How Coote almost flew the coop
By his own admission, Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote could've been a Rooster in 2017.
In fact, it was almost a certainty until coach Paul Green came to the party with a last-minute plea to the former Panther to remain in North Queensland.
Coote eventually signed a two-year extension last season to remain at the club despite the Roosters offering a lucrative four-year deal to return home to Sydney.
So highly is the 27-year-old rated by the coaching staff in Townsville, promising outside back Kalyn Ponga was let go to join Newcastle in 2018 despite being rated one of the NRL's brightest prospects of the next decade.
The Tricolours have since moved on too, signing NSW fullback James Tedesco for next season.
"The deal [to leave] was pretty close, I knew it would help having all my family down here but the Cows come through in the end," Coote told NRL.com.
"I had a couple of Sydney clubs, which I was grateful for. You never know how many clubs are really chasing sometimes, but it's nice to still feel wanted.
"I took a pay cut here at the Cowboys but it's an awesome club to be apart of and I don't regret my decision at all."
And why would he?
The custodian gets to play alongside one of the world's best players in Johnathan Thurston on a weekly basis as part of a side that is built on a never-say-die attitude.
Coote hasn't missed a finals series since returning to the paddock following a season-ending ACL injury in 2014.
It capped a remarkable turnaround for the Windsor junior who was robbed of a new start following a hazy exit at the foot of the mountains.
After a current season riddled with injuries, former City Origin representative couldn't help but remember just a fortnight ago they were left to rely on the Bulldogs to beat St George Illawarra in the final game of the regular season to book their spot in the top eight.
"We are lucky to be here but once we were there was belief in our team we could do well," Coote said.
"We're full of confidence and played well leading into the finals by just hanging in there.
"Going into Parramatta I thought we defended well. Off the back of our own attack they scored two freakish tries but it wasn't because of our defence."
Travelling to Sydney for a third time in as many weeks also hasn't proved to be a burden on the side, while the challenge to approach a new game plan following Thurston's injury has rejuvenated their attacking style.
"We're learning how to execute a game plan against a new side each week and the boys are adjusting to their new roles well," Coote said.
"I haven't had to change too much but 'Morgo' (Morgan) has been outstanding since 'JT' went down. He's out of his comfort zone leading the team around but he's stepped up.
"He's a natural runner but his ball play and kicking game is coming into its own. We've put that assumption away now with 'Johnno' (Thurston) being out and not being able to win without him.
"We're well beyond that and the boys all know if they individually do their job right we can beat anyone."
Both the Cowboys and Roosters met back in July and the Green's men made life difficult for the Tricolours in the first half - racing out to a 16-6 lead at the break.
Shaun Fensom is the only change to the side that played the Chooks two months ago, but the Roosters were without key trio Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend and Michael Gordon.
"At that time we were trying to put an 80-minute performance together after losing Johnno and were building towards that," Coote said of the effort back in Round 21.
"It's another challenge ahead, we've got a bit more of a turnaround this week which the boys will look forward to and appreciate.
"We're embracing the trips of going back and forth. Physically we're not too bad, every side is playing with injuries so you've just go to put your best foot forward.
"If we put together another performance like the last couple of weeks we give ourselves every chance of winning."