Douglas coming to terms with end to NRL career
As he shook hands with Broncos players at the end of the elimination final in the first week of the finals series, it dawned on Titans prop Luke Douglas that this might be the end.
Told at the start of the 2016 season that there was unlikely to be anything on offer from Gold Coast once his contract at the end of 2017 was complete, Douglas was still weighing up whether to fight for his future in the NRL or take a three-year deal to play for St Helens in the English Super League.
That decision had not been made even at full-time of the 44-28 defeat at Suncorp Stadium but the 30-year-old revealed that deep down he began to understand that his 263rd game in the NRL would be his last.
Douglas was feted along with the players retiring this season at the Telstra Premiership Grand Final on Sunday and told NRL.com that in some ways he is still coming to terms with the decision.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet," Douglas said.
"It is pretty sad. You have in the back in the head that if you can play two more seasons you might get to 300 [games] and the club's looking like it's coming along really good.
"There were things I was looking forward to but then within a couple of weeks I've realised it's the last time I'll play in the NRL.
"I knew the offer [from St Helens] was there and I was pretty cut up after that [Broncos] game, with the way it went.
"In the back of my head, as we finished and we were shaking hands, I was thinking that this could potentially be my last ever NRL game.
"It just so happened that after going back and forth in my mind about what I was going to do that it is."
Playing overseas was an option that Douglas had considered for late in his career but complicating his decision as to whether this was the right time was the recent birth of he and wife Adele's first child, Archie.
With Adele's family – including her twin sister – all close by on the Gold Coast moving to the other side of the planet for three years has at times seemed daunting but Douglas has sought the counsel of two people in particular to help ease their mind.
Younger brother Kane spent a year living in Dublin while he played rugby for Leinster while Titans football manager Anthony Laffranchi played for St Helens for three seasons from 2012-2014.
The Titans' player of the year in 2015 struggled for game-time early this season and with prospects under Henry looking bleak moving forward, is now excited by what lies in wait in the north of England.
"I was ready to back myself but I've got a family to support now so that was one of the main reasons," Douglas said of accepting the St Helens deal that while less than his guaranteed contract at the Titans next season represents greater long-term security.
"If I was injured or I wasn't getting played much or coming off the bench and playing only 30 minutes then my value [beyond the 2017 season] wouldn't be too good.
"I loved my time over there for the World Cup. The passion and support was pretty amazing.
"They've got some great crowds and a great atmosphere and I've heard the St Helens supporters are some of the best in the comp.
"It's a great club and they're real keen to get me over there and get me into their system and help out some of the younger players with leadership and professionalism and that sort of stuff.
"It's going to be a great, new adventure. I think a lot of people go over there and rest on their laurels and use it as a base to bit of travelling but that will all come if I'm ripping in and trying to lead by example.
"Hopefully I'll be embraced by the fans and earn the respect of the players."