The lead-up to Robbie Farah's final NRL game for the Wests Tigers was a real rollercoaster.
On Sunday the Tigers hosted the Sharks at their famous home ground, Leichhardt Oval, knowing whoever won would secure a place in the top eight playoffs - the loser's season would come to an end.
The 35-year-old Farah, who has more than 300 NRL games under his belt, the majority of which were for the Tigers, had previously announced he would retire at the end of the season. That meant if he played on Sunday, it would be his last game at Leichhardt and if the Tigers lost, the end of his career.
The Wests Tigers and Leichhardt Oval have been a strong feature throughout Farah's career. As a young star he helped the side win the NRL title in 2005. He was the Dally M Hooker of the Year in 2007 and 2010.
In 2016, amid a highly publicised clash of personalities with head coach Jason Taylor, Farah was dropped to reserve grade and driven out of his beloved club. That set up a scene that went global as a dejected Farah sat on the Leichhardt Oval scoreboard with a beer during the club's last game of the season.
He played a season and a half with the South Sydney Rabbitohs before retuning to the Wests Tigers where he and fellow veteran Benji Marshall wound back the clock and showed some of their best form.
In summary, he deserved a proper farewell on Sunday.
Just getting on the field was where things got complicated for Farah. He broke his leg less than a month earlier against the Bulldogs but put his life and soul into getting fit for what could be a fairy-tale finish.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
All of last week the rumour mill worked itself into a frenzy. Would he be fit in time? He was named in the original 21-man squad early in the week but was cut when the team was reduced to 17. It appeared the fairy tale had flopped.
Crucially, Tigers coach Michael Maguire told Farah to bring his boots "just in case".
Just minutes before kickoff, fullback Corey Thompson tweaked his Achilles and could not take the field. That caused a reshuffle and Farah was promoted to the bench. I watched on TV but you could almost feel the roar of the crowd when they saw him, kitted up and running onto the field with his teammates. It was a wonderful moment.
Unfortunately, the final result was not so wonderful for the Wests Tigers. A lacklustre second half saw them go down 25-8 to the Sharks. Another retiring veteran, Paul Gallen, kicked the first field goal of his career to rub salt into the wound.
While he would've loved a win, it was a fittingly dramatic end to Farah's career. He has his haters, often described as selfish and blamed for the stunted development of halfback Luke Brooks early in his career, but he has had one hell of a career.
We live in such a professional sporting era, in which money really does talk, that we don't see as many athletes who have the love for their club that Farah has for the Tigers. His dedication and determination should be celebrated.