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Illawarra Mercury

Hancock's sacrifice a winner

Date: 28/09/1998
Words: 422
          Publication: Illawarra Mercury
Section: Sport
Page: 26
Veteran Brisbane winger Michael Hancock made a stunning and unselfish decision to hand his starting spot in yesterday's grand final team to his biggest competitor, Michael Devere.

Devere was told on Friday he was starting and the young speedster, who will challenge Hancock for his first grade job next season, came up with the first try in Brisbane's 38-12 win.

Hancock, cleared to take his place after finger surgery last week, revealed a fear of letting his team-mates down had convinced him to surrender his place in the biggest game of the year.

``I thought it was best for the team, all I wanted was for those guys to win," said Hancock whose hand was packed in a plastic bag filled with ice in the dressing room after the game.

``I was part of the team, whether I was starting, and it still feels great. It worked out well because Mick (Devere) scored in the first couple of minutes.

``I sat down and talked it over with Benny (coach Wayne Bennett) and he thought it was the best way to go, too.

``I could have started. I've played all year there but it wasn't about me, the team comes first. It worked out okay because I came on and did a few things.

``There's more than 13 of us, there's 17 and I felt for Ben Walker and Peter Ryan who didn't get a game today."

Hancock, who has played in 19 of Brisbane's 20 finals and in all of the club's four premiership wins since 1988, said he was keen to play again next year.

``I got back this year and I just want to stay there," he said.

Meantime, hulking Brisbane forward Petero Civoniceva dedicated his grand-final victory over Canterbury to his homeland Fiji.

The strapping 192cm 22-year-old joked his popularity in the land of his birth may now equal that of recent US PGA golf winner Vijay Singh and former Canberra Raider Noa Nadruku, who carry superstar status in Fiji.

Civoniceva revealed he had revved up for the biggest game of his life by watching Fiji win a Rugby World Cup qualifying game on television as his Bronco team-mates warmed up in the dressing room before kick-off.

``Even though I've grown up here (Australia), I still identify with Fiji culture," said Civoniceva whose father, Petero snr, was a great rugby union player in his day.

``Hopefully this will mean something to them, because rugby league in Fiji is getting bigger all the time."

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