“I think it all just hit me that this could be my last-ever game,” a teary Deledio said. “I’m rapt with the way the boys played and that it was here at Giants Stadium. It wasn’t the fairy tale that I thought but it was an emotional time. It cooked me, pretty much.”
Deledio did not even tell the Giants coaching staff he was hurt – in his press conference, coach Leon Cameron was under the impression the veteran half-back injured himself in the second term.
“I didn’t want to tell them. They knew after half-time but I didn’t tell them early,” Deledio said.
“We still had bigger fish to fry. I couldn’t put the boys under any sort of duress. It was better off being me who’s sore rather than any of them.”
Deledio played through pain to gather a total of 11 disposals, laying five important tackles. Although acknowledging his time was probably up, the former Tiger was clinging to a glimmer of hope that he could play again if the Giants make it to the grand final – and he absolutely believes they can.
“There’s a real love for all the boys,” Deledio said. “They cracked in. Everyone’s written us off in terms of how we led into the finals, (our) supposedly lack of forward-half turnover game, but I think that was pretty impressive today.
“There’s bigger things to come for this club, that’s for sure. If we make it through, I might be a chance, but she looks like it might be curtains, unfortunately.
“I’ve still got my fingers crossed a little bit – I played out the game. But it’s pretty sore right now and I reckon it’ll be pretty sore tomorrow. I’ve got a drug test now, which is grouse – I don’t think I’ll be able to jab anything dubious into it.”
Cameron hailed Deledio’s three-year contribution at the Giants, where he has played an instrumental role behind the scenes, even if he hasn’t played as often as he would have liked.
“He’s had a magnificent career,” Cameron said. “For him to do what he needed to do and stick to the task, knowing his career’s probably just about done, speaks volumes of him and his character.”
Meanwhile, Cameron ruled out Stephen Coniglio (knee) for next weekend’s semi-finals, and said the newly re-signed midfield superstar will not be risked this year unless he is 100 per cent fit.
“We will be really, really rock-solid on the decision we make with him,” he said. “He’s going to be around for a long time at our footy club and I don’t want any issues for next year if we play him too early. That’s probably going to be a week-to-week thing.”
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.