In his final column of the year, the Warriors forward reflects on their Grand Final success.
It’s not sunk in yet. It’s not that it doesn’t feel real – it definitely does – but in terms of it being an end of an era, with Waney and three big players going.
And I don’t think it will until we start back training.
I’ve said before all final victories are special in their own ways, and this was definitely the case with this one. I may think differently once the dust has settled, but right now I feel like this has shaded the others just because of all the emotions involved.
Waney used emotion in the build-up to the semi-final, and even last week, too. Instead of inviting a sports star or rugby league legend to present our shirts, we were asked to present them within the group, to our team-mates, in front of our family and friends.
It worked really well, it hit home how much players enjoy playing alongside each other, covering each others backs, and I think you’ve seen that in our performances this year.
Before the game itself Waney stripped all the emotion out. Honestly, it was as if he and the other guys weren’t leaving – it was all about, ‘Here are the details, this is what we need to do to beat Warrington’.
Our handling wasn’t great in the first-half, especially the 10 minutes before half-time, and even though we were leading 8-4 at that point you would have thought we were losing to hear the talk at the break.
We spoke about keeping hold of the ball and we did that, we got into a set-for-set game with them and it was just a case of, ‘Who’s going to crack first?’
Warrington really gave it to us, and Stefan Ratchford made a couple of breaks. I’ve watched the game back and what really impressed me was how quickly we recovered from that and got the line reset.
In a normal, tight game, I’m struggling for energy in the final 10 minutes. I think a lot of lads will say the same.
On Saturday, I was gassed for the final 30 minutes, it just felt like we were hanging on – and so when Dom Manfredi went over for his second try, it was joy, shock and relief combined into one.
Stef got the Harry Sunderland and as well as he played, Dom was my man of the match, not just for his two tries and his tackle on Tom Lineham but also a play earlier on when he defused the kick and made a break which really got us going.
When I look back on the night, I don’t believe in the whole, ‘It was meant to be...’, but I felt everyone delivered and we got what we wanted.
I was so happy for Dom, so happy for Dan Sarginson. So happy for the lads leaving, and especially Waney, because he’s had a massive role in everyone’s lives.
When the full-time whistle went, I obviously hugged the guys I was closest on the pitch to, but then I went over to commiserate Warrington.
They had a real dig and even though I think they’ll reflect on a season in which they made progress, it must be tough to reach two finals and lose them.
I know from experience it’s a horrible feeling to lose a Grand Final.
We celebrated with the fans after we’d lifted the trophy, and then made our way back off the pitch.
Waney was choking up in the dressing room afterwards and, when he said, ‘I would die a happy man’, a few of the lads were the same! We had a few days enjoying it.
We went back to Central Park on Saturday, and our family and friends were there – the image of Waney being tossed in the air will live with me for a long, long time!
And then on the Sunday, it was just the lads and staff, at a Peakey Blinders bar in Liverpool. Different groups had to go in different themed fancy dress.
There were world leaders – Sarge as the pope was great, and I’ve got to say he was my man of the match of the celebrations – wrestlers and, for my group, Oktoberfest.
It was a great day, with a lot of drinking, a lot of laughing. Everyone was in such a good mood.
Some of us carried it on into Monday ahead of our awards dinner, and now the non-internationals have a few weeks off to recharge and reflect on a great ride it’s been.
This is my final column of the year, thanks for all the messages.