The retirement of Boyd Cordner this week was not at all unexpected.
After multiple head knocks sustained in the act of performing his stellar and relentless defence, the lad from the NSW Mid North Coast has put his long-term health above his unquestioned passion for his beloved Sydney Roosters and called time on his career.
While this announcement was not a surprise, it was still really sad.
Boyd Corner has had many triumphs in his career: Dally M Second Rower of the Year in 2013, three NRL premierships with the Roosters, two series triumphs as captain of the NSW Blues, as well as Four Nations and World Cup triumphs with the Kangaroos.
He scored 57 tries throughout his career too. So he retires by no means short of accolades.
However, I can’t help feeling that it would have been fitting for him to go out a winner.
I say that as a person who, while having deep admiration for the Bondi club, has no love for them whatsoever.
Cordner is one of those rare humans who has no natural enemies. The likes of Cam Smith, Cooper Cronk, Daly Cherry-Evans, Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston are all indisputably superstar players but they all have a significant number of detractors who are ready to lay the boot into them and their reputations.
Not so Boyd Cordner.
Most people’s only beef with Cordner is that he does not suit their narrative.
So many of us want to hate the Roosters for so many of reasons – real, perceived and imagined.
We want to hate them for poaching players from other clubs, not developing their own juniors and cramming everything somehow under a salary sombrero. The recruitment of Sonny Bill Williams, Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco suit this narrative well.
That Boyd Cordner was recruited out of St Clare’s High School, Taree by the Sydney Roosters and was then developed by the Tri Colours to be a premiership captain, playing a significant part in their three most recent premierships, does not support this line of thinking at all.
That he also captained the NSW Blues and the Kangaroos from that springboard really does not suit that narrative one bit.
Like Mitch Aubusson before him, how dare he be a genuine Roosters junior and a sensational player as well!? It is downright inconsiderate to those of us who want to blindly hate the Roosters, yet not risk any chance of hypocrisy.
We want to hate the Roosters for being thugs, who engage in cheap shots and cheat wherever they can. Jared Warea-Hargreaves’ frequent suspensions and the likes of Jimmy Maloney throwing players boots into the crowd suit this narrative.
However, it is highly inconvenient that Cordner’s only career suspension was for punching Paramatta’s Matt Ryan in a melee back in June 2013, with that suspension only coming directly as part of the NRL’s jerking knee after New South Welshman Paul Gallen repeatedly punched Queenslander Nate Myles the preceding Wednesday evening.
These days Cordner would only get ten minutes in the bin for that infraction and his record would be totally clean, as it deserves to be. While El Presidenté V’landys is in the habit of making random edicts and rule changes, perhaps he should consider expunging this totally unnecessary and undeserved blight from Boyd’s record.
There is a reason that Cordner, after a decade and 221 games combined for the Roosters, Country, NSW and Australia, only has that single, meaningless blemish on his record. It is because he always played hard but also clean and fair.
Even the most ardent Roosters hater couldn’t argue that.
Boyd Cordner played the game totally without malice or niggle. I never once saw him put in a cheap shot. I never once saw him try and pull a swifty or bend the rules. And you’d better believe that I was watching intently for any sign of it whatsoever. This reality of Cordner being a totally clean player does not suit the Roosters hating narrative at all. It really borders on selfishness.
So many want to push the image of the Roosters being a pack of wide-boy, party animals with no respect for public decency. Mitchell Pearce and his Australia Day 2016 shenanigans, as well as Jake Friend’s 2009 infractions suit this narrative.
That Boyd Cordner is without question a man of great decency, integrity and honour, who has never even been linked with scandal or misbehaviour is most inconvenient for people wanting to deride the Roosters on this score.
That Cordner grew into the impressive man that he is should be a huge point of pride for his father Chris, who brought his two boys by himself after mother Lanai tragically died of cancer when Boyd was just four years old.
I don’t want to imagine what sort of human I’d have grown up to be without my mother but it’s a very good bet that my existing array of flaws would be considerably augmented. Had Cordner not suffered the tragic loss of his mother we may well be openly discussing his beatification right now.
St Boyd of Taree certainly has a ring to it.
And he is deeply loved by his home community of Taree, for whom he is both a hero and role model.
Kevin Hardy helped run the junior rugby league competitions Cordner came up through and he was in no doubt that his success in the big smoke wasn’t the only reason his hometown regards him so fondly.
“He’d always visit. He’d always come back to any functions or presentation nights. He gave back a bit of his service,” he said.
So I guess there are really only two flaws that I can find with Boyd Cordner: he didn’t play for my club and he played for the Roosters.
In the end this awesome human and superb player had the great judgement to know when it was right to call time on his career.
And what an amazing career it was.
Go with all of our love, admiration and blessings, Boyd.
You have been a total ornament to our game.