grand final fairytales are looming for several Rabbitohs players and their coach, Sorensen has already crafted one hell of a tale himself after his NRL career almost fizzled out at the end of last season.

Not re-signed by Cronulla, Christmas passed and Sorensen was without a contract.

A move to Super League loomed but even that wasn't guaranteed based off the lukewarm interest his name generated at more than one UK club.

Eventually he received a call from Panthers assistant Cameron Ciraldo, followed by a meeting with coach Ivan Cleary.

"The conversation was definitely there [about going overseas]. I wouldn't say there was anything cemented," Sorensen said.

"But it was definitely a conversation that within the next two weeks to a month [I was] looking to get something sorted to head over to England.

"It was pretty soon to get something done but I'm very fortunate and very lucky to be in the position I'm in now."

Within a week of meeting Cleary, a one-year deal was done and he'd already started making a lasting impression.

Scott Sorensen in his rookie year for Cronulla in 2014.
Scott Sorensen in his rookie year for Cronulla in 2014. ©NRL Photos

"You could just tell he's got that character about him that he won't let anyone down," Knowles said.

"You see that in different ways in people. You see that in how he presents every day, you see that in different little parts of training."

It's not the first time Sorensen has fought back from the proverbial scrap heap.

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After three matches for the Sharks, Sorensen landed at the Rabbitohs in 2015 and was let go without cracking the top team.

He worked as a wharfie at Port Botany, had stints in park footy and managed only a couple of NRL outings for the Raiders in 2017.

It wasn't until Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan took a punt on bringing Sorensen back to the Sutherland Shire in 2018 that his career blossomed.

"He was always a good kid and was always a good junior, worked really hard and trained really hard. Not so much then, but later when he was playing first grade," Flanagan told NRL.com.

The way he looks after himself, diet, hydration, preparation for games - he's up there with the best.

Shane Flanagan

"He was just a pleasure to coach, a pleasure to have at training. Absolutely zero problems. He trains hard, he's a good kid.

"A pleasure to be around. I just knew from those earlier days, in '13 and so on, what a good kid he was ... He hung in there.

"He was always a good trainer - he was a good player as well - but he's one of those blokes who matured a little bit later and he got his chance later in life."

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Sorensen stepped up in round seven that season - scoring a sensational try against Penrith in his comeback - and went on to tally 15 matches including three finals appearances.

"He trained so hard, especially in the gym ... On the field, the way he looks after himself, his diet, his hydration, his preparation for games - he's up there with the best," Flanagan said.

"He had some big-name players in front of him - Wade Graham, Luke Lewis and Paul Gallen.

"Blokes like Kurt Capewell and himself always had to fight for those bench spots. They never, ever whinged, they never complained, they just got on with it and fought really hard.

"I always knew he had it in him. The things that he's doing, he's done before. That game against Penrith [in 2018] was a classic example.

"He can break the line, he's a real tradesman in his job. But every now and again he does something special defensively or offensively."

The Cronulla-Caringbah junior did exactly that in last week's 10-6 preliminary final win over Melbourne to help save a Jahrome Hughes try.

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'He's the perfect person'

"What you see every day in him, from day one, has probably culminated in what everyone saw when he chased down Jahrome Hughes in the back end of the first half," Knowles said.

"That's kind of how he's lived his life and that's how he lived those dying seconds of the first half. Again, that goes back to character."

His rounding-up of Hughes earned Sorensen comparisons to Panthers legend Scott Sattler's memorable try-saving cover tackle on runaway Roosters winger Todd Byrne in the 2003 decider.

"It's nice to be compared to [Sattler] but I think his one takes the cake. His one was outstanding and especially in a grand final, it was awesome," Sorensen said this week.

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"I turned my head and all I thought was, 'Just chase'. To be honest, I wasn't the only one chasing. Fish [James Fisher-Harris], Dylan Edwards and T-May [Tyrone May] were there as well."

Among the Panthers team, Sorensen is "Mr Perfect".

"The boys have a bit of a laugh about his perfect body," Knowles said. "He's the perfect person. It's quite funny.

"Trying to find a fault in him is really hard."

Scott Sorensen has overcome a wrist injury to play in the finals.
Scott Sorensen has overcome a wrist injury to play in the finals. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

So it's no surprise that when it came to his wrist injury, Sorensen didn't leave even a pebble unturned in his quest to recover.

"I literally just had my hand in a bucket of ice 24/7 and obviously a lot of physiotherapy, et cetera," said Sorensen, whose wrist was out of place for close to 20 hours before surgery.

"Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of injuries that hurt a lot more. But it was throbbing and pretty uncomfortable for a while."

That level of dedication has netted Sorensen a two-year contract extension. On Sunday, it may well yield a premiership ring.

"I've absolutely loved my time here since day one. The club's been unbelievable in terms of welcoming me and throwing an arm over me to come straight through the door and straight into it," he said.

Flanagan aptly summed up the regard in which the back-rower is seemingly universally held.

"More Scott Sorensens in the world, it'd be a good place."