"Even though you've had good times there's still an element of hurt there": Manly's Brent Kite. Photo: Getty Images
Brent Kite has known for most of the season this would be his final year at Manly, but it wasn't until his last game at Brookvale Oval that he realised he was angry with the club for letting him loose.
Kite, a former Queanbeyan Blues and Canberra Raiders junior, joined the Sea Eagles from the Dragons in 2005 and has been forced out of because of salary cap restraints.
Since signing a two-year-deal with Penrith in March, Kite has been understanding of the predicament the Sea Eagles find themselves in trying to fit all their star players under the salary cap.
But as the curtain closes on his nine-year stint at the Sea Eagles, the Tongan front-rower admits anger was his strongest emotion at his final game at Brookvale Oval back in round 26, ironically against the Panthers.
''Most of the year I was pretty diplomatic about leaving knowing because of the salary cap I had to to move on, but the last game at Brookvale and even maybe the Roosters semi-final I was starting to feel a bit angry and a bit hurt,'' Kite said.
''It was a funny feeling because I had made peace with it and we were real happy to go to Penrith. It's a great opportunity there, but maybe the realisation coming to Brooky - I realised I had just put it to one side. I was asked to say a few words after the [Penrith] game but I didn't have much to say. It was like breaking up with someone. Even though you've had good times there's still an element of hurt there. I don't think it's wrong.''
The 32-year-old has only missed one game in two seasons and has been one of Manly's most consistent performers this year, despite carrying a wrist injury. His strong form is one of the reasons why he was filthy to be offloaded, reflecting on the Des Hasler era when the players who weren't performing were the first sent packing.
''You can be diplomatic and understanding but sometimes you think to yourself, 'Well, why do I have to go? They could've shoved somebody else out','' Kite said.
''Dessie won't like [me saying] it but he always had a feel on the go. Whoever he didn't want next year, whoever was going the worst got booted and the better one got to stay. I was feeling a bit of that and thinking, 'Why am I going then?' Just that realisation that you are expendable is not a nice feeling.''
However, leading into Friday's preliminary final against South Sydney, Kite insists he has again made peace with the move after a conversation with a close friend. ''This week I'm not sad any more,'' Kite said.
''I'm back to making peace with it and understanding and being grateful. This club has been awesome for me and my family and looked after us financially and I hope we were worth the cash. We understand the club has to do what they have to do with the massive roster there. I'm just glad I got to stay as long as I did.''
Meanwhile, Manly coach Geoff Toovey has named Brett Stewart at fullback, expecting him to play for the first time since round 25.
Peta Hiku has been named on an extended bench and is on standby if Stewart was to succumb to a hamstring injury.
The Rabbitohs have also named an extended bench that includes former Storm winger Matt King.