It comes just days after Cronulla rejected his request to move to the Roosters.
North Queensland have farewelled their spiritual home in Townsville with a rugged 15-8 NRL victory, which ended the Bulldogs’ finals hopes.
With an under-pressure coach, retiring legend Matt Scott in hospital and the form team of the competition in town, the Cowboys left it late but ultimately gave their faithful a result to remember on Thursday.
“Really proud of the boys tonight, the last two weeks we’ve shown what we can do,” coach Paul Green said.
“It’s been a disappointing year but to finish well it gives the fans a good last memory of this stadium.”
While the game was always bound for the history books by virtue of the circumstances, the quality of play early on certainly wasn’t memorable.
Neither side could crack the other in the opening 40 minutes, choosing instead to trade penalty goals.
Bulldogs fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak should have scored in the 15th minute if not for a brilliant effort from North Queensland winger Kyle Feldt, who flew in to rattle the Kiwis international into a knock on over the line. The decision however made Canterbury coach Dean Pay see red.
“When did he lose it? It went up (to the video ref) as a try, they make it hard for themselves,” Pay said.
Feldt then broke the deadlock in the 49th minute, latching onto the end of a sweeping backline play to score the match’s first four-pointer.
The Bulldogs responded through winger Jayden Okunbor found five minutes later via a scrum set play to force an 8-8 stalemate.
Former Kiwis international Jordan Kahu broke the deadlock with a coolly taken field goal four minutes from full time, capitalising on prime field position after rookie Cowboys winger Murray Taulagi forced a goal line drop out with a testing grubber.
Back-rower Shane Wright then pounced on a loose ball to seal the points and ease some pressure on coach Paul Green, while retirement-bound prop Scott watched on in Brisbane as he recovers from a minor stroke.
The Cowboys’ ninth win of the season enabled them to improve to 12th and swap places with the Bulldogs, who needed to win to keep their scant finals hopes alive.
North Queensland close out their season next Friday in Melbourne while Canterbury have another Queensland assignment with the Broncos in Brisbane on Saturday.