Jaeman Salmon has broken his silence on Ricky Stuart's "weak-gutted dog" spray, saying he was shocked and confused by the Canberra coach's comments.
Salmon will come off the bench for Penrith in Sunday night's NRL grand final against Parramatta, desperate to put the Stuart affair behind him and focus on football.
Shielded from the media since the incident last month, the Penrith utility said he had been sledged by fans in the weeks that have followed.
Stuart was eventually handed an unprecedented one-match ban and $25,000 fine over the comments, and apologised for the forum in which he made them.
At the time, the Raiders coach claimed he had history with Salmon, with suggestions it dated back to a family matter from junior days in Cronulla.
But Salmon said he was caught entirely off guard by the whole affair.
"It was a bit of a shock," Salmon told AAP.
"I've never heard that before. But I am not worried about that now.
"The club has always been supportive of me, and of any player in positions like that. I can't thank the club enough.
"It's in the past and I am just focused on the grand final this week. Winning it would be a very good feeling."
Salmon said he had also noted the significant levels of support from his family, who claimed their son had not spoken to Stuart since the age of 12.
Penrith also threatened to explore legal avenues at the time, a move that remains a possibility.
But for now, Salmon is determined to repay the Panthers for their support.
A Cronulla junior, he was handed his first chance in the NRL by Brad Arthur and the Eels and debuted at the club in 2018.
He ran into off-field trouble in 2019, but remained with the Eels until the end of the 2020 season.
He is the only ex-Parramatta player in Penrith's squad for this weekend, with Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Waqa Blake, Bryce Cartwright and Maika Sivo having all gone the other way.
"As a player, I've grown quite a bit (since leaving Parramatta)," Salmon said.
"I've matured a lot over the past few years. I can't thank the coaching staff enough here at Penrith.
"I speak to the Parra boys every now and then, a great bunch of lads. I enjoyed my time there thoroughly and the club are good people.
"It just didn't work out there, but I've still got some good relationships with the boys."
Australian Associated Press
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