Danny McGuire insisted he had no regrets about his decision to leave Leeds after he inspired the Rhinos to a record-extending eighth Super League title.
The veteran half-back was playing in his final match for his hometown club and he produced a kicking masterclass to guide Leeds to a 24-6 victory over Castleford in the Grand Final.
McGuire added a brace of tries and two drop-goals to deservedly win a second Harry Sunderland Trophy in three years.
The 34-year-old helped launch Leeds’ golden era with a title-clinching try against Bradford in 2004 and has made a habit of saving his best for Old Trafford.
But the Rhinos will defend their crown in 2018 without their captain after allowing him to join Hull KR.
“I made the decision and I’ve got to stick by it,” said McGuire. “The new challenge is going to be good for me.
“I was really determined to make sure my Leeds career finished on a really positive note and we’ve won a Grand Final so you can’t get any better.
“It’ll be sad to leave because I’ve been at Leeds since I was a kid but I think it’s the right thing for the club and myself to move on.”
Like Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai in 2015, McGuire - along with his long-time half-back partner Rob Burrow - enjoyed the perfect ending to his Leeds career.
Head coach Brian McDermott is confident the Rhinos will cope with the loss of two more club greats.
“I’ll just use the same line I used when Kev and JP retired, you don’t replace them,” said the Leeds coach. “It’s deja vu. There’s going to be a time next year when people will be saying we should never have got rid of Danny McGuire. But they said that about Kev when Kev retired.
“You don’t go try finding another Danny McGuire because there isn’t one. It’s the same with Rob Burrow. You just adapt and evolve.”
Castleford had won their previous eight meetings with their big-city neighbours and eased to League Leaders’ Shield success but the Tigers had no answer to Grand Final experts Leeds on their maiden Old Trafford appearance.
McGuire, who also laid on the first of two tries for Tom Briscoe, admitted he could not have dreamt of a better finish.
“It’s a fairytale ending,” he said. “I thought the boys from one to 17 were unbelievable.
“We spoke all week about leaving everything out there and the lads did that. The commitment to the cause and work ethic was unbelievable.
“My job is to steer the team round and it’s easy when you’ve got players willing to run through brick walls for you.
“I’m going to enjoy the next few days.”
It was a humbling first Grand Final experience for Castleford, who finished 10 points clear of nearest challengers Leeds in the Super League table.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t do ourselves justice,” said coach Daryl Powell. “If we’d done that and got beat then you can hold your hands up and say ‘fair enough’.
“Leeds didn’t see the best of us tonight and massively deserved the win. But they didn’t have much to beat.”
The Tigers’ build-up to the final was overshadowed by Zak Hardaker’s omission following a breach of club rules and Powell conceded that was a distraction.
He said: “I still thought we had a team out there that could have won the game if we’d played anywhere near our potential.
“But you take a player like him out of your team and it’s going to be a disruption. It’ll all come out pretty quickly.”