It may not have been the way Matt Hilder hoped to end his career with the Newcastle Knights, but the skipper feels proud to have capped off 2014 by playing in a grand final.
The Knights advanced to the NSW Cup grand final riding the wave of nine straight victories, but the minor premiership winning Penrith Panthers proved too strong defeating Newcastle 42-12 on Sunday.
Hilder has notched 201 NRL games at the Cronulla Sharks, Gold Coast Titans and Newcastle Knights, with 101 of those played in the red and blue.
Hilder is largely described as one of Newcastle’s most dedicated Clubmen as well as a workhorse and leader.
“I’m proud of the boys for getting here, we didn’t get the win, but that’s the way it goes,” the 32-year-old told Knights TV after Sunday’s game.
“It’s sad in a way, but everything comes to an end.
“We didn’t play our best and suffered the consequences.
“Penrith had a good side and were too good today.
“We had to be really good and we weren’t up to our best.
“They attacked our edges a bit and got a few offloads and they seemed to score every time they made half a break."
Hilder said his side were unrelenting throughout, determined to get back in the game and were buoyed by coach Rick Stone’s half time speech.
“He said, ‘we’re still in the game, just keep chipping away and try and close that gap as much as we can,” Hilder explained.
“We scored some good points this year and pretty quickly too, so I think 30-12 we were still a chance, but when they scored again and that was pretty much it.
As the experienced utility farewells the Club after a stellar NRL career, he believes the future is bright at the Knights and expects many of his NSW Cup teammates to develop into first grade players.
“A lot of players have played some great footy and with Rick being the head coach next year, they’ve certainly impressed him,” he said.
“I’m sure he’ll give some of the players a shot.”