Broncos rally around forgotten man
It's one of the most heart-wrenching photos of the 2015 season.
Injured prop Josh McGuire falling into the arms of Broncos teammate Sam Thaiday following the Preliminary Final last Friday night, knowing his team has qualified for the Grand Final but they did it without him.
McGuire has been forced to endure a torturous existence ever since rupturing his Achilles tendon in innocuous circumstances 58 minutes into Brisbane's Round 16 win over the Knights at Suncorp Stadium.
The season-ending injury first denied him the chance to finish his maiden Origin Series with Queensland and with each passing win by the Broncos the prospect of missing a grand final has loomed large.
That nightmare is now a reality and why the Broncos' 31-12 win over the Roosters to qualify for their first grand final in nine years was one of such mixed emotions for the man they call 'Big Show'.
For months McGuire has been confined to the stationary bike at the team's Red Hill training base having to watch on while his teammates continued on their merry way, which is why it did the heart good to see him partake in light duties with the team on Monday morning.
Every member of the Broncos squad knows that McGuire has been a major contributor to the team's success this season, but they are also acutely aware of the fact that nothing they can say can dull his pain.
"Poor lad. I think it's been getting harder and harder for him as the weeks have rolled on," said Thaiday, who rose from his seat on the sideline to help McGuire from the field in late June.
"I just told him [on Friday night] that he's a big reason why we're here.
"There were a few games this year where he inspired a lot of the players to really stand up and be counted so I just made sure that he knew that he was one of the big reasons why we are in the position we're in.
"It probably started at that third Origin. He was there and watched us win that game pretty convincingly and now as the Broncos have gone through the year and we've gotten better and now we're in the grand final he feels as though he's missing out.
"The talk has always been how hard it is to get in a grand final so he just has to realise that he is still young and he may get another chance."
Darius Boyd knows full well the feeling of solitude that comes with such a serious injury having ruptured his Achilles in the pre-season and missing the first eight games of the year.
As much as the team include you in the huddle after a win to sing the team song, Boyd understands the hollow feeling that comes with being unable to contribute on the field.
"I wouldn't wish that upon anyone," Boyd said of McGuire's unfortunate situation.
"I was lucky with my Achilles that I had light at the end of the tunnel to come back and be a part of it where his was season over.
"He's had a great year, played Origin for the first time, so I think he's got to try and focus on the positive stuff. While it's obviously disappointing now to miss out and not be a part of it he's still had a great year.
"I hated sitting on the bike. I used to go and ride the bike in the morning just to watch the boys train. Not because I had to, just because I wanted to see them train and wishing I was out there.
"The team was going well, they were winning and I wanted to enjoy the song a bit more with the boys at the end of a game.
"It was enjoyable watching them win but it's always more pleasing when you're a part of it."
Sunday's decider against the Cowboys will be just the second grand final of Corey Parker's 15-year career to date and is disappointed that in his seventh year in the top grade McGuire won't be able to take the field with the team on the game's greatest occasion.
"Nine years it's taken me to get back into another grand final and to miss one, you've got to feel for him," Parker said.
"He's such an important part of our side. He missed Origin III as well so he missed and he's going to miss the grand final so your heart goes out to him."