While teaching business English in Budapest, Hungary last decade, Ben Hennessy says he had an "epiphany".
He was talking up Australia, specifically how great life was on his family's longstanding cropping and cattle farm just outside Gunnedah's town centre. He had been in Hungary for about six months, having ended up there as part of a "12-month pilgrimage around the world". He was on the cusp of his 30th birthday.
"I was geographically as far away from Gunnedah as I've ever been in my life," he said. "And I had this moment of going, 'S***, I miss home; I want to move back.'
"I had Hungarian mates, and I explained what life was like back in Australia and on our family farm, and they'd all just look at me with this look of disbelief on their faces, going, 'What the hell are you doing living in our war-torn-ravaged country, when you could have the dream life back in Gunnedah?'
"So, I guess I probably saw it through their eyes, and it gave me a bit of a clearer perspective of all the great things that our little community's got."
Born and bred in Gunnedah, the former Red Devils first-grader and current Mornington first-grader left Gunnedah to attend boarding school, before attending university in Sydney and then returning to the family farm without a degree. He worked at the farm for about three years and graduated with a bachelor of arts with a diploma in education from the University of New England.
He taught at St Mary's College for about 18 months and did some causal teaching work in Armidale. "Then I decided I was ready for a career change," he said.
He was at Yamba, his family's Christmas holiday destination when he was a child, and "wandered into a real estate agency in my boardshorts, straight off the beach, going, 'Ah, hear you've got a job going'. And I ended up going in for a proper interview the next day and started my real estate career a couple of days after that."
The decision to apply for the job had a transformative effect on the 41-year-old father of three's life. After returning from overseas in 2008, he worked in the real estate sector in town. In February 2013, he started his own business, Hennessy Real Estate.
Mornington's travails in recent years are well-documented. Heading into Saturday's two-day clash against Kookaburras at Kitchener Park, they are winless this season. Hennessy - a paceman and middle-order batsman - said: "We've struggled; we're definitely in a rebuilding phase ... but they're a great bunch of blokes, really good camaraderie, usually at each others' expense, so it's good fun. And we're getting better with every game."