Mixed emotions for old Crusader Daryl Gibson
While the triumphant NSW Waratahs embarked on a victory lap of ANZ Stadium, Ryan Crotty walked over to Daryl Gibson as his disconsolate teammates filed from the scene of a history-making Super Rugby final.
A member of the first-time champions' management team, Gibson distanced himself from the Waratahs' players circuit to acknowledge their achievement and spoke briefly to the Crusaders midfielder near the podium.
It was an interaction that encapsulated Gibson's contrasting feelings following the New South Wales' dramatic 33-32 win against a team that he celebrated four titles with as a player.
"There's a good number of young boys in that team that I had a great deal to do with their development," said Gibson, who was on Todd Blackadder's coaching staff for four seasons before relocating to Sydney after the 2012 campaign was thwarted at the semifinal stage by the Chiefs.
He appreciated the congratulatory gesture, realising the Crusaders were devastated to be pipped by Bernard Foley's last-minute penalty.
"It was nice, it shows the character of the man," said Gibson, who joined Michael Cheika's regime to coordinate the Waratahs' attack and continuity.
Gibson was a member of the Crusaders squad that created history by becoming the first team to win a final on foreign soil in 2000 and although that win in Canberra was sealed by a late Andrew Mehrtens penalty goal, the 39-year-old instead drew a parallel with his former team's 18-13 loss to the Reds in the 2011 decider at Suncorp Stadium.
"Obviously having been there on the other end of a disappointing loss, it's a tough time.
"It brought up a lot of memories of 2011, being on the end of a losing final. It's mixed emotions. I'm really happy for the Waratahs and obviously there's always got to be a loser," he said outside a vibrant home team dressing room.
"It was an epic game, it could have gone either way. Of course I'm really excited to have won our first rugby title and to be involved in such a special game."
Gibson, who left the Crusaders when his designation was to be modified to a defence-orientated role, was joined by Mehrtens in contributing to the Crusaders' inability to add to their seven titles.
Mehrtens worked part-time with the Waratahs' goal kickers and was credited with boosting Foley's range after the match-winning pressure kick from 45 metres.
"Initially I thought that was out of Bernard's range. It was right on the borderline. It was great that he stepped up and decided to have a go," Gibson added.
"Obviously Mehrts has been integral with all the goal kickers."
Although mildly surprised to see Foley's seventh penalty clear the crossbar, the Waratahs' maiden championship was not unexpected despite a history of underachievement.
"When Michael first contacted me I always knew we had the potential to be a very good team. We've got some good talent.
"I'm very proud of what they've achieved over the last 18 months to turn themselves from pretenders to contenders to title winners."
Asked if he felt for Blackadder, who has now presided over six unsuccessful campaigns, Gibson replied "absolutely" before marvelling at the franchise's consistency.
"What you've got to admire and respect about the Crusaders is they never go away. They'll always hang in the fight.
"Every year they're vying for the opportunity to win the title. There's no other franchise in the Super Rugby competition that does that consistently every year. It's just remarkable."