Days before his shock death, rugby league great and premiership-winning coach Paul Green walked a lap of the field with old teammates in a moment of reflection.
It was the Cronulla Sharks’ Old Boys day and, in what would be the last interview he would give before his passing, a smiling Green expressed gratitude for what the club had done.
“It’s great to be back, terrific night, a great crowd and good for Shark Park, so let’s hope the footy’s great,” Green said in an on-camera interview that was published on Cronulla’s website (watch it in the player above).
“Plenty of good memories and great to catch up with all the Old Boys today. It’s been a tonne of laughs and really well done by the club.”
With that Green was left to enjoy the rest of the night with other greats of the club he left an indelible mark on, winning the Rothmans Medal (what is now the Dally M Medal) in just his second season of first grade in 1995.
The Sharks capped it off, beating fierce local rivals the Dragons 24-18 to cement their place in the top four and keep their top-two ambitions burning.
It was a fitting way for Green to make his final public appearance: a lap of honour to thank him for what he’s done for the game. Yet he certainly wasn’t the type to seek the limelight.
Green was a quiet family man with a deep love of the game and the gift of a large, analytical brain.
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As a player he was quick for a little man, standing at just 167cm, but it was his speed between the ears that made him a formidable halfback and then a champion coach.
On Thursday, as news of his death spread, the depth of emotion in the tributes told his story best.
His shattered family released a beautiful statement. And one by one the players he mixed with as a star halfback and then as a coach who reached the top said their piece.
“This is so sad,” Green’s former Sharks teammate Martin Lang wrote in a Twitter post.
“Paul was a close mate, we moved to Sydney together in 1993….the beginning of an outstanding NRL playing/coaching career. My sincere condolences to Paul’s wife, children and his dear mum and dad. Rest In Peace mate.”
NRL rocked by sudden death of Paul Green
Michael Morgan, the man who threw that flick pass to set up the last-minute try that levelled the 2015 grand final, before the Cowboys won it in golden point, added that he had “never been able to thank him enough.”
“He was more than influential, he helped me carve out the career that I did have,” Morgan said on Triple M’s The Rush Hour with Leisel, Liam and Dobbo.
“It’s no coincidence once he took over that he gave me an opportunity at fullback, it’s a position I’d never played in before and taught me, and I said it throughout my career when he unfortunately moved on from the Cowboys, how much he taught me about the game.
“You grow up playing it, you think you know everything but he just opened up a whole new world to the actual knowledge of the game for me.”
The world, and particularly the rugby league community, is a little emptier now as a result of the 49-year-old’s passing.
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