Blake Austin says Leeds never felt out of the contest against St Helens in the Grand Final, but has praised the champions after their win at Old Trafford.
Saints made it a record-breaking four from four Super League titles since 2019 with the 24-12 result on Saturday.
St Helens went to an early 12-0 lead, after scores from Matty Lees and Jon Bennison, before a Kruise Leeming try cut it to 12-6 at half-time.
But the reigning Premiers posted two more tries early in the second half to secure the victory.
“They’re a class outfit, aren’t they,” Austin told League Express.
“It’s not a fluke winning four in a row. I enjoyed the occasion and I just hope to be back here.
“We never felt out of it. We weren’t that far off.
“We weren’t at our cleanest in attack. The spirit in the group, the journey we’ve been on, we’ve never felt out of it. I felt if we could have held it at 12-6 a little longer than we did it, maybe it would have been a different game.
“But it’s just what ifs now, isn’t it? It wasn’t to be and here we are.”
In the absence of Aidan Sezer, who was out after suffering concussion in the semi-final victory over Wigan, Austin started at scrum-half for the Rhinos, making 17 tackles and 105 metres from 19 carriers.
“I just feel for him,” Austin admitted.
“He’s had to run the tee for a match that he should have been involved in, for an incident that’s out of his control. But credit to him, he’s one of the mentally toughest people I know.
“He fronted up and tried his best to help his team-mates in what’s an awful situation.”
Leeds enjoyed a remarkable run to the Grand Final, after starting the season badly and winning just one of their first ten games.
Coach Richard Agar departed in April, but the appointment of Rohan Smith sparked a revival with the Rhinos finishing fifth and getting all the way to Old Trafford.
And Austin believes the club can be happy with the 2022 season overall.
“It’s too early to reflect, but I’m sure at some point we’re going to be pretty happy with the season we’ve had,” he said.
“Hopefully we’ve breathed a little bit of life back into Leeds. Look, we were short tonight, but it has been a hell of a journey.”
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.