Last Sunday Ken Maumalo made the most difficult decision of his career.
After more than a decade in the Warriors' system – he started as a 15-year-old in the development grades – the popular winger was weighing up a long term offer from the Tigers.
He had never really considered going anywhere else, despite serious interest from the Dragons a few years ago, and many felt the Papatoetoe Panthers product would be a Warrior for life.
But things changed in 2021, and he was no longer one of the first picked, as the coaches wanted more mobile players on the flanks.
That led to the interest from the Tigers, then a whirlwind couple of weeks of negotiations. It left Maumalo with a big call, as he sat with his family during the bye weekend.
"It's going to be tough," Maumalo told the Herald. "I sat down last week trying to get things through my head and that was the hardest part for me, trying to process everything. I've spent most of my life here so for me to make that decision was a pretty tough one."
Maumalo is "at ease" with the decision now, but the emotion of the process was evident on Sunday, as he broke down in tears at the final whistle.
"It was pretty emotional, as you could tell after the game, it was a tough one to take," admitted Maumalo. "I'd been at the club for [a long time]...all those years have been really special for me. Every one was bottled up and it just came out."
After playing the first 10 games this year, Maumalo missed the round 11 win over the Tigers, apparently due to a "slight calf strain". When he was overlooked the following week – with Marcelo Montoya preferred – it started the chain of events that led to his surprise release.
"Madge (Michael Maguire) called up my manager and asked why I am not playing," said Maumalo. "I've known Madge for ages now and he has always wanted me to go over."
Maguire had a big impact on Maumalo during the 2018 Kiwis' tour of England, and the presence of the Kiwis mentor at the Tigers was a pivotal factor.
"The one that got me across the line was Madge," said Maumalo. "The relationship I have with [him] is very special."
The other reason was the security for his young family, with the Warriors unwilling to match the Tigers extended deal.
And maybe Maumalo saw the writing on the wall. The team had been built around his powerful charges in 2018 and 2019, but Brown wasn't completely sold on the former Dally M winger of the year.
"He wanted me to work on my defence and my movements, wanted me to lose weight," said Maumalo. "I understood why they didn't play me. I'm not angry about it, I understood what I needed to work on."
Maumalo insists there is no bad blood.
"I'm grateful for this club and no doubt wherever I go I'll always have this club close to me," said Maumalo. "It's done everything for my family and has helped me develop my game and get to where I am today so I am always grateful for that.
"I'm at an age now where I understand this is all a business and they have other things that they want and it's not me, so I wasn't angry at all. We were on good terms, came to an agreement that we would part ways."
Maumalo got to make a surprise farewell appearance against the Storm, after Rocco Berry tweaked his hamstring on Saturday.
"I think he (Brown) had no intentions of me playing," said Maumalo. "But I said 'look I want to play; it's my last game and it's meant to be, because our back got injured and we only had Jazz [Tevaga] as 18th man. It was a bit of a fairytale story."
Maumalo made 107 appearances for the Warriors. He only scored two tries across his first two seasons, but has managed 42 since then. He was often regarded as an extra forward and in 2019 recorded a staggering 190 metres a game.
Maumalo nominated his 2015 NRL debut as the most special memory. Other standouts were playing alongside Simon Mannering and Manu Vatuvei in their milestone games, as well as the 2019 season when he was honoured as the Dally M winger of the year and scored 17 tries.