Warriors coach Todd Payten paid tribute to retiring star Adam Blair as his side ended a season like no other with a 40-28 win over Manly at Gosford's Central Coast Stadium on Sunday.
Blair exited the NRL stage after 331 games at four clubs - Storm, the Wests Tigers, Broncos and Warriors. He also has Test 51 caps for New Zealand.
"I had Adam at the Tigers and he's a professional," Payten said. "He mentors the younger guys, shows them how to prepare and train during the week.
"Whether or not he's contributing in large amounts on the field, the stuff he does off it is invaluable and no-one sees that."
Match: Warriors v Sea Eagles
Round 20 -
Venue: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
But everyone saw the Haka the Warriors players performed for both Blair and the Gosford crowd, who had taken the side under its wings as players made nearby Terrigal their "home away from home" for nearly six months.
It was an emotional time for everyone. Payten stepped into the breach when Stephen Kearney was sacked as head coach after round six.
"I had a little tear well up when I saw the Haka. I've seen it at Benji's [Marshall] wedding and I've seen it a couple of times in New Zealand," Payten said.
"It's really powerful. It's a sign of respect. I'm really proud of our club and this group.
"They have represented themselves, the club, their families really, really well.
Blair farewelled with powerful Haka
"We've got a lot of goodwill around the place and they deserve it they really do. They were the ones who had to put it on the park every week.
"There's been challenges – really difficult and times and then really positive ones. I've seen boys grow into men and some of our men became really leaders.
"It's been really heartwarming to see it all come together."
And nothing better than riding off into the sunset of season 2020 with eight tries and a 12-point win.
Maybe it was the football gods' way of saying "Thank you" to the team whose sacrifices helped keep the 2020 season afloat.
The day began with a standing ovation as the Warriors ran out onto the field and through a guard of honour formed by the Manly players.
As expected it was a points-fest. All up 14 tries were scored with three players getting doubles – Eliesa Katoa, Patrick Herbert (Warriors) and Abbas Miski (Manly) – while off-contract utility back Adam Keighran scored a hat-trick.
The Warriors were stunned by the energetic start by the Sea Eagles, finding themselves down 10-0 after tries to Reuben Garrick and Corey Waddell.
All in: Inside the Warriors' 2020 season
But then they went on a rampage to put on 26 unanswered points before a little mastery from skipper Daly Cherry-Evans.
First, he kicked a 40/20 to put his men deep into enemy territory.
But when that failed to materialise in points, he sent a clever across-field chip kick for winger Abbas Miski to run 50 metres, push off three would-be tacklers and plant the ball down.
The half-time score 26-14 gave a little more respect to a Manly side severely in the doldrums. They had lost seven of their past eight matches heading up the highway to Gosford. It's one in nine now.
In a game with no consequence for the 2020 finals series, fans had got their money's worth with the match barely 20 minutes old.
It was two tries apiece with the lead changing hands as well.
Nikorima gets a charging Katoa into space
Then centre Keighran scored the Warriors third try in six minutes for the home team to jump to a 16-10 lead.
Not wanting to break the theme of the afternoon in side-to-side action, and another off-contract Warrior in winger Hebert crossed to stretch the lead to 10 points (20-10).
Forward Katoa scored his second to yield a bumper first half of entertainment.
The second half was only 41 seconds old when Miski scored his second, but the momentum was still the Warriors.
Keighran got his next two and the Warriors were looking the goods with 15 minutes left to play.
Two more Warriors tries came but Manly did have the last laugh with centre Brad Parker scoring the last four-pointer of the day.
Something to contemplate over the off-season for Manly is that the Sea Eagles have now conceded an average 34 points per game since round 12.