Reed Mahoney’s mind flashed back to the days before Christmas during pre-season training when the Eels defended their own line in the frantic final few minutes of Friday’s gripping Preliminary Final win.
It was 45 degrees in Sydney’s west, bringing the same type of humidity the Eels overcome against the Cowboys in Townsville.
“And you’re running laps around the oval and thinking ‘why am I doing this?’" Mahoney grins.
The Eels hooker got his answer and reward for an 80-minute team performance that included the rake topping the tackle count with 58 tackles to help book the club its first grand final appearance since 2009.
“They’re the reasons you’re looking at boys either side of me that time, it’s a bit of a flashback,” he continued.
“It was hard to feel anything, I couldn’t [breathe] out there for the last five minutes. I couldn’t even scream, I had no breath left. It just showed mental toughness tonight.”
Mahoney’s 100th game for the club was well-celebrated in the lead-up to the match but the Bulldogs-bound hooker knew every second could’ve been among the last in blue and gold.
Match Highlights: Cowboys v Eels
While fans don’t want the 24-year-old to depart so soon into his NRL career, the thought of bowing out either a premiership-winner or grand finalist will enable Mahoney to be content regardless.
“When I first come into first grade [in 2018], we got the wooden spoon,” Mahoney said.
“So we’ve come from the bottom when I first started. It hasn’t sunk in yet [it will be my last game], I’ll just enjoy the week with the boys.
“It’s come around pretty quick. I wanted to enjoy this year and enjoy my time with the boys at training.
“There was no other way [other than going out a with a grand final]. I knew as a group we could get it done, it was just a matter of how.
“We just got a few key moments right and took our opportunities.”