A DEPARTING coach and a poignant post-grand final speech can be attributed as the reason Dean Hurrell will return to the Group 3 rugby league competition in 2021.
Hurrell will again pull on the red and blue of Wauchope after a six-year absence from Lank Bain Sporting Complex.
After three years off, the itch returned - ironically out at Wauchope - when he was a spectator as Macleay Valley overcame the Blues in the 2019 Group 3 premiership decider.
"That was our 10-year reunion from 2009 when we won it and during that whole week and lead-up it felt like I should be there," Hurrell said.
"As one of the older blokes who wins most of the fitness, I'm trying to set the standard because in our successful years that was how we trained."Dean Hurrell
"I'm still not even 30 so it was one of those things where I felt like I was missing out on something I should have been a part of and I know I could have contributed that year."
When former coach Anthony Boyd pulled his disconsolate team together after the game at the pub, the triple-premiership winner admitted a few things Boyd said hit a nerve.
Without laying the blame at anyone's feet, it became apparent the Blues lacked leadership and experience on the biggest day of the season.
"It hit home a little bit that the club needed a bit more experience around the young blokes and I'm a hard trainer," Hurrell said.
"As one of the older blokes who wins most of the fitness, I'm trying to set the standard because in our successful years that was how we trained.
"That's my role."
Now re-energised, Hurrell conceded he was simply "burnt out" when he hung up the boots at the age of just 26 and had achieved almost everything there was to achieve.
He holds the record as the youngest player to reach 100 games for the Blues.
The former North Coast under-23 coach also took Comboyne to a Hastings League grand final win in 2016 before they were beaten by Kendall in 2017 when he retired.
The father-of-two admits he now has a newfound love for footy after the time off.
"People said I was too young to retire when I pulled the pin at 26 but I didn't want to play then," he said.
"People told me I'd regret it and I haven't because if I didn't have that rest I wouldn't be coming back now. I would have played another year and that would have been it."
"The challenge is getting myself back up off the deck, getting fit again and ripping in and seeing if I can compete with these younger guys."Dean Hurrell
Another person pushing him into a return is wife Natalie who will also make a return with the club's league tag team.
"I came to a point where I'd done all I wanted to do and then we had our first little guy Riley and now we've had our second little dude Vinnie," Hurrell said.
"The wife wanted me to come back because she now wants to make it a family day."
The challenge of seeing if he can still compete with his younger teammates will provide the motivation on the training park.
"The challenge is getting myself back up off the deck, getting fit again and ripping in and seeing if I can compete with these younger guys," he said.
"I want to see if I can pick up where I left off in 2015."
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