Sometimes life can be hard. You can wake up in the middle of the night with a million and one things running through your head and be unable to find a single solution. Your car can break down the day after you had it serviced, right when you’re on your way to pick up your kids from school. You can do your very best to be prepared and organised, you can try your hardest to be kind and generous, but that doesn’t guarantee life will play out exactly how you want it to or that you will get what you deserve.
It’s hard to imagine Charles Dickens was a big sports fan, let alone a frustrated member of Warrior Nation, but it’s almost impossible to argue with his powers of prediction. More than 150 years before Friday night’s loss to the Eels, Charlie put his frustration into words. ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.’
As I sat in the rain and prepared myself for the final game of the season, all I asked for was an enjoyable 80 minutes. I wanted something to give me hope that 2017 might be different, some sense that next year — the real next year rather than the promise of ‘next year’ — might come close to living up to expectations. I hoped to witness a group of players fully committed to give something back to the fans who braved the weather to watch them one last time in 2016, a group of players who respected the efforts of Thomas Leuluai enough to send him out on a high note, enough to have him kicking a goal from the sideline as time expired while the Mt Smart faithful stood as one to applaud.
But, most of all, I just wanted to smile.
Everything we have done has led to this moment. Since February we have braved whatever the winter weather could throw at us. We’ve absorbed blow after blow, and there have been casualties — this is the nature of what we do, the price we must pay. We’ve travelled to foreign lands and fought ferocious battles in hostile territory. What we do is not easy.
There have been ups: