Sean O’Loughlin spoke of his pride after watching England push Australia all the way in a pulsating World Cup Final.
The Warriors skipper sat out the defeat with a quad injury but saw his side, led by Sam Burgess, come agonisingly close to ending their 45-year wait for the title.
Only a first half Boyd Cordner try separated the sides in the end as England saw a clutch of chances go to waste, but no one could argue with the effort which saw emotional and tired players drop to the floor on the full-time whistle.
“I feel very proud of the boys,” said O’Loughlin.
“The effort they’ve shown was immense.
“It was an unbelievable game. There’s obviously disappointment we’ve not come out on top but I’m very proud of the group and even though we’ve not won the World Cup I’m proud of what we’ve achieved in this competition and what we’ve shown we can do.”
Despite having to sit out one of the biggest games of his life, O’Loughlin insisted the decision not to play wasn’t difficult given what was at stake.
He explained: “I knew in the Tonga game when I got hurt that I’d be struggling this week but I tried to do everything during the week to get it right.
“I knew it was going to be tough but come Wednesday I knew it wasn’t going to be right and we made a call on it.
“It wasn’t a tough decision because I knew it wasn’t right to play but it was tough not to be part of the final.
“If there had been a chance of me playing I’d have played.”
O’Loughlin, often a key figure for Wigan in cup finals, insisted the call to sit out was also nothing to do with a risk of making the injury worse.
Having tried to train on the injury last week, the 35-year-old said he knew he would be letting the side down had he decided to play.
“It wasn’t the risk – I was just not fit to play – it was no good,” he said.
“I tried to do a bit of running in training and I wouldn’t have lasted. I wouldn’t have got through a game so I couldn’t come into a game feeling like that, especially being a final.”
But in his absence, O’Loughlin said he thought England played well enough to have won, and that the effort put in by both teams was obvious to see.
“To see how drained of energy at the end of the game the boys were, you know by body language how much effort had gone in from both sides,” he said.
“You don’t often see an Australia team kicking for touch to slow the game down in the last 10 minutes. It was a spectacle to watch and I’m proud of the effort.”