BACK TO THE MINES: Xavier puts family ahead of football
RUGBY LEAGUE: Ask anybody at the South Grafton Rebels rugby league club and they will tell you Xavier Sullivan is a family man.
The barnstorming front rower strikes fear into his opponents on the field but off the field he is a big-hearted leader for his four kids.
And it is the future of his kids that has spurred the enigmatic forward to head off on a new journey to find employment away from the Clarence Valley.
"I had a bit of work on the roads here, but it was only a casual role," Sullivan said. "And with all the weather lately I haven't had any work for ten days.
"My old work in Mt Isa called me and said they had a position there if I wanted it, I had to do it for my kids.
"I want them to have a future, I don't want them to miss out, so I had to make the decision."
The move will mean Sullivan will only be available for about three or four of South Grafton's remaining clashes this season but that will not stop the parochial supporter from donning the red and white.
"I do love this club," he said. "I have been playing for the Rebels since I was about 16, so it has been a good 20 years on and off.
"It was definitely a tough decision to take up the job, because I love the area and the footy club. Also my kids are here so that made it harder.
"But at the end of the day it is them who I have got to provide for."
Sullivan has been a revelation for the Rebels this season, making his return to first grade and bullocking his way through numerous opposition defensive lines.
Sullivan has averaged more than 10 metres a carry this season and regularly draws in three or four defenders to pull him down.
In recent clashes the big front rower has played the full 80 minutes something even he has been taken aback by.
"We were trying to work it out, and we think it has to have been at least five years since I was able to play a whole game," he said.
"It has just been the determination for the club to succeed which has driven me since coming back.
"I have had a fair few critics out there who questioned whether I could do it. I have wanted to prove them wrong and I hope people have enjoyed the way I have been playing."
Sullivan is family at the Rebels: Coach
Sullivan personally paid a visit to Rebels' first grade coach and close friend Ron Gordon to tell him of the decision on Sunday.
"It is definitely a big loss for the club," Gordon said.
"Xavier has been a real character around the club for such a long time.
"He just let me know what the go was, and sort of ran me through the plan on how he was still going to play as much as he could.
"Obviously work and supporting his family needs to come before football and I support him on that decision.
"It was just that courtesy was a great thing for him to show me, it showed his loyalty to the club.
"Xav is my family ... I know what he has been through and where he has come from. I'm happy to see him making a decision for his future and his family's future."
The front rower said he was worried he was letting his side down by not being there for the march to the Group 2 finals.
"I am a bit heartbroken, when I was talking it over with the boys I felt like I was letting them all down," he said.
"It is just hard, there is a lot of expectation on the club this season and with the loss of players I tried to shoulder that expectation.
"I have got all the confidence in the boys, and I promise I will stand up even more when I am here to make up for the weeks when I am away."
Coach Gordon promised that "big dozer" was not letting the club down in any way.
The weekend off with the round bye has allowed the Rebels a chance to rest up niggling injuries with Gordon expecting a full strength side to compete against the Sawtell Panthers this weekend.
Captain still in doubt with shoulder injury
First grade captain Grant Stevens is still at long odds to make his return for the red and whites this weekend.
The second rower has been sidelined with a shoulder AC and sternum injury sustained in the Rebels last home clash against the Orara Valley Axemen last month.
According to the captain the injury is beginning to feel better but he is still not at 100%.
"I was sent to have a CT on my sternum and it showed I have a strain in the joint," he said.
"I have to go see the physio and a surgeon but that is just to get more understanding of the healing times.
"I tried to train recently and it didn't feel that good, even moving around and passing the football was tough but it is starting to feel a lot better now.
"I would like to play, but at this stage I am 60-40 not playing."
But the Rebels are not short of forwards following the return of enforcers Jeff Skeen and Josh Harris in recent weeks.
Gordon is hopeful the added depth will be able to cover the loss of Sullivan in the ranks.
"Losing Xav just gives an opportunity for a few of the other boys around the club to put their case forward," the coach said.
Who will win the 2016 Group 2 Rugby League First Grade Premiership?
This poll ended on 15 August 2016.
South Grafton Rebels
Coffs Harbour Comets
Nambucca Heads Roosters
Macksville Sea Eagles
Orara Valley Axemen
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.