WIZ: The bittersweet nature of NRL retirement
Natha Hindmarsh looks unhappy during the round 4 NRL match. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Robb Cox
It’s a bittersweet weekend for some of the genuine legends of the game who are bowing out with their heads and reputations (and in Nathan Hindmarsh’s case, backside) held high.
Not surprisingly, Hindy’s bum has been a key part of the promotion all week.
But the focus should really be on what great stalwarts of the game players like Dean Young, Ben Hornby, Petero Civoniceva, Luke Burt, Michael Luck, and of course, Nathan Hindmarsh have been over the years.
Not only have they been superb clubmen, and consistent performers on the field over a long period of time, they’ve also never had any dramas off the field, which is more than can be said for a few of the younger stars of the game.
Sadly, out of that crop of retiring players, only one of them will be playing in the semi finals: Petero. The others will wrap up their careers after this weekend and hopefully move onto other exciting challenges.
Though that can be easier said than done.
I can tell you from experience that the hardest thing for any player leaving the game is that all of a sudden you’ve got a whole day to fill in if you don’t have a job.
The regimented life of a professional footballer keeps you very occupied. But once that’s gone, you have to find something to replace it.
Michael Luck has a job already lined up at the Cowboys, so he’ll be fine. And I’m sure the others will be well looked after by their respective clubs on the back of their loyal service.
While I admire all the retiring players this weekend, I have a particular attachment to Luke Burt as I coached him as teenager and well remember him coming off the bench in his NRL debut as a 17 year-old against the Saints in front of 100,00 people.
It’s ironic that his career has come full circle and he’ll be playing the famous red and whites in his last game as well.
Luke is a tremendous bloke, both and on and off the field. Always friendly and cheerful. And he’s made a wonderful contribution to the Eels over the years.
Both him and Hindy are Parramatta legends in their own right.
It may seem that a lot of these guys are giving the game away too early. But I understand why.
There’s a lot of travelling involved these days, and for those with a wife and family, it can be a draining experience.
Also, these guys realise that they will be below their best if they continue any further. They deserve to go out while still on top.
So it’ll be an emotional farewell for those guys. I congratulate them all for making it this far.
Gary 'Wiz' Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joined The Roar in 2012 as an expert rugby league columnist, and continues in 2013.