Queensland’s Country Footy Legends: Ben Fitzpatrick
Like an old lover, rugby league wouldn't let Ben Fitzpatrick just walk away.
The champion Brothers Cairns custodian, a 250-plus gamer for the club across a career spanning almost two decades, had plans to hang up the boots at the end of the 2017 Cairns District Rugby League season.
But the game he loved had other ideas.
"I ended up just coming down to training the next year and then five games in I was playing again," said the 34-year-old.
"I was going to finish because my wife and I were having a baby, so I wanted to push all my time to that but it ended up being pretty easy," he laughed.
"We were very lucky and she was all good, so I ended up coming down to training a fair bit, just trying to keep fit.
"Five games in I was playing again and ended up playing the rest of the season."
The comeback season capped off a stellar career for Fitzpatrick with the Brethren, playing in seven grand finals, winning four, while also claiming two club player of the year awards.
Of his four premierships, Fitzpatrick said 2009 was a clear standout.
"When Atherton had Todd Carney and a few other good players," he said.
"We came from nowhere that year, we came fifth and only just scraped into the (top) five.
"Then we beat everyone in front of us until we made the grand final (against Atherton), and we ended up winning that too."
In his early years at the club, Fitzpatrick also played under Parramatta Eels coach Brad Arthur, who was player-coach of Brothers at the time.
"He was tough," he said.
"You didn't want to be late to training or have anything wrong with you because you could get it from him, but he was also a really good coach too.
"The boys loved it. We trained hard and fitness was pretty tough, but we got it done and ended up being pretty successful."
He also formed a lifelong friendship with former Brothers player-coach and Sunshine Coast Falcons head coach Eric Smith, who was the best man at his wedding.
Fitzpatrick went on to captain Brothers, while also playing representative footy for Cairns and 11 Queensland Cup games for the Northern Pride from 2011-2013.
After 2018's comeback season, Fitzpatrick conceded it was time to call it quits - for real this time - due to "the body and injuries".
"I just couldn't do it anymore," he said.
"In my head I could play forever, but it's just my body can't keep up any more."
But even after hanging up the boots, a fire to be involved burned inside.
Fitzpatrick is back with his old love, albeit in a different capacity, as Brothers A-grade assistant coach.
"I'm just doing what I can," he said.
"Not much at all really," he laughed.
Clubs: Brothers Cairns, Atherton Roosters (juniors)
Games: More than 250 across senior grades
Current role in rugby league: Brothers Cairns A-grade assistant coach
2 Brothers Cairns player of the year (2011, 2012)
4 CDRL premiership player
7 CDRL grand final appearances
11 games for the Northern Pride (2011-13)
Cairns Foley Shield representative