Mitchell Pearce and Blake Ferguson have smiles back on their faces.
The NSWRL and success-starved Blues supporters will continue to pick over a State of Origin series decider that went awfully wrong but the return to club football has been a welcome tonic for the Sydney Roosters' representative pair.
Both played key roles as Trent Robinson's side resumed second position on the NRL premiership ladder with a 24-point win over last-placed Newcastle.
Pearce's part in the defeat at Suncorp Stadium and his interstate future has been hotly debated. There is no doubt about his standing as the Roosters ringmaster, however, and he showed that by stepping up as the hosts kicked away at Allianz Stadium on Friday night, a fine individual outing highlighted by a brilliant try-saving tackle on Knights forward Luke Yates when the game was still in the balance.
"He knows our style better than the coaches do," Robinson said. "He owned it straight away and he steered us around fairly well for Pearcey. That try-saver was was a big one and that was a huge play in the context of the game."
The post-Origin scrutiny of Ferguson has been more focused on what he was up to five days before the game but like the halfback he will be relieved to have bounced back strongly, scoring a try and setting up another with a superb one-handed pass.
“Hopefully we can put it to bed now and move forward and we can talk about how good Queensland played in that last game," Ferguson said.
"I think they deserve congratulations for the series they played. Hopefully we can win next year, I guess."
Asked on Triple M radio whether he would have made the trip to a Lennox Head pub with Josh Dugan if he had his time again, he replied: "Probably not, in hindsight"
The only blot on Ferguson's night was his involvement in a collision that left Knights winger Chanel Mata'utia motionless on the turf midway through the second half and eventually taken from the field on the back of a medicab. It was no fault of Ferguson's – he was simply bracing himself for Mata'utia's tackle and wasn't penalised – but he won't have enjoyed seeing the winger laid out before him and brother Peter Mata'utia beside him in tears. The 24-year-old was left badly concussed.
It was a proud night for the Roosters for two reasons. Robinson pointed out how pleased players were that the club's major sponsor had allowed them to replace its logo with the names of inspirational women in their lives for NRL's Women in League round. And a local junior made his first-grade debut for the club for the first time since Tom Symonds in 2009.
Victor Radley, a product of the Clovelly Crocodiles, stood in for the injured Jake Friend at hooker, with friends of the 19-year-old marking the occasion by having his name painted on their torsos and backs. One of them enjoyed himself slightly too much, entering the field after full-time and earning the wrath of security guards.
Despite that Robinson described Radley's emergence as a "big thing for us". "Our demographic has changed over the generations and the decades," he said. "We've got four junior teams ... and it's really important that we still show that there is a pathway there. For him to come through it was a really proud moment for our club."
An ex-Rooster making his club debut for the Knights, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, crossed for Newcastle's only try of the night but if the scoreline suggested Robinson's men have nothing to work on that is not quite the case.
The coach was happy with their defence but described their attack as "indifferent".
"I feel like we've got to hold onto a lot of stuff that we've built throughout the year and we've got to improve a notch or two," Robinson said. "We don't have to change path but we better improve a bit."
This story first appeared on Brisbane Times.