PETE Maxwell was walking into the Hamilton dressing after a win early in the season when he collared centre and brother-in-law Paddy Kilmurray and urged “we have to make the most of this opportunity”.
It is a sentiment he has expressed over again.
On Saturday, the “good mates” will team up against Wanderers in the grand final.
“It will be good to share the occasion with Paddy,” Maxwell said. “These opportunities won’t be here forever.”
Maxwell won a 2008 premiership at the Hawks with younger brother Steve, which remains a cherished memory.
Family, even more so now, is central to his motivation. His sons, Sid, 5, and Vinnie, 3, are the reason he pulled the boots on again.
“The boys were keen for me to play,” the 38-year-old said. “Once they were keen, I got the OK from [wife] Jess. Majority rules, it was taken out of my hands. They come every Thursday night to training and to recovery sessions at the baths, and have been known to start the team song.”
Jess is heavily pregnant with their third child.
“I’m hoping they might be able to deliver me a baby at full-time in a Hawks jersey,” Maxwell said half joking.
This season is Maxwell’s first since 2008.
Kilmurray, a NSW Country Cockatoo, also returned to Passmore Oval after two years on the Gold Coast working as a sports reporter.
“After 2008, I wasn’t that motivated by rugby and then got into crossfit,” Maxwell explained.
Like most things, Maxwell invested heavily in his new passion. He was NSW champion in 2010 and finished fifth in the 2013 Australian Open.
Hamilton coach Scott Coleman, who played alongside Maxwell at the Newcastle Wildfires, still marvels at his former teammate’s work ethic.
“He is chiseled out of granite,” Coleman said. “He is a back-rower wearing a prop’s jumper and is the ultimate competitor. Give him any challenge and he accepts it.”
Coleman had been chipping away at Maxwell, who operates successful recruitment and training companies, about a return.
“I chatted to him at the end of last year and he said it hurt watching us win the grand final,” Coleman said. “That got Paddy keen as well.”
After the demise of the Wildfires in 1999, Maxwell had a season at West Harbour before stints in Brisbane, Wales and Italy.
Although never feeling “like I had played my last game” Maxwell believes physically he is past his best.
“I focus on my work rate these days,” he said.
So what of the future.
“I’m not telling anyone I’m retiring,” he said. “We’ll see what happens when the third baby arrives.”