TODD Payten lived in a world of secrecy in the lead-up to the 2005 grand final.
The Wests Tigers forward tore a hamstring just days before the decider against North Queensland Cowboys but was ordered not to tell anyone — not even family and friends.
The injury was serious, so Payten spent most of the week in a hyperbaric chamber trying to recover for what would be the greatest day in his rugby league life.
“I tore my hamstring at training in the lead-up to the match and I didn’t think I was going to play,” Payten said.
“It was on the Tuesday and I was doing a little sprint drill and I felt it grab.
“I remember it being a public session, so the trainer just walked me off to avoid making a big deal of it with everyone watching.
“It certainly wasn’t ideal, because one minute it was fine and then it started aching.”
All the while in the back of his mind was the bitter memory of missing the Roosters’ grand final in 2003 but he was determined not to let history repeat.
Thankfully, Payten received the all clear to play from coach Tim Sheens and he went on to score the match-sealing try as Wests Tigers claimed a maiden premiership.
A day rarely goes by when Todd Payten doesn’t count his lucky stars.
“I was so lucky,” he said. “Tim Sheens left it up to me. He said if I get through the captain’s run, I’ll let you play.
“I ended up getting through that session and it worked out perfectly in the end.
“I scored a try and won the premiership.”
The Tigers got the job done on the back of Benji Marshall’s freakish flick pass for Pat Richards to score before halftime, kickstarting one of the biggest premiership parties Leichhardt and Campbelltown has ever seen.
“I remember Chris Heighington got a little bit too drunk and we had to put him to bed really early,” Payten laughed.
“I’m sure he tipped a schooner over Paul Sironen’s head, which at the time was pretty amusing.
“But Siro took it pretty well and Heigho was definitely crook the next day.”