On Monday night the Minichiello brothers, Anthony and Mark, will meet in the NRL for the 13th and final time. Credit: Renee McKay. Copyright: NRL Photos
Foundation Titans player Mark Minichiello has paid his older brother Anthony the ultimate compliment, saying that the back injuries that kept him to 33 games over four seasons from 2006-2009 would have ended the careers of lesser men.
The Minichiello brothers will go head-to-head for what is likely to be the final time on Monday night when Mark's Titans endeavour to keep their season alive against the Roosters team captained by Anthony.
Having played 294 games for the Roosters over the past 15 seasons Anthony announced last Monday that this would be his final year playing for the tricolours and his little brother was full of praise for the courage he showed in returning at all.
Throughout their careers the Minichiello brothers have played a combined 548 NRL games and faced off against each other on 12 occasions, Anthony scoring eight tries and enjoying eight wins (including the 2010 Preliminary Final) compared to Mark's solitary try (in 2004) and four wins, three of which have come in the past four years with the Titans.
"I knew a little while before he told [the Roosters] and I think he's picked a good time. He's still playing really good footy and each individual will know when it's time to give up and he just thinks it's the right time," said Mark, who hopes to make a decision on his own future in the next two weeks.
"I don't think any other player would have come back and played rugby league. That's my honest opinion. The character and toughness he showed to come back from those terrible injuries, I seriously don't think anyone else would have come back.
"The operations he went through and the pain he went through, it's a real credit to him the way he worked to get back and play really good football."
The Minichiello elders, Theresa and Mick, have always been supportive of their sons' sporting pursuits but Mark revealed that as Anthony struggled to get out of bed in the morning they did discuss whether playing on was in his best interests.
"They always had questions, whether it was the best thing for him, coming back from such a serious injury where he couldn't get out of bed in the morning," Mark said.
"Of course that's going to be hard on our parents, to see him try and come back from that, but they've always been supportive of our decisions and I don't think we could have got through our careers without the support of our parents."
At the end of 80 minutes on Monday night it is likely to be a mix of emotions for Minichiello as he shares the rugby league stage for the final time not only with his brother but also his coach of the past eight seasons, John Cartwright.
Along with Luke Bailey, Minichiello and Cartwright are the only two men standing from the foundation team of 2007, Cartwright announcing on Tuesday that this will be his 192nd and final game as Gold Coast head coach.
The distractions of the past few days were evident at Friday's training session, co-captain Nate Myles laying down the law with an impassioned address upon its completion in front of Cartwright and his likely successor, Neil Henry.
"He's one of the captains of the club so whenever he feels it is the time to do so he always speaks his mind and that's what captains have to do," Minichiello said of Myles's address to the players.
"It wasn't the sharpest session today and we just had a chat about that. We did some good things but our communication was down a bit; it was more about that and trying to make sure that we come on Sunday and everyone's communicating right and we have a sharp session.
"Being here eight years I've seen a lot of highs and lows and this week is probably down with the lowest the club's been at.
"The two guys that have stepped aside have pretty much grown this club from the beginning so it's sad to see them go."