COWBOYS winger Antonio Winterstein has delivered a brutal assessment of his form, admitting he was "very, very lucky" to not be dropped after a horror game against Cronulla.
Nursing an injured hamstring, Winterstein made three errors in the first week of finals, the first gifting a try to Sharks halfback Chad Townsend.
He made two more mistakes in the win against the Eels, but bounced back in strong style in Saturday's preliminary final win over the Roosters with 140 metres and no errors.
His customary hard yards out of trouble were back and the 29-year-old wants to improve further for the grand final, where he will clash with star Fijian winger Suiliasi Vunivalu.
"(After) that Sharks game I was very, very lucky to have played even on the weekend against the Roosters," Winterstein said.
"My form was nowhere near good enough to play first grade, and my standards as well.
"I thought I played pretty rubbish against Cronulla and I was lucky to be named in the team to take on Parramatta (in finals week two).
"It's still not up to my standards but I had a pretty decent game on the weekend. The previous two finals games I came up with five errors. That was a big disappointment."
Winterstein said he felt the need to repay the faith in him shown by Cowboys coach Paul Green.
"Greeny is an honest guy, he'll say if you're playing good or playing bad," Winterstein said.
"He had a good chat to me and he opened my eyes. I already knew I was playing bad, but for him to come up and tell me that I'm pretty lucky to be playing, that woke me up a bit.
"I tried to do everything in my power to have a good game against the Roosters."
"We've got some really good young talent coming through (like) Javid Bowen. If you're not playing up to first grade standard, you've got guys who can take your position."
Winterstein has been battling a few niggles but said there's no way he would miss the biggest games of the year.
"I'm fresh as a daisy and ready to go again," Winterstein said.
"You find a new lease of life in a big game like this, it doesn't matter if you're injured or not but it's close to 100% now.
"It did cross my mind my year could have been over then (after he hurt his hamstring against Brisbane in last 26.
"I had really good recovery sessions and the physios were pretty awesome getting me back fit and healthy."
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