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In Touch: Gasnier's retirement a mistake

Leila McKinnon, Channel Nine NRL.com Tue, Jul 19, 2011 - 8:30 AM

Mark Gasnier's decision to retire could turn out to be a mistake, writes Leila McKinnon. Copyright: NRL Photos

Tiny beauty pageant queen Eden Wood has retired at the grand old age of six years old. Perhaps after 300 wins and a starring role on Toddlers and Tiaras she feels she's achieved all she can and no longer has a hunger for fake lashes, fake tan, and fake smiles.

Most of us can look forward to leaving work and going fishing / caravanning / bingo-playing at the official retirement age of 67. But for people who are professionally beautiful, or professional athletes, that age is understandably much lower.

Last week Dragons star Mark Gasnier announced he will retire at the end of this season. He'll have played 166 games for the Dragons, 15 Tests for Australia and 12 games for New South Wales. He's had a 12-year career and he’ll be just 30 years old.

I think it’s very likely he's making a mistake.

Gasnier said, ''It's time, it has been a good year for me, I've enjoyed it but I don't think I would have been as committed next year … to be on good money you need to be 100 per cent committed, and mentally I don't think I could do that. This decision suits everyone."

I'm sure he's looking forward to not travelling, not training, and not spending days recovering from brutal physical encounters. 

But to be among the best in the world at what you do is such a privilege; signing contracts worth millions of dollars puts you among the highest earners in Australia, and being at your peak physically is (I'd imagine) a joy.

Australian men can expect to live to the age of 79, which gives Gasnier 49 more years in which he will deteriorate physically and earn increasingly less money. 

Sorry for being such a bundle of joy and optimism this week, but I just want to put forward the argument that another five more years of high-level football and fat pay cheques wouldn't have hurt the Dragons star centre.

"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them," said American writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau. What wouldn't they give to be sports stars earning big bucks and enjoying long off-seasons?

Even those of us who are lucky enough to have jobs that we love, lose interest in them from time to time. But most of us have to stick them out; it's that or lose the house when we can't pay the mortgage. Eventually the feeling passes, and a new challenge, new workmate, or even maybe a new boss, helps bring back the buzz that made you love the job in the first place.

Only the very highest paid workers are fortunate enough to be able to just walk away, but they never seem to stay away for long. Singers and actors are notorious for making comebacks from retirement, either when they find the money doesn't go as far as they thought it would, or when they miss the attention. And eleventh-hour comebacks are made by many of our biggest sports stars: Ian Thorpe, Geoff Huegill and Michael Klim are among the most recent.

Gasnier is a loss to the game. He's a true talent, and I just hope he has thought long and hard about his decision. Could he have dug deep mentally and played on? You're a long, long time retired, and as the years go by the memory of his sporting career will look more and more golden.