Steve McLean thought his time was up.
But a chat with a few mates from Cooma lured him back onto the paddock. The itch was back from the very moment he laced up the boots to join the Stallions.
He knew he had something more to give. And Terry Campese knew McLean was the perfect forward to slot into a band of "misfits" at the Queanbeyan Blues.
Campese was desperate to have him back - this was a former Canberra Raiders reserve grade teammate, one he thought was unlucky not to play first grade.
The return would prove a masterstroke as McLean played a key role off the bench in Queanbeyan's 34-14 win over Goulburn in the Canberra Raiders Cup decider at Seiffert Oval on Sunday.
"It's easily the best year I've had. It's the best group of boys, and it's just unreal to finish it like this," McLean said.
"It's probably going to be hard to leave. It's my second stint at the club and it is probably the best I have ever seen it.
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"The feeling is so good. A lot of it is to do with the girls now, the league tag and the tackle teams, they seem to keep the club in order which is kind of funny. They organise everything.
"Campo has done a great job, the staff have done a great job. It's the tightest group I have ever been a part of."
The triumph marks the Blues' fourth premiership in six years - and the second since Campese took the reins in 2017.
But this one? This has to be the sweetest.
"The first year we had a really good side and no injuries. This year, it's almost like the misfits," Campese said.
"We've got blokes from bloody everywhere - Cooma, union, young blokes coming through, blokes that couldn't make first grade at other clubs.
"It's just a big sigh of relief because Goulburn have been red hot. Unfortunately Mitch Cornish couldn't play, it would have been a different game if he could, but that's footy."
The clash marked the second time the clubs had locked horns on grand final day - and the second time the Blues lifted the trophy come the final siren.
A stellar performance from Blues fullback Linkin Bradley paved the way for Queanbeyan to claim the under 19s premiership with a 26-10 win over Goulburn.
The first grade result marked the third time Goulburn had fallen short on grand final day after the West Belconnen Warriors claimed the League Tag title with a tense 8-6 win over the Bulldogs.
But first grade coach Adam Kyle is confident the Bulldogs will return next season with a point to prove.
For a man who says he has enjoyed the best season of his coaching career in Goulburn, there is no alternative.
"It's a one-team town and it's all about family," Kyle said.
"It's all about everyone putting in, and they are such a tight club from the girls league tag to the first grade side.
"We've got a pretty young squad and we will come back from this."
West Belconnen's League Tag three-peat laid the foundation for another Warriors side to follow suit soon after.
A Bayley Graham masterclass guided West Belconnen to their third consecutive reserve grade triumph in a 20-16 win over the Queanbeyan Kangaroos.
AT A GLANCE
Canberra Raiders Cup - QUEANBEYAN BLUES 34 (Zac Patch, Josh Hitchins, Josh Stuckey, Jake Wheeler, Matt Parsons, Aisea Taholo tries; Terry Campese 5 goals) GOULBURN BULLDOGS 14 (Nick Cornish, Steven Cummins, Iziah Tittor tries; Chris Hart goal) at Seiffert Oval. Man of the match: Josh Stuckey (Queanbeyan Blues).
CRRL reserve grade - WEST BELCONNEN WARRIORS 20 (Bayley Graham 2, Beau McFarlane, James Gardner tries; Bayley Graham 2 goals)bt QUEANBEYAN KANGAROOS 16 (Jordan Macey, Mitchell Sullivan, Travis Robinson tries; Rhys Elton 2 goals). Man of the match: Bayley Graham (West Belconnen Warriors).
CRRL under 19s - QUEANBEYAN BLUES 26 (Adam Barlow 2, Linkin Bradley, Willie Delamere, Ashton Naidu tries; Ashton Naidu 3 goals) bt GOULBURN BULLDOGS 10 (Kody Tozer 2 tries; Max Flack goal). Man of the match: Linkin Bradley (Queanbeyan Blues).
CRRL League Tag - WEST BELCONNEN WARRIORS 8 (Courney Watt, Jessica Goss tries) bt GOULBURN BULLDOGS 6 (Amy Day try; Amy Day goal). Player of the match: Krystal Coker (West Belconnen Warriors).