It would have been different in the movies.
When all of Bruce Stadium rose to its feet as Jarrod Croker carried his son onto the field for his 300th game — and wept in the shadows of the opening whistle — it would have been easy to believe you were in those cinematic times.
Surely no narrative ever written would take Friday night from Croker. Who would kill Bambi? Who would dare gun down a Goulburn Stockman?
But the New Zealand Warriors were only too willing to rise to the occasion and be the ‘bad guy’.
Croker would leave what should have been a field of dreams with a drab 36-14 defeat that was colder than a Goulburn winter.
Canberra had plenty of field position early, but the Warriors denied them time and again as Andrew Webster’s side found the answer no matter what question Canberra asked.
With every set they turned away, the Warriors confidence grew and Canberra’s certainty in themselves and their plan eroded.
Then the points came, first through Dallin Watene-Zelezniack, sensationally, then via Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, fundamentally.
The Tom Ale went over, and Luke Metcalf dotted down shortly after that.
The Warriors took control with a ruthless authority that left no argument or lane of inquiry.
Croker toiled hard through the 80 minutes, as he’s done since that first day back in 2009 when he made his debut.
For the opening stanza, the Raiders were with him and they put in what they had, even if their execution was lacking.
But having given their 300-game hero a three-minute ovation at the opening, the crowd had to wait until the 78th minute to see their longest-serving player pick off an intercept.
The Warriors will see in Saturday morning on the brink of the top four, while the Raiders will spend next week’s bye wondering what happened.
On the silver screen, Canberra would work it all out. This would be a bump on the way to a major victory, a lesson learned on the way to greatness.
But that’s not how life works. The Warriors don’t need the cinematic moment Canberra dreamed of for Croker; they hammered a future into hard reality on Friday night.
They were smarter and tougher and sharper and better and even though the Raiders had so much to play for it was the Warriors who found a greater purpose.
The spaces below them on the ladder remain a shark tank. But if the Warriors can derail this Hollywood tale, who’s to say how high they can climb?