After eight years of professional rugby, Ben Mowen finally had it all.
Having been largely unheralded during his time at both the Reds and Waratahs, he was the leader of his beloved Brumbies and captain of his country.
Mowen had taken the most prized position in Australian rugby from James Horwill at the end of 2013 and after years of pouring his heart and soul into every jersey he had ever pulled on, he had finally reached the pinnacle.
It was an late ascent at the national level that could only be matched by a man in another sport - Mike Hussey, who made his Test debut at 30 and was instantly one of the Australian cricket team's most integral players.Mowen may have been 28 when he made his Test debut against the British and Irish Lions but five months later, he was leading his country on a Spring Tour.
So when Mowen announced his imminent departure to France in January 2014, it was a shock of enormous proportions.
He had the rugby world at his feet and would have likely been a certain starter, if not skipper, at the 2015 World Cup.
The answer was simple.
"I always had that in the back of my mind running parallel that while I was playing rugby, family was always going to be the most important thing," Mowen told RUGBY.com.au.
"I really loved my rugby at the Brumbies and Wallabies but it was detracting from (family) so I needed to find a balance that was more conducive to family life.
"That thinking started to eventuate over that 12 months and it was that 12 months which coincided with my elevation to the Wallabies."That was a really exciting thing and after the end of the Spring Tour I had time to sit back and reflect.
"I was on the high of being with that Wallaby team but I had missed all that time at home as well.
"I look back on that time with fond memories but I was also very proud of the decision I got to in the end."
Mowen packed up his family and moved to Montpellier under former Brumbies coach Jake White, before linking with Pau, with whom he is making his first rugby return to Brisbane.
it was a life decision with which he found peace during the Christmas break of 2013.
"It wasn't an easy decision to get to but in the end it was a very easy decision, if that makes sense," Mowen said.
"It took me a good month or two of really thinking about it to get to that point where I was certain but once I was certain I was completely comfortable with where that sat."Coming down off that high of the Spring Tour and we had a reasonably successful tour - it was great.
"But it was the time I got to spend with my daughters over Christmas where I really got to weigh it up.
"I've got huge respect for the guys that do it because it's a huge commitment from them physically but it's also a huge commitment emotionally to travel, to be on the road and to have that family balance.
"I know lots of guys do it and do a great job of it but for me, that's where my future lied, to correct that balance for me."
While he has no regrets over leaving Australia, the 33-year-old admits watching the Wallabies through his first two years abroad was a bittersweet feeling.
"I'd definitely be lying if I said in the first 12 months to two years, I didn't still harbour ambitions to go back and play for Australia."But that was always balanced with the family life that I wanted to create.
"Now I'm into my fourth year in France and the final years of my rugby career and our life in France, I'm really content with it."
As Rugby Australia searches for ways to stop the flow of players shifting abroad, Mowen also offered an insightful piece of advice to those looking overseas.
"I think every situation is really different and only that person in that situation can know if it's the right time or the right situation.
"We are seeing guys going a lot younger but my advice to guys would be to try and maximise their time in Australia because I think you get the most development through playing here.
"Having access to the coaching, the strength and conditioning, we do it pretty well compared to a lot of programs around the world and I think you maximise your development by exposing yourself for that.
"There is always going to be a time where you can take up that experience overseas and I think you have to take that up at some stage in your career.
"I hope those young guys that go overseas get exactly what they want out of it and hopefully they come back better, more rounded players and can contribute more to Australian rugby."
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