Sam Thaiday returned from the Rugby League World Cup desperate for a break, some family time and to recharge the batteries before the punish of the Broncos pre-season.
What he got was the dreaded call to sit down the with coach Anthony Griffin, who had something to get off his chest. It may be better for everyone, Griffin suggested, if Thaiday step down from the Brisbane captaincy.
Breaking up is hard to do and this was a difficult step for both parties. Thaiday treasured his job as leader of the Broncos and Griffin has enduring respect for a 10-year servant and one of the most likeable men in his dressing room
But when a club like Brisbane comes off the worst season in history (12th on the ladder with a record of 10-1-13), the winds of change were always going to start rustling the bushes. And Griffin felt captaincy was lessening the quality of Thaiday's football.
The Broncos have gone to great pains to point out this was Thaiday's call, not a pre-season execution: "It's one of the hardest decision I've had to make and bottom line, it was my decision," he said.
Even so, for a man who values team above all else, there was little choice but to walk away when Griffin laid his cards on the table. It opens the job for new co-captains Corey Parker and Justin Hodges and potentially, from 2015, Cameron Smith.
The call to elevate Parker, who had an outstanding 2013, is a difficult one to argue with from Griffin's perspective. He will take sole charge while Hodges continues to recover from an Achilles injury.
It still came as a shock to Thaiday, who took time to adjust to the captaincy but felt he was making progress after his second NRL campaign in charge.
"I fought for the job when it was up for grabs. And I think over the past few years I've done the best that I could do," Thaiday said.
"I wanted to stay captain. But sometimes you have to make sacrifices to benefit the team. That's something I learned last year.
"I had to play in the front row. Being a natural second rower, I would have loved to play in that position. Like that decision, this will help the team out and it's a decision I've made to benefit everyone."
Thaiday wasn't required to make an immediate call after his first discussion with Griffin and took time to think it over before accepting his fate.
"It's a hard decision that was made, a harder decision would be to brush it aside and go another year with my having these responsibilities on my mind and stopping me performing to my best ability," Thaiday said.
"I'm looking forward to playing the best football I can play. Looking back on my football over the past few years, it has been a little bit Katy Perry, which is a little bit up and down.
"But hopefully I can get back too some consistency and really show everyone the Sam Thaiday of previous years."
Griffin will be under increased pressure to return Brisbane to the semi-finals in 2014 and needs Thaiday firing to reach the goal. He felt that would be best achieved if the Queensland and Australian star could just play the game, not continue the captaincy and all of the extra trimmings it entails.
"My role is not to always tell people what they want to hear. We've spoken about it and I just think Sam is going to be a more relaxed and consistent player without that responsibility as captain," Griffin said.
"It's hard, because I understand that's not what he wants to hear initially but the way he's dealt with it, he's a quality person and has wanted to go down this path (of standing down).
"The bottom line for Sam and for everyone is for him to be at his best. That's my main motivation, that I can help him as a player to do his best for the team."
Thaiday's record in charge was 22 wins from 49 games (44.8 per cent), not dire - but not enough for another life at a club that expects finals each and every season. It was Brisbane's poor returns last year, where it finished 12th, that would represent the final straw.
Blaming Thaiday for Brisbane's problems is simplistic but just as coaches are accountable for their results, captains of clubs are next in line if a freshen-up is required.
Thaiday said he remained deeply committed to Brisbane and there would be no kicking cans around the training paddock when he returns on Monday.
"I'm committed to this club now and in the future. I'm looking forward to getting back to training on Monday. Well, a little bit. But I'll bust my butt for the team this year," he said.