The sledge that brought Ash Harrison back
It was an icy cold sledge from a six-year-old that helped motivate Ashley Harrison to return from retirement and play for local Gold Coast club the Tugun Seahawks.
"I reckon you might be a myth. I don't think you were as good as people say you were."
Those words came out of the mouth of Harrison's oldest son, Ethan, as he tried to goad his father into a comeback from three-and-a-half years spent in retirement.
"Yep, that's how he talks to me," laughs Harrison.
"It's his second year playing for Tugun and the first year for my other son, William.
"He said: 'Dad why don't you come back and give it a crack?'."
Harrison retired partway through the 2014 NRL season because of a neck injury, having played the last of his 15 State of Origins for Queensland in 2013.
A former Bronco, Rabbitoh, Rooster and Titan, he amassed 276 first grade games after debuting in 2000.
Yet he has found out quickly since coming back to the Gold Coast competition that there will be no red carpet treatment.
"I'm out for a few weeks with a rib injury," says the soon-to-be 37-year-old.
"I copped a bit of a late hit from behind in the first round and I'm feeling a few ribs now.
"Everyone tells me that I'll be a target and that seems to be my experience to date.
"I'm fine to cop it sweet, but thankfully we play every team twice, so those that dish it out should be prepared to receive it back next time."
Not only has Harrison had to recover from the neck injury that ended his NRL days, but he has also gone through a remarkable physical transformation.
From a first grade playing weight of 95kg, he stripped off 20kg when he became serious about marathon running.
Since he's given up endurance sports, he has now hit the gym to be back up around 92kg.
"People were asking me if I was crook when I was at 75kg," says Harrison.
"I'm enjoying hitting the gym again and getting back that rugby league physique.
"That first year out of footy – I didn't really miss it, because I was focusing on a new life.
"But when you're a rugby league player it is in your blood. You have a love for the game and it draws you back in.
"I'm also coaching the under 6s at Tugun and it's about me giving back to community, growing up together with my boys and hopefully being a part of the club for years to come."
Away from footy, Harrison is now a partner in MBA Wealth Management, soon to become Xen Wealth Management, with offices in Paddington and Broadbeach.
The Gold Coast representative team, the Vikings, recently announced their squads to participate in the upcoming XXXX Chairman's Challenge on May 18-20.