MATTY Bowen put on a brave face after experiencing a hat-trick of Grand Final defeats and then revealed he became a father for the third time just hours before running out at Old Trafford.
Daughter Tatum was induced by medical staff at a Wigan hospital to ensure the birth occurred before the Super League title decider against Leeds, who were 22-20 winners.
It’s all done and dusted now and I can put my feet up. It hasn’t really sunk it yet that I won’t be training and playing next yearMatty Bowen
“Obviously I’ve had a long two days,” Bowen said post-match. “The missus had the baby at 11.30 last night and I was in bed by 12 so I had a good rest.
“She’s pretty supportive and, once the baby was stable and mum was stable, I had a sleep.
“She was due next week but we wanted to get it out before the Grand Final and luckily enough we found some Wigan fans that were midwives so we got it out. It was good. They looked after us.”
While Leeds’ triumph enabled Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and Kylie Leuluai to bow out of the game on a high, the 33-year-old Bowen was left to reflect on another title that got away.
A runner-up with North Queensland Cowboys in 2005, Bowen was on the losing side for Wigan in 2014 and, after hanging up his boots, will end his two-year stint in Super League without a medal.
“It wasn’t to be but I wouldn’t change anything,” he said. “I’ve loved every minute of my time at Wigan.
“I wasn’t ready for it at the start but I’ve grown to love the players and the club. I’ll certainly keep a close on them over the next couple of years.
“It’s all done and dusted now and I can put my feet up. It hasn’t really sunk it yet that I won’t be training and playing next year but I will obviously look back and reflect on my career and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Wigan coach Shaun Wane had spoken in the build-up of the desire to give the popular Australian a fitting send-off and he was distraught for the player.
“He’s one of the best players I’ve ever dealt with,” Wane said. “I know a lot of people say it but he’s an even better bloke off the field. He’s one outstanding individual, one of the best.
“It’s tough we couldn’t get a win for him and a few of the other players who are leaving.
“But Mango is the one. He wasn’t with us all weekend because he had a kid at midnight last night and has not slept. It’s unfortunate, really unfortunate.”
Wigan had opened the scoring through departing winger Joe Burgess and, after trailing 16-6 at half-time, threatened to repeat their famous comeback against Warrington in 2013 when quick-fire tries from Bowen and Dom Manfredi edged them in front after 48 minutes.
Leading 18-16, Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin surprisingly decided to go for the posts when his side were awarded a penalty on the hour and, although Bowen kicked his fourth goal, it left the door open for Leeds to win it with a converted try.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it,” said O’Loughlin. “We went with the flow and took the two. That’s sport.
“It’s gutting whenever you lose a final and this is no different. We did a lot in the second half to claw our way back into it and get our nose in front.
“But Leeds are a quality side. It’s a massive achievement, a phenomenal effort to do the treble. They had a bit of a slump after the Challenge Cup final but they showed what a champion side they are by bouncing back.
“We’re massively disappointed but we’ve pushed Leeds all the way in the league and we pushed them all the way tonight. For a young and inexperienced squad, we’ve done a lot of good things this year and that will only benefit us next year.”