Josh McGuire reckoned his St George Illawarra debut at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Sunday was the first time he'd ever been cheered by a crowd in NSW.
The hardened forward, whose passion for Queensland in the Ampol State of Origin arena has made him a villain south of the Tweed, came off the bench in the 20-14 loss to the Warriors and played 57 minutes.
McGuire only arrived at the Dragons on Tuesday after being released by the Cowboys but the veteran likened it to a "high school reunion" as he linked with former Broncos teammates Ben Hunt, Andrew McCullough, Corey Norman and coach Anthony Griffin.
"I've been playing with Macca and Hunty since we were 14. We're good mates," said McGuire, who tallied 139 metres in the Red V.
"It was always [a move] that if it came about, it was going to be very easy ... Same with the staff - Tony Guilfoyle [physical performance manager] was from the Broncos when I was a kid.
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"Hook has got kind of the whole old crew together, what worked for us when we were at the Broncos in those years and it obviously worked when they were at Penrith and had success there too."
McGuire spoke positively of North Queensland, for whom he played 39 NRL games after leaving Brisbane in 2019, but said his premature departure was in the best interests of both parties.
"They're probably starting to rebuild and I'm 31 and I don't have too many more years to just wait and rebuild," he said.
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"I'm fortunate enough that the Cowboys facilitated [a release], it's a wonderful club and good people up there. I'm very thankful for them and the Dragons for giving me this opportunity to play for them.
"It was an exciting opportunity to work with Hook again. It's no secret I've got a close relationship with him and I respect him and respect what he's done for my football career.
"Todd [Payten, North Queensland coach] is doing a good job up there, he's got some really good young guys to work with who will get their opportunity and learn their lessons."
While he's renowned as a fiery character in the heat of battle, McGuire hopes to endear himself to St George Illawarra supporters.
"I feel like I'm a different person off the field than I am on the field. I just love footy, I love competing and doing my best," said the former Bronco, who will play his first Anzac Day clash against the Roosters on Sunday.
"I'll do that here and I'm super excited about the opportunity. If the fans get on the back of it and they like me, then that's a good thing."
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