Keary's vow: I'm not leaving
Grand Final hero Luke Keary has rejected any talk of a move away from the Rabbitohs, instead planning a South Sydney dynasty alongside the young talent that were so crucial in breaking a 43-year premiership drought on Sunday night.
On the eve of Sunday's Grand Final reports emerged that the Gold Coast Titans were interested in making a play for the 22-year-old when he comes off contract at the end of the 2015 season but in the wake of a fairytale grand final triumph Keary said he intends to commit to a long-term tenure at Redfern.
"To be honest, at the moment I couldn't imagine being anywhere else," Keary told NRL.com. "I love every person in this club, it's a great club and we've got a great culture.
"We've built something over the last three years and a lot of young kids played tonight. I think there were six of us and I couldn't see myself anywhere else."
A return to the Gold Coast would seem highly unlikely given the emotional scars Keary still carries from their rejection of him back in 2011.
An Australian Schoolboys rugby union representative in 2010 who was told by numerous organisations that he was too small to make it in first grade, playing for Burleigh in the Intrust Super Cup as a 19-year-old still wasn't enough for Keary to be offered a contract with the Titans.
"They're all pretty tough at the time obviously but probably the last one there at the end when I was up on the Gold Coast," Keary said when asked which was the toughest of his repeated knock-backs. "I'd just come out of school and their under-20s were struggling a bit at the time so that 'no' hurt and I nearly thought that was the end. Thank God for Souths!
"When I was 19 I think something clicked. I knew this is what I wanted and I knew I had to sacrifice a lot but I always believed in myself. I just had to find the right system and I was lucky enough to end up here and in the hands of 'Madge' (Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire) and (under-20s coach) Benny Gardiner and the like and I owe all the credit to those boys."
While he credits Maguire for his development into an NRL five-eighth, Keary recalls the confronting first meeting with the man who would eventually move the most capped Rabbitoh of all time, John Sutton, in order to find the new kid on the block a place in his team.
It was the start of pre-season training ahead of Keary's first year at South Sydney in 2012 and although it would prove to be the making of the young man, it almost broke him.
"I do remember the first training run. I'd just come back from two weeks in England on the drink and I rocked up to under-20s training and he was standing there ready to take us," Keary recalled.
"I remember going home and saying to the old man, 'I don't think I can do this.' I hadn't been in anything like it or done anything like it before but the big fella said just to stick it out and that first pre-season was massive for me.
"(Maguire) is the most passionate, hard-working, dedicated person that I think I've ever met. The hours he puts in, he knows what he's talking about, he's surrounded himself with the right people and you just want to play for him. You spend five minutes with him and you want to play for him.
"He's an awesome bloke, he's an awesome person and he doesn't just care about Luke Keary as a footballer he cares about me as a person, too."
Maguire's presence and reverence amongst the playing group shapes as a key component in keeping a young and talented squad together in the inevitable salary cap squeeze that comes with success.
Nine members of the Rabbitohs' champion Grand Final team are under the age of 25 and while they have already lost the services of hooker Apisai Koroisau to the Panthers, greater financial challenges await with Keary, Adam Reynolds, Alex Johnston, Kirisome Auva'a, Thomas Burgess, Kyle Turner, Dave Tyrrell and Cameron McInnes all off contract at the end of next season.
Given their form as a combination in the latter stages of the season the priority will undoubtedly be to keep Reynolds and Keary together in the halves with Keary paying tribute to the faith shown by more senior players after missing the first 16 weeks of the season with a pectoral injury.
"It's the best moment ever. It's the best moment of my life by far," a jubilant Keary said, slumped in a corner of the South Sydney dressing room surrounded by family.
"It was obviously tough there at the start but the transition was made easier by 'Madge' putting a lot of trust in me. 'Reyno' put a lot of trust in me, Issac [Luke] put a lot of trust in me, 'Sutto' (John Sutton) put a lot of trust in me and 'GI' (Greg Inglis) put a lot of trust in me.
"They looked after me there for the first month and let me settle in and just went from there; built a bit of momentum and some things happen in life and you just roll with it."