BRENT Dean could be the X-factor that catapults the Hervey Bay Bombers to back to back flags this season.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Dean has returned from two years out of the game and has been a valuable addition to the Bombers' forward line.
The 39-year-old proved last week's eight-goal effort against Across The Waves was no fluke, repeating the dose against Bay Power to lead his team to a comfortable 24.13 (157) to 8.11 (59) victory at Keith Dunne Oval.
Dean, a teacher at Hervey Bay Special School, was unstoppable on his way to booting eight goals on Saturday, to bring his total to 16 in just two AFL Wide Bay first grade games.
One of Dean's teammates joked after the game the tall forward was making a late charge for the goal-kicking gong - but if there was more than one match left in the home-and-away season, he might have been serious.
The Bombers' leading goalscorer is power forward Clint Ennis on 42, who also leads the competition, followed by Tony Andrews on 31 and Ian Dunbar on 17 then, remarkably, Dean after just two games.
"I enjoy footy and it's nice being back out there with the boys," the 190cm sharpshooter said after the match.
Dean's last match of seniors footy before this year was the 2010 preliminary final against Brothers at Maryborough - a game he can't remember much of after he was knocked out cold during a marking contest.
A premiership player with Tasmanian State League club South Launceston in 1999, Dean dismissed the injury was the sole reason why he stepped away from the game for so long.
But the father-of-two admitted it was a scary time for him and his family.
"It was (tough), I've had knocks before that one, but that one ended the worst," he said.
"But you don't think about it when you're playing.
"If you run around thinking you're going to get hit then you probably shouldn't be out there."
So why come back now?
"I go to training every week for fitness and just to spend some time with the boys and they always put the pressure on me to have a game; I think I finally caved into the pressure," Dean, who played eight reserve grade game before returning to seniors last week, said.
"The mateship is good, but it's not the same unless you're out there playing."
Even though his speed and power has regressed as he has aged, Dean's hunger for a premiership remains as strong as ever.
"Premierships are good, you never get tired of winning premierships," he said. "It would be a good way for me to go out."