Less than 24 hours earlier, he was a broken man. Defeated. Inconsolable.
But Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt was smiling on Monday as he and his Brisbane teammates were given a warm welcome home by close to 500 adoring and supportive Broncos fans – all of them keen to move on from their NRL grand final heartbreak as quickly as possible.
Hunt was one of the most sought-after players and was repeatedly mobbed and embraced by fans, stopping to pose for selfies and sign autographs as the vanquished Broncos went on a lap of honour at their Red Hill training base.
If he still felt like he wanted the world to open up and swallow him whole, he wasn’t showing it – and nobody was letting him.
“I feel like Justin Bieber,” Hunt told one particularly enthusiastic group of supporters.
The 24-year-old is still to speak publicly about his disastrous knock-on from the kick off in extra time, having dodged journalists in the sheds following Sunday’s NRL decider in Sydney.
Few could blame him – even before North Queensland counterpart Johnathan Thurston kicked his match-winning field goal, a dejected Hunt looked like a man who thought he’d just cost his team a premiership.
But the reality is Hunt’s great season was one of the major reasons why the Broncos were even in contention in the first place, and it seemed the rugby league luminaries ere all lining up to deliver him the same message: it’s not your fault.
“There are moments when everyone makes mistakes,” Brisbane great Gorden Tallis told AAP.
“That (mistake) is not going to define his career.
“I have seen so many blokes drop the ball from the kick off – I actually forgot about it until you brought it up.
“He’ll be right.”
The dropped catch is not going to be an easy memory to put aside in the weeks of the off-season.
But just one look on Monday was proof enough that Hunt’s spirits were already rising.
When he reports back for pre-season training next month, they should rise again when he is reunited with halves partner Anthony Milford, who was perhaps just seconds away from a Clive Churchill medal when Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt’s last-gasp try changed everything.
Indeed, Hunt and Milford are why the pain of this grand final loss isn’t cutting as deep as it could in Brisbane – between them, they have a young and re-energised Broncos side poised to begin a new NRL dynasty.
That’s more than enough to ensure Hunt’s howler will be forgotten.