Joy for Storm's second-hand props
They are the rejects turned good. Proof that dreams really do come true.
Just a few short years ago, discarded props Jaiman Lowe and Bryan Norrie believed that their NRL careers had run their mostly unsatisfying course.
Lowe, after four years with the Cowboys and five seasons at Souths, was packing his bags and preparing to return to north Queensland to take up a job in the mines. Norrie was on his way to captain-coach the Wagga Kangaroos, having been told by Cronulla that he was no longer part of their plans moving forward.
Then came the call from Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy that changed the course of their respective careers and, ultimately, landed them an NRL premiership ring after they downed Canterbury 14-4 at ANZ Stadium on Sunday night.
"It's unbelievable – this sort of stuff doesn't happen to me," a stunned Lowe told NRL.com in the dressing sheds after completing his fairytale farewell. The 29-year-old spent two seasons with the Storm and will now make that move to the mines he had originally planned two years earlier with his final NRL game being a grand final.
"It doesn't happen to me mate, it just doesn't happen. I'm so privileged to get an opportunity at a club like this.
"My career has had a lot of ups and downs – probably more downs than ups – but it makes it all worthwhile. To finish like this is pretty satisfying. I can ride off into the sunset and not have to worry about it again."
For Norrie, living out a childhood dream has been made even more special given the tough path he has had to follow.
"You know, I try not look back at it – I suppose I'm just enjoying the ride at the moment and I'm very grateful – but it definitely makes you appreciate it a lot more," he said. "Everyone has ups and downs in their career but this is something I'll cherish forever.
"It's amazing. I'm very grateful for going down to Melbourne and the opportunity they've given me. I've loved every minute of it.
"It's a dream come true. To get in a GF was unreal but to win one is something special. I've dreamed about this since I was a kid out in the country."
The story of how and why Bellamy chased two ageing props that nobody else wanted is no secret. While Norrie was cut by the Sharks at the end of the 2009 season, Bellamy recognised his unbridled potential. When the then 26-year-old arrived on the Storm's doorstep, he was given a simple brief: get fit, toughen up, run hard. He has since played more games in each of his three years at Melbourne than he did in any of his previous six NRL seasons with St George Illawarra, Penrith and Cronulla.
Likewise, Bellamy turned Lowe from the bit-part player he had been for so much of his career into a key member of the Storm's engine room, playing 38 games in the past two years.
"I'm just so pleased for those guys," said Storm captain Cameron Smith. "Jaiman Lowe – he is finishing his career tonight. He is never going to play football again but he gets to finish as a premiership player. That's what this game is about. It's about fulfilling those dreams and he has done that tonight."
Asked how he had changed as a player during his time in Melbourne, Lowe replied: "I can't put it in words ... Craig just puts so much belief in his players – he loves his players so much – and he just puts that belief in them.
"He gives them a small job each and really emphasises knowing that if we all go out as 17 blokes and each perform our job, then we'll get results."
Despite his journey, Lowe said he had never dwelled on his rags-to-riches story. Until now.
"We never really looked at it that way but Craig has got a great knack of turning those sorts of players around," he said. "I don't know what it is ... For me it was just trying not to let him down every week – so if that was his intention, it worked!
"But hey, it has ended the way I had always hoped and dreamed. I didn't think it was possible but dreams do come true, as they say. I'm a believer!"
As it turns out, Lowe won't have much time to sit back and enjoy his grand final success with his Storm teammates – he makes the move to Moranbah in mid-north Queensland and the next phase of his life on Thursday – but his remarkable achievement this season is something he won't easily forget.
"I remember Eddie Farah (South Sydney physio) would always say that when [younger brother] Robbie Farah won in 2005, he said that when you win a comp with a bunch of blokes they become your mates for life ... You will always stop in the street and say ‘g'day'," Lowe said.
"I will never, ever turn my back on any bloke at this club. It's unbelievable."