And then there was one. With Trent Waterhouse departing the foot of the mountains at the end of the year, just his good mate Luke Lewis – the tough-nut who face-planted on his attempted try a fortnight ago – will be the sole survivor from Penrith’s 2003 premiership-winning side.
It’s enough to send a guy to tears.
“I hope we get a nice, big crowd for our last home game and really send him out the way he deserves. He’s done everything for this club for us to do that. I’ll probably shed a few tears when he leaves,” Lewis says. (He did request that last part be left out… Sorry Luke.)
The two Penrith stalwarts have played side-by-side since Waterhouse made his debut in 2002. And while Lewis still remains integral to the NSW and Australia teams and is the Penrith captain-in-waiting, Waterhouse – who will play the next three years with Warrington in the English Super League – has slowly slipped down the pecking order on the never-ending list of talented second-rowers for state and country. What’s not seen, though, is the effect a laid-back Waterhouse has on the often-intense nature of Lewis.
“Being around him all the time, when you’re always thinking about a game, he can bring you back and say, ‘Mate, it’s only footy, you know?’ It’s a real asset,” Lewis says.
“He’s a champion to be around. He’s got a great sense of humour, he likes to have a bit of a joke outside footy, and he loves to let his hair down.
“It’s going to be a little bit different. It’s always good to have ‘House’ here because you can always lean on him when you want to talk about something or reminisce, you know? To not have him here to talk about the good times will be sad.
“I haven’t really thought about it too much but I can’t fathom how much I’m going to miss him here as a mate and a team-mate as well.”
For a while, Waterhouse wasn’t going to England. Rumour had the Sharks about to shell out big money for the big fella. But being on the opposite side of the Penrith jersey he’d worn 182 times before this week? He just couldn’t do it.
“I couldn’t really see myself playing against Penrith because I’ve been here so long now and I’m a Penrith junior,” Waterhouse says.
And the 30-year-old wasn’t prepared to wait a year for the salary cap to increase either. In the end the security of a three-year deal with a club on the rise was too good an opportunity for the five-Origin, 11-Test star to pass up.
“The salary cap here is pretty tight but the opportunity came up over there. It’s hard because you don’t see a lot of guys, like Hindy, play 300 for one club,” he says. “You’re hardly going to see that anymore because of the salary cap; blokes are just going from here to there...
“But I would’ve had to sign a one-year deal and at this stage of my career… I could come out and break my leg next year and that’d be it. The safer bet was to take the three-year offer and secure my future.”
And now, with daughter Isla soon to welcome a sibling into the fold, Waterhouse’s decision to take Rabbitohs-bound Matt King’s advice and move his young family overseas is a challenge he’s looking forward to.
“[King] had nothing but praise for the joint.
He said he had a ball there. He was nearly going to stay but he just had a newborn and he wanted to come home,” Waterhouse says.
“He said the coach was great and has been successful, and the team’s on the way up. They’ve won the last two Challenge Cups and I think a Super League title will be just around the corner for them. Hopefully I can be a part of that.”