On The Road: Paterson's last laugh
"I feel bad for them but there's a few people I had to stick it up."
Cory Paterson has been 'On The Road' for more than a month now. The road from Newcastle to Townsville. And back again.
On Monday night at Ausgrid Stadium, he scored the match-winning try against the club that once nursed him through a serious health problem, only to dispose of him mid-season because he wasn't in the plans of incoming coach Wayne Bennett.
Paterson seemed to taunt the crowd after securing North Queensland a 22-12 win without Johnathan Thurston – but then lingered on the field to embrace just about every one of his former teammates.
"Full credit to the Knights, I love every one of them boys," Paterson said at full-time. "I'm really close to them, they're like brothers.
"It was weird. I love this place, Newcastle, but I had a job to do. I can't say enough good things about the Knights, all the boys, but I'm at a new club now and I had to fight for them because they've shown me some faith and I had to repay that tonight.
"For the longevity of my contract tonight, I had to repay them."
Paterson held his hand up to his left ear as he walked back after the 73rd minute try.
But he said: "The other thing I've got to take my hat off to is the crowd. The Newcastle crowd are unbelievable. It wasn't directed at them, don't worry about that, because they're great people.
"I'm sorry if I offended any crowd. It wasn't meant for you, that was directed at some other people."
In the media conference, Knights coach Rick Stone didn't say he had wanted to keep Paterson. He's Bennett's assistant next year, after all.
But he called Paterson "a quality person". He said the role the WA junior, who turns 24 on Thursday, played in the game was "disappointing" for the Knights.
"I'm past it," Stone said. "This sort of thing happens in rugby league today."
Welcome to what Sydney Roosters coach Brian Smith calls "duck season" – the period between Origin and the finals when pressure causes polite cliches to evaporate like summer rain.
Many strange things happen in rugby league today. Like players coming out of retirement for one game.
Dual international Mat Rogers was one of Gold Coast's best in a 22-6 loss to the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium on Friday night but revealed on Sunday he had broken his foot almost as soon as he rose from the interchange bench.
Coach John Cartwright reckoned Rogers was back on board partly as a 'sports psych'. He'll have to overcome his own disappointment as he attempts to assuage that of his last-placed team-mates.
Another strange thing that happens in rugby league today is players leaving clubs despite being under contract and wanting to stay.
Such is the fate of Wests Tigers' Tim Moltzen, Andrew Fifita and Bryce Gibbs. Coach Tim Sheens angrily rejected suggestions that disquiet over their departure was responsible for the 22-6 loss at Parramatta Stadium on Friday.
"That's bullshit," Sheens told a reporter.
Twenty-four hours later and 1384 kilometres away, another coach was firing up in a media conference.
Asked after a 28-18 loss to Melbourne at Adelaide Oval if he expected the focus on his position to intensify, Moore said: "A lot of the questions I'll be asked in relation to that are not going to be dignified with an answer because it's based on a lot of rumour and innuendo."
At Sydney Football Stadium, Smith had this to say after a 34-26 win over Penrith - to fellow sideline eye Richard Svenson - about the situation he and Moore had found themselves in over recent weeks.
"It's pretty much duck season on coaches as soon as someone wants to start a filthy rumour – internet or forums or whatever they are," Smith said.
"...where people just chuck muck for the sake of it. I'm bewildered why people are entertained or whatever they are by that stuff.
"But for me, I find what goes with being in a losing team or a losing situation – that's when you find out if you want to be a coach still, or again.
"I love that. I think it tends to bring out the best in me. I welcome it, in some ways."
In the weekend's remaining game, Manly came from behind to beat South Sydney 36-22 at Brookvale Oval on Sunday.
Souths coach John Lang doesn't care what happens next year because he'll have his feet up watching the NRL on television.
But like Smith, Lang still loves his job. This weekend they come face to face in one of the competition's marquee derbies.
For South Sydney and Sydney Roosters, there was never any politeness to start with.