Five years ago, Jodi McKay said she had "separated permanently" from Newcastle and would "never" return to politics.
On Friday, the former NBN newsreader and Newcastle MP made a triumphant visit to the city as the freshly minted leader of the NSW opposition, heading up a shadow ministry laden with Hunter representatives.
She hosted a press conference at Nobbys with six Hunter Labor MPs, called on Deputy Premier John Barilaro to "stop strutting around" on the Newcastle container terminal issue and talked to the Newcastle Herald about how she had put her political career back together.
Hers is quite a story.
Labor parachuted Ms McKay into Parliament in 2007 in place of Newcastle MP Bryce Gaudry and against the wishes of some local party members.
She lost the 2011 election to the Liberals' Tim Owen then famously testified at a 2014 Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing which showed former Labor colleagues Joe Tripodi and Ann Wills had undermined her campaign.
In the witness box, she revealed an alleged offer from businessman Nathan Tinkler to fund her election campaign at a time she publicly opposed his plans for a coal loader at Mayfield.
Mr Tripodi, a Labor powerbroker and senior MP, and staffer Ms Wills created anonymous brochures warning of ''Jodi's trucks'' from a container terminal, which was her preferred use of the Mayfield site.
Ms McKay said on Friday that she once felt the city, and not just the party, had turned against her.
"I just couldn't live here any more. I was undermined by the Liberals as well. There was a social media campaign, the truck brochures.
"People formed an opinion of me based on that whole environment, and so it just felt for me that I couldn't be here. I think it would have been pretty tough for me to stay. I had to earn a living, so leaving was the best option. But that's a very long time ago now, and I have a warmth for Newcastle.
"When I think of Newcastle now, I don't think of that.
"I think of an 18-year-old coming from Gloucester who was welcomed into a community, who began her career as a cadet with NBN TV, who was reading news when the earthquake happened ... who played a significant role in the establishment of the Hunter Medical Research Institute.
"The person I am today is because of the Hunter."
It could be argued that Ms McKay and her parliamentary opposite, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, have both had a prickly relationship with Newcastle.
But she said on Friday that it was "fabulous to be here".
"Newcastle will always have a special place in my heart, but it was really difficult. It was a such a difficult time for me, 2011, and that all played out in 2014. I couldn't live here any more, because of the events that occurred.
"I was forced to leave the place I loved and had been my home since I was 18.
"It took me some time to come to terms with the difficulty of the situation and my relationship with Newcastle. But my sisters live here, so I spend a lot of time here.
"You can't not like this place. The people who live here value family and lifestyle and what this place has to offer, but they're also tough, because they don't let government or opposition get away with too much."
In October 2014, Ms McKay was installed as Labor's candidate for the Sydney seat of Strathfield. Three months later, then leader Luke Foley named her his planning spokesman even though she was not in Parliament. She went on to win Strathfield in 2015 with an 8.2 per cent swing and retain it in March.
Asked if the political forces that conspired against her in Newcastle a decade ago were still present, she said: "I think there are probably some people within the old guard within the party here who probably have a strength of feeling about what happened in 2007."
But she said incumbent MP Tim Crakanthorp had supported her in last month's leadership vote "because he knew the party members here supported me as well".
Ms McKay was not shy in wearing her heart on her sleeve after her 2011 defeat and the ICAC revelations.
She said in 2011 that Newcastle people were "not prepared" to back anyone who made decisions. Four years later, she said the city "always had a mentality of saying no" and Strathfield was a "kind" electorate.
Asked on Friday if she had learned to temper her words, she said: "I think I am one of those people who will always tell the truth. It's not going to be a message that is crafted or is false in any way."
The new opposition leader was a supporter of removing the heavy rail line to revitalise the city centre. She stood by that position on Friday but said, "like everyone else", she wanted to see the business case for extending the light rail.
"That is a travesty that this city still doesn't know where this rail line could or should go. It is important that that is released. They've been promising that for a very long time.
"[Transport Minister Andrew] Constance keeps saying to us that that work is being done, and I think it is really important that they release that business case, because it can't just be a two-kilometre light rail if it's going to truly service this city."
The issue at the centre of Ms McKay's political demise in 2011 is still at the heart of her vision for Newcastle.
"It was my advocacy on the container terminal that led to my downfall," she said.
"To me, it was recognition we had to diversify the port of Newcastle. We couldn't, at that stage, turn our back on coal, and we still can't, but the container terminal is critical to diversifying that port."
The NSW Nationals' annual conference this week approved a motion calling on the government to remove the once-secret cap and fee it placed on Newcastle container movements when it privatised the state's ports.
You can't say that limiting the ability of a port to diversify in an unfair agreement is too hard to fix.Jodi McKay
Ms McKay said Mr Barilaro should listen to his members and put a motion to Parliament "calling for the contract to be torn up".
"To me that symbolises all that is wrong in the way the government approaches Newcastle.
"He needs to be taking action on this right now.
"You can't say that limiting the ability of a port to diversify in an unfair agreement is too hard to fix. It is the key issue for Newcastle. It has to be addressed."
She also touched on Labor's sometimes opaque policy regarding coalmining, an issue which contributed to its poor performance in the May federal election.
"We're going to be a party that is always going to be brave and bold around climate change and renewable energy, but we can't turn our back on those families that depend on coalmining.
"That is the reality in the Upper Hunter, and if we're to win that seat, we have to respect all those who work within the mines and industries related to mining.
"If you're taking jobs away, you have to provide jobs."
To achieve this, she said the government should stop "off-shoring" manufacturing and start making trains and other public transport products in NSW, especially in the Hunter, Illawarra and Western Sydney.
"I believe we should use the procurement power of government to look at how we build public transport projects and manufacturing ... to look at jobs beyond coal.
"I remember when I was here we used to celebrate proudly those trains going out of Goninan. And we had very competent tradespeople and a very diverse and thriving manufacturing sector.
"It would be great if we could have 'made in NSW for NSW'. Victoria has done it. There's no reason we can't do it."
She said she would like to see climate change factored into the approval process for new mines but did not support a blanket ban on new mining projects.
"We have to understand that we have to explain what a just transition means.
"What does that mean for someone who works in a mine?
"When they walk in there they don't do it because they're damaging the environment; they do it because they're putting food on the tables for their families."
Ms McKay said the "dynamic of Parliament" would change given the two parties' leaders were women and Swansea MP Yasmin Catley was her Labor deputy.
"I think that will change the feel of the Parliament itself, and I think that's a good thing," she said.
The Hunter's ministerial count also includes shadow environment, heritage and rural health minister Kate Washington, Cessnock MP Clayton Barr (water; innovation, science and tertiary education; shadow minister for the Hunter), Jenny Aitchison (primary industries; investment and tourism; medical research) and Jodie Harrison (early childhood learning).
Ms Catley is shadow minister for rural and regional jobs and for building reform and property. Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp is Labor's caucus chairman.
Member for Wallsend Sonia Hornery missed Friday's Labor gathering due to a commitment at Glendale High School.