Josh Schmiedel has emerged from the pain of divorce and is charting a course to perhaps another marriage and potentially the resumption of his rugby league career and a swansong season in 2021.
As the 34-year-old two-time NSW Country representative and his partner, mother of one Kelsey Masters, eye a long-term future together, Schmiedel had his first training run with the Bears this preseason on Tuesday evening.
It was the strapping second-rower's first official association with the club since he helped Norths beat the Roosters in the 2019 grand final - their sixth-straight premiership.
Some six month later, in January 2020, Schmiedel and Masters announced their relationship in a Facebook post.
A short time later, Australia was in lockdown because of the novel coronavirus. And in June last year, Group 4 announced the 2020 season was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Schmiedel had hoped to retire after the 2020 season. Now he is contemplating making 2021 his finale, after a lauded top-grade career in Tamworth, Newcastle and Aberdeen.
The Tamworth-based veteran has considered playing this season at the Aberdeen Tigers, whom he won the 2017 Group 21 premiership with.
The Tigers celebrate their centenary this season, he has good friends at the club and he picks up his two daughters at Scone every second week when he has them. They live in Newcastle with their mother.
But the tyranny of distance is an impediment to the Tigers getting his signature.
When weighing up who to play with - if he plays at all - Schmiedel must consider juggling his family and work commitments with his football. He is a production operator at the Boggabri Coal Mine.
"I'll see what I'm gonna do," he said on Wednesday. "I've gotta get fit first."
He added: "I'm gonna have a sitdown and talk with Spitter [North coach Brad McManus] next week and just keep training, get fit and then make a decision [on his playing future] a little bit later."
Schmiedel said he initially had "no intention" of playing this year, but that changed after he had a run for the Greater Northern Tigers in the Country Championships this month.
"I sort of got a bit of an itch back."
Schmiedel said his life had "settled down a bit" after the divorce, and he was on "really good terms" with is ex-wife, Rachel.
"It was hard, obviously, going through a divorce," he said. "Even though we're [he and Rachel] amicable ... it's still hard to separate from your family and watch them move away."
He continued: "But my ex-wife done what was the best thing for her and get back to where her family and friends are, and it's a better environment for the girls ... That always makes me happy."
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