Thousands of NRL veteran games are heading for the door in 2022 with several big names ending their careers.
Sharks mainstay Andrew Fifita is the latest veteran to call it a day.
Andrew Fifita has closed the curtain on his 13-year NRL career after the Cronulla veteran opted out of a move to a rival club next season.
Fifita confirmed on Tuesday that he would not continue playing, having previously announced he would be leaving the Sharks at the end of 2022.
The 33-year-old also confirmed in an interview with the The telegraph of the day that he would need seven surgeries to play, having continued with injuries late in his career.
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This prompted former NSW State of Origin and Kangaroos Test prop to decide against moving elsewhere, after Manly and Canterbury expressed interest.
Best known for his superb 2016 season which earned the Sharks their first premiership, Fifita was the game’s most damaging striker when he was at his best.
He was instrumental in ending the NSW drought in 2014 and then helped lead the Pacific rugby league revolution when he defected to Tonga in 2017.
In total, Fifita played 251 NRL games for the Wests Tigers and Sharks, while also becoming a member of Cronulla’s all-time squad during the 50th anniversary celebrations in 2016.
His body finally caught up to him, brushing aside being placed in an induced coma last season with a broken larynx to be a solid forward for Cronulla this year.
Out of contract at the end of 2022, Fifita called in August to leave the club and had considered joining his brother David in England before Tuesday’s decision.
Accessory of the Broncos ryan james was one of many NRL stars honored in the grand final at the Accor stadium.
James, who played for Brisbane and Canberra, as well as a two-game loan spell at Canterbury, for the past two seasons after a decade at the Titans, ended with back-to-back knee reconstructions. He has totaled 168 games since his debut in 2010.
He was one of a long list of retired and departing male and female players who the NRL paid tribute to on the big final day before the Panthers vs Eels clash.
sharks accessory Aiden Tolmanwho lost in the final, and Club 300 teammate, former Roosters pivot Josh Morriswho retired after last season, headlined the list of big last day legends who were bid farewell.
Broncos Line Tyrone Roberts, Chelsea Baker and Meg Wardformer Titans and Warriors point guard Ash TaylorWestern Tigers duo Russell Packer and James RobertsPair of dragons Josh McGuire and Kody House and Gold Coast winger Corey Thompson.
Additional players to recognize through the tribute are Paul Vaughan (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), David Mead and Ben Te’o (Brisbane Broncos), Benji Marshall (South Sydney Rabbits), Corey Norman (Dragons of St George Illawarra), Joseph Leilua (Western Tigers), Will Chambers (Cronulla-Sutherland sharks) and Kevin Proctor (Titans of the Gold Coast).
Thompson recently posted a message on Instagram to thank the Gold Coast and its former clubs, Canterbury, Wests Tigers and Widnes.
Wests Tigers Center James Robert announced in Round 25 that he would not be returning in 2023. The former NSW Origin representative has played 166 NRL games since his debut in 2011, including stints at Souths, Penrith, Gold Coast and Brisbane, scoring 77 tries along the way.
James Tamou played his last game for the Wests Tigers in Round 25 against Canberra but is expected to strike a deal with the Cowboys for a swansong at his former club.
Some players who don’t have a contract for next year could be forced into retirement unless they manage to secure a deal for 2023 in the coming months.
Club by club, here are the players who are on the verge of leaving the NRL or facing an uncertain future as the offseason approaches.
Veteran duo Ryan James and Tyrone Roberts, who have been called up for a few games this season, have retired as Albert Kelly’s future is uncertain and he will likely be on a FIFA Cup deal again. Queensland next year. Papua New Guinean prop David Mead announced his immediate retirement in July after 171 NRL games for the Broncos and Titans – scoring 75 tries since his debut in 2009 – as well as 58 Super League games for the Catalans Dragons scoring 29 trials.
Journeyman Sam Williams hung up his boots in June after 107 games in the NRL across three spells with the Raiders and a four-game stint with St George Illawarra in 2014. He also spent a few seasons with the Catalans and Wakefield Trinity.
Paul Vaughan is leaving the UK after this season to play for Warrington while full-back Matt Dufty left for Wolves in July, but is still relatively young at 26 and could return to the NRL down the track.
Wade Graham is no longer under contract and wants to start over. Graham is likely to get another contract with the Sharks, but Andrew Fifita’s career is over after he briefly considered playing elsewhere next season. His compatriot Aiden Tolman has ended his career.
Utility veteran Will Smith joined Hull mid-season while Kevin Proctor struggles to strike a Super League deal after being sacked in August for vaping in hangars while an unused member of the team for a match in July. Utility fullback Corey Thompson has ended his career.
Veteran winger Jorge Taufua traveled to the UK in July to play for Wakefield but then suffered a season-ending broken arm. Martin Taupau is without an agreement for 2023 after the failure of a switch envisaged mid-season for the eels. Ethan Bullemor is under contract for next season but the 22-year-old is said to have considered an early retirement to focus on his professional career in the financial sector. Fellow forwards Andrew Davey, Kurt De Luis and Morgan Boyle are uncontracted free agents for next season.
Cooper Johns is out of contract but should be able to get a new contract in the NRL.
Veteran forward Sauaso Sue’s journeyman career could be coming to an end after stints with the Bulldogs and Wests Tigers.
New Zealand Warriors
Ash Taylor was forced out mid-season due to a hip injury. The future of fellow playmaker Chanel Harris-Tavita is unclear after opting to take a sabbatical next year. Shaun Johnson is under contract for next year, but veteran forward Dunamis Lui is unsigned.
Lachlan Burr hung up his boots earlier this year due to a chronic hip problem. Hooker Jake Granville has been retained for 2023.
Tom Opacic will join Hull KR next year on a two-year deal but the 27-year-old center could return to the NRL before his career is over.
Matt Eisenhuth is unsigned but should end up with at least a one-year contract with the Panthers or another landing spot.
St. George Illawarra
Aaron Woods will remain with the Dragons after activating a contract extension for next season. Josh McGuire will end his Super League career with Warrington after 14 seasons in the NRL.
Josh Mansour is yet to announce his intentions but the former Australia and NSW winger is another former international unlikely to be in the NRL next year. The 32-year-old former Panther has played 174 games in the NRL but has only been used five times this year for the Rabbitohs.
Siosiua Taukeiaho travels to the UK to end his career with the Catalans after a decade in the NRL, including two Premiership wins.
James Tamou is about to put his retirement plans on hold to make the rounds for the Cowboys again. James Roberts has ended his career after injuries hampered his form for the past two seasons.