The guilty verdict in Taylan May's assault trial has shown the whole Penrith playing group the dangers of failing to handle negative attention from the public appropriately.
The young winger was charged with assaulting a teenager during the Panthers' grand final celebrations on the Sunshine Coast in October 2021, and was found guilty late last month.
No conviction was recorded but Magistrate Matthew McLaughlin ordered May to pay a $1000 fine and another $1000 to the victim.
The incident at Duporth Tavern, Maroochydore occurred after May took exception to comments directed at Panthers co-captain Nathan Cleary by the teenager.
Cleary said he did not immediately consider the ramifications of May's actions.
"It was probably the next day that I thought that something bad could come of it," Cleary told reporters.
"At the time, I thought he was diffusing the situation."
Cleary said the aftermath from the incident served as a reminder that players had a responsibility to handle negative treatment from fans appropriately.
"There are always going to be those kinds of people who are trying to get under your skin but that's the life we live," he said.
"We've got to deal with it the right way.
"Being a rugby league player is a very privileged job but it's also a 24/7 job.
"It's not just when we're here at training or on the field. It's off the field, anywhere we're around people. I think (May) definitely understands that now."
The NRL handed May its own $7500 fine, half of which was suspended, and also proposed a two-match ban to be served next year.
May is free to play in the finals starting with this Friday's clash against Parramatta.
The Penrith playing group though would not buy into criticism of the league's decision to delay May's ban and permit him to play in the post-season.
"That's the way the NRL has dealt with it," five-eighth Jarome Luai said.
"We're just grateful he can line up alongside us this week."
Eels coach Brad Arthur was similarly tight-lipped when quizzed about May's inclusion in the qualifying final at BlueBet Stadium.
"I don't make the rules in the NRL," he told reporters.
"We just get told what they are and we follow them and we're going to have the same approach here.
"All that we can worry about is what happens in our backyard."
Luai said May wasn't the only one who would take lessons away from the incident.
"It's a bit of a learning curve for everyone, not just Taylan," he said.
"We're looked on in the public eye in a different manner. We just need to be careful out there because we're role models ... We can't slip up."