Todd turns anguish to grand final glory

HE stood in the same dressing-room three years earlier feeling worse than at any other time in his NRL career.

In his last game for Parramatta before joining Melbourne, former Newcastle Knights lock Todd Lowrie was gutted, having just trudged off ANZ Stadium after a 23-16 loss to his soon-to-be-new club in the 2009 grand final.

Fast forward to Sunday night, almost two hours after playing his part in Melbourne's 14-4 victory over minor premiers Canterbury in the NRL decider, and the 29-year-old Scone Thoroughbreds junior was in the same room, wearing different colours, basking in a head space reserved for premiership winners.

Still wearing his sweat-soaked Storm playing kit, sipping on a Crown Lager with one hand while holding another six in a box in the other, Lowrie could not stop smiling.

This time, his last game for his third NRL club ended in triumph, not tears.

"It's definitely the highlight of my career," Lowrie told the Newcastle Herald.

"I don't think it's sunk in yet. The only time it feels real is when I look down and look at that ring on my finger.

"As you said, three years ago, I was shattered. It was one of the lowlights of my career after the big high of being here and playing in a grand final.

"But this is fantastic. This is why you play footy, and I'm just so happy."

The blue-collar back-rower played 57 minutes, made 30 tackles, ran 13 times for 89 metres, and even incurred a grade-one fighting charge for throwing a few punches at Josh Reynolds in the 25th-minute brawl during which Canterbury's James Graham allegedly bit Billy Slater's ear.

Lowrie did well just to take the field, having suffered a calf injury at training the day before the decider. He had scans on Saturday afternoon, spent much of that night with ice strapped to his leg or having physiotherapy, then had to pass a fitness test on Sunday morning.

"All yesterday afternoon, I thought it was over. But I woke up this morning and I wasn't too bad," he said on Sunday night.

"It wasn't the ideal preparation - I've had a pretty stressful 24 hours . . . but I'm certainly glad now I pushed through and played."

Though the Storm denied him the chance to leave the Eels as a grand final winner, Lowrie will wear that tag when he joins Melbourne teammate Dane Nielsen at the Warriors next year.

Lowrie has signed a three-year deal with the Warriors, and Auckland will be his fourth NRL home town after a combined 163 games in 10 seasons at the Knights, Eels and Storm.

He will need to be found not guilty of fighting to avoid a one-game suspension, to be served in the Warriors' first pre-season trial next year, but it was the least of his concerns on Sunday night.

He was thinking only about celebrating with his teammates, welcoming the birth of his second child today, then preparing to cross the ditch to start the next stage of his career.

"It is bittersweet, I suppose, but I'm not really thinking about leaving at the moment. I'm just soaking it all up," he said.

"I made my decision, I'm really happy with my decision, and it's a new opportunity for me, but this is the best way to go out.

"No one can ever take this away now. I'll always be a premiership-winning player, and these are memories that I'll never forget."

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