After half a decade, Dylan Lake is coming home.
The Tamworth product left town several years ago as a young man in his early 20s, looking for a new future with the Gunnedah Bulldogs.
Once there, he and his partner Aleshia expanded their family as their oldest child, Chaise, was soon joined by siblings Addison and Taylan.
But the 27-year-old, who played several years for the Bulldogs before switching to the Boggabri Kangaroos in 2023, has decided that the time is right to return to Tamworth.
"I think it's time to go home," Lake said.
"I might see out my career in Tamworth, we'll see how things go. I wouldn't mind having a game with my young fella later in life."
The catalyst for Lake's return was his signing with the Dungowan Cowboys for 2024. The former West Lions fullback left Tamworth after the club was removed from the Group 4 competition in the wake of the controversial 2016 grand final.
But during his years as a Lion, Lake struck up a firm friendship with Sam Taylor, with whom he has always wanted to reconnect.
"Sam played a major part in the move," he said.
"I've played a few years at Wests with him, and he's sort of been onto me since ... to come play a game with him at Kooty. But all my life was in Gunnedah at the time.
"But now, things have changed. He's getting towards the end of his career, and I want to have a couple of years with him before he retires."
Now looking for a house in Tamworth, Lake acknowledged that relocating back from Gunnedah with three kids and a full-time job will be tricky.
But he likes the way the Cowboys are building towards next season, though he was reticent to say too much.
"I think their chances are pretty good," Lake said.
"But I don't want to say they're going to be the best team in the comp. I'd rather be an underdog."
Having played in the halves for most of his time living in Gunnedah, Lake returned to fullback for the Kangaroos this year and the talk is that he will likely remain in the number one jersey at Dungowan.
And though he is grateful to Boggabri, who he said "welcomed me with open arms" in 2023, Lake could not ignore the chance to do what he believes is best for his family.
"My family play a massive role in my life," he said.
"I wouldn't be who I am without them. It's not just me moving, I've got three beautiful kids ... it's not just me getting up and moving."