THERE is a running joke around Port City Breakers that front-rower Sean Barrett owes plenty to experienced forward Mitch Fowler.
The unlikely couple work together as cement renderers during the week, but the similarities don’t end there.
Barrett and Fowler have both played integral roles in the Breakers run to Sunday’s Group 3 rugby league grand final against Macleay Valley.
They don’t get much time away from each other, but Barrett knows the man they call “Chook” has also helped him progress through the ranks.
Fowler also offered Barrett his first apprenticeship and as a way of saying thanks, Barrett took his boss’s first grade spot.
“I give it to him at work about it actually,” Barrett said.
He’s happy for me and he knows I probably wanted the spot a bit more than he does at his age.Port City Breakers front-rower Sean Barrett
“But he’s happy for me and he knows I probably wanted the spot a bit more than he does at his age.
“Being a younger bloke coming through he knows I’ll be there longer than him so he’s stepped back and let me take over.
“It’s been good to be around someone so dominant who was arguably the best player in the group at one point.”
Barrett said playing in the run-on side had been his goal after coming through the ranks at the Breakers and he was comfortable it had come at the expense of one of the club’s stalwarts.
“I enjoy playing in the run-on side a lot more this year and that’s your goal – that’s what you play for,” Barrett said.
“That’s what I’ve worked towards and I know I probably got a bit lucky when Chook was injured at the start of the year.
“But I worked hard to keep my spot, trained hard in the pre-season and did all the extras and it’s come off.”
But I worked hard to keep my spot, trained hard in the pre-season and did all the extras and it’s come off.Sean Barrett
The young front-rower admitted he was a “smarter” player this year than he was at the same stage 12 months ago.
“I’m definitely a better player than the one that played in last year’s grand final,” he said.
“Last year I was just trying to prove a point and try to get my name out there and my nose through the door.
“Now I feel more comfortable with my spot.”
Barrett expected the Mustangs to ask plenty of questions of a Breakers defence that has been miserly at leaking points all season.
They have conceded on average just 15 points per game.
“They can put points on you pretty quickly, but we ended up running away with it last time,” Barrett said.
“It will be a lot harder being grand final day, but we’ve just got to play smart, simple football and we should win.”