Disappointed, but proud. That's how Sea Eagles enforcer Martin Taupau summed up his emotions after Manly were bundled out of the Telstra Premiership Finals with a controversial 22-10 loss to the Panthers on Saturday night.
Manly came into the game riding high after a big win over Penrith the previous week, but that form went out the window as the mountain men bounced back to keep their season alive.
Last week's win at Lottoland was built on defensive pressure, high completions and silky skills in attack, but it was a different Manly side who ran onto Allianz Stadium with the Sea Eagles guilty of fundamental errors from the moment Jake Trbojevic spilt the ball in the opening set of six.
While they weren't helped by a couple of crucial calls that went against them in the second half, Manly showed the fighting spirit that has come to define them in 2017 to work their way back into the contest and set up a grandstand finish.
In the end, Panthers utility Bryce Cartwright proved the difference with a couple of big plays late in the game, and while Manly players were shattered on the field and in the sheds, they can be proud of what they've achieved this season after most people tipped them to miss out on the top eight.
"It is [tough] but that's the way things happen in rugby league. On a brighter point, it's been a very successful year for us," Taupau said as he bravely faced the media following the heartbreaking loss.
"It's very disappointing the way that we lost the game but we just need to look on the bright side that we came a long, long way in our season and we definitely turned a lot of things around."
Asked what the biggest difference was compared to last week's big win, Taupau said his side's inability to get through their sets cost them dearly against a more energetic Penrith team.
"I think it's just the fundamental errors – the handling errors – and there's also a percentage of it where we didn't have any power in a few of the calls," he said.
"Other than that, we just had to play football, and at the end of the day, they came away with the win."
The Sea Eagles can look back at 2017 with their heads held high given they recovered from a disastrous 0-2 start to become one of the most feared sides in the competition just 12 months after they missed out on the finals.
They had their ups and downs with injuries and a dip in form at the backend of the season but lifted when needed to seal a spot in the playoffs with most people tipping them to advance to the second week of the finals.
The Sea Eagles boast one of the most exciting rosters in the NRL and have shown they have what it takes to match it with the competition heavyweights, and Taupau believes Saturday's taste of finals will be a huge learning curve for his younger teammates as they prepare for next season.
"Age isn't the problem for us. There are a lot of players who haven't played finals football but they've matured and have come a very long way," he said.
"The likes of Api Koroisau, Addin Fonua-Blake, these were youngsters playing for nothing and look at them now. They've matured into great footballers and it's a good thing for us in the future.
"It's been a great rollercoaster ride for us and it's exciting times."