Price shares the pain with top Bulldogs Ennis

Update: 9:30AM Steve Price can’t help but regret NRL grand final day 2004, and it will be that way for the former Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs captain until the day he dies.

It’s sobering news for current skipper Michael Ennis, who was officially ruled out of tonight’s premiership decider against South Sydney due to a foot injury.

But Price – who joined the Warriors in 2005 – has come to realise that if it wasn’t for the acute disappointment of being scratched from such a big occasion, he wouldn’t have experienced the act of kindness shown to him by young teammate Johnathan Thurston that day, and the lifelong bond that has followed.

In one of the most selfless acts witnessed on a rugby league field, a 21-year-old Thurston, who had come in late as Price’s replacement, immediately gave up his premiership ring to his mentor, saying: ”You deserve this and not me.”

Price hopes Cronulla Sharks-bound Ennis can find a similar silver lining now he’s forced to watch  from the sidelines at ANZ Stadium.

Thurston – who has matured into one of the code’s premier playmakers for North Queensland, Queensland and Australia – hasn’t won a title since ’04, but his actions helped Price to overcome a moment of  devastation.

”I don’t think you can really describe it,” Price said.

”He had no idea whether he was going to get another one. It just shows what sort of man he is.

”He hasn’t had that chance again and when you’re looking at this opportunity the guy who takes Michael’s position – he deserves it just as much as anyone as well. As did Johnathan.

”The thing that most gratified me is how important it was to him.”

Price recalls how the players were given random rings on the victory dais and were forced to swap with teammates to get the right playing number, which was printed on the side of the box.

By fate, Thurston was given No.10, Price’s number, and knew exactly what he needed to do with it.

”We’ve been best mates ever since,”  Price said.

Like Ennis, Price said he was consumed all week leading into the grand final by media hype, that he didn’t let himself dwell on the disappointment until a later date.

He said if the Bulldogs beat Souths, nothing will cure Ennis of the frustration he’ll feel, but he encouraged the feisty hooker to soak up the celebrations.

”I regard it as one of the biggest regrets of my career. It was something I couldn’t control but it’s something I would have loved to have done,” he said.

”It’ll stay with me until I get buried.”