As the NSW players paraded around ANZ Stadium, shield in hand waving to their adoring fans, Brad Fittler snuck back up the tunnel.
The roar of the crowd still echoing through the stadium and disturbing the eerie silence inside the ANZ Stadium dressing room, where Fittler had slumped all alone.
His head back against the cold brick wall.
His eyes shut tight. Smiling, as he took a minute or two to himself to soak in the enormity of what had just unfolded.
Six weeks of intense scrutiny was finally over. And there he was, true to himself from start to finish, celebrating like only Brad Fittler would choose to celebrate.
By the time the players had walked off ANZ Stadium and back into the change rooms, Fittler was gone.
He was in a nearby room answering questions from the huge media contingent, cracking jokes and reflecting on the feat they had just accomplished.
Earlier that morning, Fittler was inside an Olympic Park café when two cars collided at an intersection near the train station.
Fittler and his staff ran to the scene to help. One in, all in.
The mantra that he has pushed from the minute he was appointed as Laurie Daley’s successor.
Team first. That’s why Mitchell Pearce’s celebrations were rather subdued considering all he had endured in the decade prior.
As much as it was built up in the media, this wasn’t about him.
And he never made it about him. All week, and in every interview, Pearce gave very little. He went out of his way to avoid a headline.
He was respectful and answered the questions, but not one of his responses were self-indulgent.
It’s why he waited until every single one of his teammates hopped on stage before he joined them to collect the shield.
It’s why he made sure Nathan Cleary was coming up with him before he took a step on the podium.
While he was finally part of a series-winning team, he’s quick to point out how small of a part he actually played in contributing to the overall 2-1 victory.
A lot has changed since he last donned the sky blue. The team-first culture that Fittler has tried to instil was bleedingly obvious.
Pearce said there was a different vibe in the Blues camp under Brad Fittler than previous teams he had been involved with, and the NSW players now believe they can dominate Origin for years to come.
"I have played in other good teams so I am not disrespecting other teams but there was an energy when I came into this team," he said. "The boys haven’t got any ego and it is a good team to be a part of.
"You have got this young group of boys and other guys who have played a bit of footy, but you have got this togetherness. That’s what NSW has been built on when they had lots of success and Freddy has bought that back.
"Obviously, it is moving in the right direction. That’s two series in a row and how good is that. That’s what we all want, anyone from NSW wants that success and it is such a tough rivalry I am just grateful I got that opportunity to be part of this game."
To Pearce, Origin III wasn’t a validation of his decision to move to Newcastle after his abrupt exit from the Roosters.
He has regained top form at the Knights, is one of the favourites for this year's Dally M Medal and has had many observers calling for him to be in the Origin squad from the get-go.
But the significance of Wednesday night's win for him was more an appreciation for the impact that decision had in leading him on the path to one of the game’s great redemption stories.
"It’s nice to be back here because I remember when I went to Newcastle there was plenty of people coming out in the media - players etc. - saying ‘that is the end of it, he won’t be playing rep footy and he won’t be playing finals footy’," Pearce said.
"There were plenty of knockers and they said it wouldn’t work out so for me so my first thought when I got back to NSW, was being appreciative of Newcastle because we were able to get these opportunities.
"We had six players in rep footy when everyone was bagging us three years ago.
"I love playing for Newcastle. Newcastle has made me a better player since I went up there and they have also given me an opportunity to play here so that makes me grateful and I want to do well for them."