Emotional farewells as Dogs finish on a high
This season may be one to forget for Dogs fans in many ways but three straight wins to finish the year meant plenty of bittersweet emotions were on show as Josh Reynolds bade farewell to the club he has played his entire career with to date.
In a year in which the team never seriously looking like challenging for a finals berth and scored 100 fewer points than the second-worst attacking team in the Wests Tigers, fans also had to deal with constant speculation over the future of now-re-signed coach Des Hasler and the impending departure of fan favourite Reynolds plus the possible departure of beloved skipper James Graham.
Speaking after the game, Reynolds – who scored the team's first try but was forced off shortly after with an ankle injury and had to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines – described the moment as "bittersweet".
"I was trying to hang in out there [with the injury] but it wasn't meant to be but we got the win and that's the most important thing today," Reynolds said.
"It wasn't about me, it wasn't about individuals, it was about getting that win. For all those rounds you play you want to win those games and I'm just really glad the boys came home in the end."
Graham spoke of the close bond he had forged with Reynolds over the years at Belmore, but was noncommittal when pressed on his own future.
"To finish the season off with a win is always pleasing – mostly because of [Reynolds]," Graham said.
"This year's been about what-ifs but sport's mad, isn't it. You fight on. We've looked back at games and gone 'we should have beat them, we should have beat them'. But we didn't.
"It's a credit to the players, the coaching staff and the club to come back and fight like we did. To win three from three at the back end of the year was a credit to everything."
He praised the team's effort to come from behind, having led for most of the game to fall behind 20-14 but score two late tries to seal the win.
"I know most people would have been thinking 'that's it, it's done' but it wasn't, we found a way to claw back and it's characteristics like that that's going to stand this club in good stead," he added.
Whether Graham ends up staying at Belmore or departing (and potentially taking up a mooted deal with Sunday's opponent St George Illawarra), he has certainly played his last game with Reynolds for the foreseeable future.
"[Reynolds] has become one of my best mates and he's going to be moving on to pastures new. It's sad but sport does that to people doesn't it, brings people together," Graham continued.
"It's a made-up game with made-up rules but it has these mad emotions attached with it. Brings you close with people from opposite sides of the world. I grew up as a kid in Liverpool, he's here bouncing round Belmore and now we're best of friends."
In a touching gesture, Graham asked Reynolds to lead the team out, despite the fact it may also be Graham's last for the club.
Reynolds said he was blown away by the gesture.
"I wasn't sure what to think when he asked me because I've already had my [farewell] at Belmore," Reynolds said.
"That was amazing. It really means a lot for James and all the boys just to keep making it special. It's hard because you don't want it to be about yourself, I really don't and when he said that to me, it's just such an honour, it really is.
"Like James said, little things like that, the friendships we create are the moments I'll cherish forever, are what I'll really take out of this. Footy is footy but mates hopefully last forever and that's why I love this guy, I really do. It's massive, it really was."