He didn’t get the winning swansong he was hoping for but Paddy Ryan savoured the chance to run out in front of family and friends for one final time on Saturday as his rugby journey in Australia, fittingly, came to end where it all started – Tamworth.
Unfortunately his NSW Country Eagles side couldn’t get the job done against a Queensland Country side containing former Red Devils junior Harry Wilson, with the Queenslanders claiming a 45-21 victory to secure a home semi-final.
Speaking to The Northern Daily Leader before Saturday’s final round National Rugby Championship clash at Scully Park, Ryan had intimated that it would be the last time he pulled on the Eagles jersey that he has proudly worn for the last three seasons as he looks to pursue opportunities overseas.
The Pirates junior was, understandably, a bit emotional after playing his final competitive game in Australia in a career that has seen him reach the pinnacle of representing his country and earn over 100 caps for his state.
The 30-year old does have one final assignment in Australia as he prepares to possibly pursue opportunities overseas.
He’ll suit up for the Classic Wallabies in Orange next month, which “will be great”.
Saturday was also fellow home town hero and Eagles half-back Mick Snowden’s swansong.
Moving back to the bench with Jake Gordon’s return from Wallaby duties, the former Pirate was injected into the game with around 20 minutes to play in what was his last game of rep footy.
“I’ll play Eastwood stuff next year but I won’t be playing rep footy again so it’s nice to finish in the same colours in the same town as I started actually,” Snowden said.
“I’ve had enough.
“I’m 31 now and my body hurts all the time.”
Part of the inaugural Eagles side, Snowden thought he “was done” after retiring at the end of last season.
But then the bug bit him again and he was in his words “just having so much fun”.
“Obviously I know DC (Darren Coleman) very well, highly respect the man, and he asked if I’d play,” he said.
“I thought it was a pretty nice way to finish up - wear the Country jersey one last time.”
The Eagles matched it with the reigning premiers for 60 minutes of the contest on Saturday but as has been an all too familiar story in 2018 they couldn’t put it together for 80 minutes.
“To get a win you need to play for 80 minutes,” Ryan said.
“Apart from the [Sydney] Rays game where we put in a pretty comprehensive performance with a lot of Wallabies part of it we didn’t play 80 minutes.”
He said there were “a lot of good parts” in Saturday’s performance but admitted the Reds-heavy Queenslanders, were “too good”.
The Eagles asserted pressure straight from the kick-off and had all the early ball and territory but couldn’t make anything of it and instead found themselves behind after Queensland were awarded a penalty try.
Winger Denny Godinet hit back for the Eagles after some strong carries from the forwards created an overlap.
Narrabri boy Will McDonnell then almost crossed, but after making a great break he coughed up the ball with the tryline in reach.
Second rower Emmanuel Meafou did put the Eagles ahead with just over 12 remaining in the first half but a brilliant 40m burst from Chris Feauai-Sautia locked the scores up at 14-all with five minutes to play.
The Eagles scrambled to hold Queensland up a couple of minutes of later, Ryan earning a valuable scrum penalty to diffuse the danger and see the two sides go into the break level.
Exciting young Queensland centre Jordan Petaia scored early in the second half.
Sam Figg burrowed his way over off a quick tap to put the Eagles in front again, but when Petaia scorched the homes sides defence for his second it was the beginning of the end for the Eagles.