He may not have played in the game, after discovering that he had thyroid cancer (that was caught early, however), but for Luke Lewis, it was a bittersweet moment for him today, as the Panthers won against the Titans, but he was forced to say goodbye to the Penrith fans for the last time.
In a show of character by Lewis despite not playing, for 80 minutes after the game, he shook the hands of Panthers fans, as they congratulated him on his Panthers career, and wished him well for the future.
“I’ve mixed emotions really. I had my bag packed in the car just in case something happened and I needed to play,” Lewis said.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be possible. I didn’t want this day to come, to tell you the truth.”
Joining Cronulla from season 2013, Lewis admits that the feeling of not driving to Centrebet Stadium will take some getting used to – but he has nothing but positive memories to take away from his time at the club.
“It was disappointing I couldn’t be out there. I just wanted to play in front of the fans and say thank you to them,” he said.
“It’s hard to say goodbye to all these people. It’s something I am going to hold pretty close to my heart for the rest of my career. But life goes on, I suppose.
“Not playing here every week is going to be the hard part. Getting used to playing at another field is going to be difficult.”
On the game itself, it was a Brad Tighe hat-trick and a very good showing by makeshift five-eighth Lachlan Coote, that saw the Panthers win 34-22 – with Coote drawing a lot of praise from coach Ivan Cleary.
“He’s still trying to learn the role at six after playing his full career at fullback and has come in at the 11th hour and done really well for us,” Cleary said.
“He’ll go into pre-season with invaluable experience.”
For the Titans, whilst it is possible for the club to make the finals if other results go their way, coach John Cartwright concedes that their finals chances are over for the season.
“That’ll end the finals’ dream,” Cartwright said.
“I’m really disappointed. We had everything to play for, the preparation was good – we’ve got no excuses. Maybe we ran out of petrol.”