Bernard Lewis the unlikely Roosters hero
IN the early stages of the Auckland Nines, Bernard Lewis was just a flash of bleached blonde curls who looked uncomfortable under the high ball.
By the end of it he was a Roosters hero and mystery cult figure with a goofy laugh and an innocence that hasn't yet been beaten out of him by the harsh realities of the NRL.
If the Chooks were a team that few punters believed in at the start of the tournament, Lewis was the epitome of why they hoisted the trophy at its end.
First he secured his side's place in the final with a breathtaking dash up the left wing to send the Storm packing.
Then he went one better, scoring his side's second try in the final, which ultimately proved the championship moment as the Roosters withstood a late fightback from the Panthers.
All this coming from a 19-year-old Torres Strait Islander on a $10,000 contract, who didn't expect to be on the plane to Auckland, nevermind play a key role.
"After Christmas and New Year's Robbo came up to me and he said he wanted me to play Nines," Lewis revealed.
"I was stoked, I couldn't believe it. I was really happy and excited to play."
And not just play but win.
"I can't believe it, I'm still shaking a bit," Lewis said.
"Especially playing with the boys I grew up watching, like Toops (Daniel Tupou), (Aidan) Guerra, Aubo (Mitchell Aubusson) and them, it's like a dream come true finally getting to play with them and especially winning the grand final."
However, it wasn't always Lewis's dream to run out for the Tricolours.
Growing up on Badu Island and Cairns with cousin Gideon Gela-Mosby, who he says is like a big brother to him, Lewis idolised Matt Bowen and was a diehard Cowboys fan.
Despite making academy teams, Lewis slipped through the net of both the Cowboys and the Broncos, winding up in Bondi as a 15-year-old after he was identified by the club's former recruitment guru Peter O'Sullivan.
On the same weekend his cousin Gela-Mosby edged closer to a Cowboys debut with another outstanding Nines campaign, Lewis announced himself to Roosters fans and sees it as a big step closer to an NRL debut, hopefully in 2017.
If that day comes, he will still have his north Queensland heritage with him. It's his custom to scrawl the word 'Cairns' on his wrist tape.
"Cairns - I always have this. I always have Cairns with me for family and friends, I do it for them. I put Cairns on the map," Lewis said.
After winning selection in both the Queensland under 18s and under 20s rep sides in the last few years, he hopes to one day do the same thing for his state.
"Yeah, it's my dream," Lewis said of one day playing Origin.
"I was happy I made the 18s and then the 20s last year and I was in the 20s emerging squad this year again, so hopefully I'll get to wear the jersey again this year.
"It's a dream come true to play for Queensland, like playing in the NRL."
The latter can't come soon enough for him.
"Hopefully. I played in the Nines, that's one step closer," he points out.
"Robbo recognises me, my talent. It's one step closer, so hopefully I'll have a run this year, we'll see how things go."