Former Queensland Origin forward Neville Costigan has revealed the family heartache that prompted his return to Australia and embark on the next phase of his career with the Townsville Blackhawks in the Intrust Super Cup.
The Blackhawks host the Central Queensland Capras in Round 4 of the Intrust Super Cup this weekend and will do so from a position atop the ladder after their first three games.
Nine teams are level on two wins apiece to start the season but the Blackhawks' 50-12 win over defending premiers the Northern Pride last weekend have given the competition's newest team top spot on for-and-against.
Having turned 30 only recently, Costigan's 169 NRL games and six Origins for Queensland made him the most credentialed signing of the Blackhawks' inaugural season and despite interest from NRL clubs he signed a two-year deal with the club in December.
With a year to run on his two-year contract with Hull Kingston Rovers in the English Super League Costigan's release was a prolonged negotiation but he said the desire to be closer to his younger brother was a driving force in his decision.
Johnny Costigan is 24 years of age and has Down syndrome and Neville said their separation for 12 months while he played in England made it difficult to think about going back for a second season.
"I'd normally see him a few times a year and I never saw him once last year," Costigan told NRL.com.
"I'd talk to him a couple of times a week on the phone over there and he was always asking when I'd see him next and that sort of made most of the reason why I didn't go back.
"He's my best mate and I talk to him at least three or four times a week. It's good that we live close now because whenever I get the weekend off I'm just ducking home [to Mackay] to spend as much time as I can with him which is good.
"He's always been there for me and I've always been there for him. I just love playing footy and him coming to watch, he just loves it."
Although Johnny is his older brother's biggest fan, Costigan said he had difficulty explaining to him where he was playing and who he was playing for once he left the NRL.
"He didn't really know where I was going really; he didn't know what I was doing," said Costigan.
"He doesn't understand going overseas and stuff like that but he knows everything about footy. He watched a few games when it was on TV when I was playing over there and he'd ask me, 'What team's that?' and 'Why does it look so cold?'"
It's been more than a decade since Costigan first played in the Intrust Super Cup with the Toowoomba Clydesdales when contracted to the Brisbane Broncos but he says he is happy to leave the limelight behind.
When word spread that Costigan wasn't keen to return to the UK a number of NRL clubs expressed interest in adding him to their roster but a chance conversation between the brother of Costigan's partner, Stevie, and Blackhawks coach Kristian Woolf got the ball rolling on a settled future in Townsville.
"This is where I want to commit myself," said the former Bronco, Raider, Dragon and Knight.
"I had a few offers from the NRL before coming here and while I was talking with these guys and it sort of sunk in that it was pretty much over. I've been doing it for a long time now and I wanted to start getting something behind me.
"I knew playing Intrust Super Cup part-time and doing some studies and getting some tickets was more important than just having a year or two of playing footy for not much money and stuff like that.
"It didn't really interest me. I've done what I wanted to do in the NRL so I'm happy being here.
"The club's been awesome, all the coaching staff and the players, so I'm real happy."