Halves combination Ben Hornby and Jamie Soward.LIVE BLOG: Dragons V Warriors from 5pm
Very few would have predicted them to be St George Illawarra’s most successful halves duo.
In the beginning, Jamie Soward and Ben Hornby were the perfect foil for the Dragons when their regular playmakers were injured.
Even their own coach at the time, Nathan Brown, described their combination as “controlled” and “no-frills”.
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But some refinement from arguably league’s greatest ever mentor, and untold self-belief, have transformed the mercurial halves into St George Illawarra’s only premiership combination.
While Hornby approaches his final game at WIN Stadium tonight with satisfaction, Soward is fighting mixed emotions.
The 27-year-old admits he is happy to see his mate finish off an illustrious career on strong terms. But there is also sadness at the thought of having to start over again next year.
“I was pretty devastated when Ben told me,” Soward said.
“He said he wanted to tell me before the game last week but just didn’t find the right time.
“I’m definitely going to miss him next year, that’s for sure. And he knows that.
“It’s going to be exciting times next year to have young blokes getting a go there, but to not have Ben there at the start is definitely going to be hard to take.
“The off-season might be a little bit lonely for me.”
Before his start alongside Hornby, Soward was probably best known as the Roosters rookie trained by Phil Gould and Shane Flanagan to mimic Darren Lockyer’s every move at opposed sessions with the 2004 NSW team.
But with Hornby and coach Wayne Bennett’s guidance, he went on to scale the heights of Origin arena himself, playing the role of No 6 in 2010.
“Not necessarily on the field but definitely off the field, Ben’s taught me how to become an honest man and just be a friend – he’s a captain that everyone loves playing with and playing alongside,” Soward said.
“It’s a partnership that’s been there for so long and we’ve been successful for a number of years when people said we weren’t going to be.
“We’ve ridden the highs and lows the last couple of years.
“The next two weeks are going to be special playing the last couple of games with him. I’m sure we’ll enjoy a cold beer and reflect once the season’s finished.”
Soward disregarded the team’s recent form, stressing that it paled against what he and Hornby helped to engineer not so long ago.
As Hornby and teammate Dean Young ride into the sunset in a few days’ time, Soward knows they’ve left no stone unturned.
“You’ve just got to look back at the last four years we’ve had in the halves as partners – how many games we’ve played together and what we’ve done in that time,” Soward said.
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