"I don't want to ruin his party, but I do."
Canterbury's Brett Morris admits he will have mixed feelings when he shares a field with Jason Nightingale for the last time in the St George Illawarra veteran's farewell home match at Jubilee Oval on Sunday.
The former Test wingers came through the junior ranks for the Dragons at the same time, played alongside each other for most of their NRL careers, played in opposite camps with the Kangaroos and Kiwis, and won a premiership together in 2010.
Morris and Nightingale, who can lay claim to being the most experienced wingers in the Telstra Premiership after playing more than 200 games each, remain close friends and even consulted each other about their futures beyond this season.
There was a brief possibility that the pair could have been re-united mid-season. If the timing had been different Morris might have had the opportunity to finish his career back in the Red V as Nightingale's replacement after he decided to retire.
While Morris is happy with his decision to sign with Sydney Roosters in 2019, he is pleased to get the chance to be a part of Nightingale's last home match – even if they are on opposing teams.
"I can't rap him highly enough - he has worked very hard and he deserves all the accolades he gets," Morris said.
"He is a great player on the field but he is an even better bloke off it. He is one of those guys who if you asked him to do anything for you he would drop whatever he was doing and do it."
The first time the pair met they were playing for the opposing Illawarra and St George SG Ball teams and Morris recalls Nightingale being an "unorthodox" but effective winger.
Little has changed but Nightingale has made it work for him as he is the only New Zealand international and one of just six players to have played 30 Tests, 250 NRL matches and scored 100 tries.
"He doesn't do it the most conventional way and sometimes you wonder how he has made it so far but it is a credit to how hard he works off the field and on it he delivers," Morris said.
"I remember playing in the lower grades with him and he would get the ball five metres out with three players on him but somehow he would contort his body around and he would get the ball down."
When Wendell Sailor joined the Dragons, there wasn’t enough room in the team for three wingers so Nightingale took on the role of interchange forward under Wayne Bennett in 2009.
The 31-year-old has performed the role again on occasions this season and he made 41 tackles in the second row against Melbourne during the State of Origin period.
Dragons v Bulldogs - Round 24
"I remember we were playing [Wests] Tigers one night and they kicked off to us and the half caught it and passed back to the front-rower, and it was big Gypsy steaming on to the ball. It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen," Morris said.
"He could do it back then, he was a bit young and the recovery time is a bit quicker. I was watching that Melbourne game and you could just see he was coming out of tackles grimacing and as you get older those things take longer to recover from.
"It's just the type of bloke Gypsy is, he goes out there and doesn't want to let down the team and at that point of the game that is what they needed."
With Morris and his brother Josh both leaving the Bulldogs at the end of the season, he said they wanted to spoil St George Illawarra's farewell celebrations for Nightingale but the twins also wanted to win their remaining two games together.
"It's a tough position to be in but myself and Josh are moving to new clubs next year, and we want to finish the year off on a good note as well," Morris said.