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Saying farewell to our retiring heroes

Sarah Coates NRL.com Tue, Aug 14, 2012 - 10:27 AM

Petero Civoniceva will join a distinguished list of players to hang up the boots at the end of the year. Copyright: NRL Photos

As the end of the season draws near, so do the careers of some of the game’s most treasured players. It’s the end of an era, where we will say goodbye to Eels captain Nathan Hindmarsh and outstanding servants Luke Burt, Dean Young, Scott Geddes, Colin Best, Micheal Luck, Aaron Payne, Jaiman Lowe and the great Petero Civoniceva.

Cherish watching these great players go around for these last few weeks because that’s it. And while there is talk of Hindy running around next season, he’s assured us he won’t be doing a John Farnham.

When the Eels cult hero announced his retirement, it would be safe to say Parramatta tragics went into mourning. The big fella started at the club when he was just 16...back in 1998. He’s now notched 327 games in the blue and gold jumper. Serving an entire career at the one club is nearly unheard of these days. I’m sure Hindy has had offers elsewhere...but he stayed. It’s called loyalty.

He’ll retire as a one club player, and it’s something he can be immensely proud of. When Eels fans think of their club, he’s the player that jumps to mind. On the field, this bloke is an absolute machine. Even when it seems he has nothing left in the tank, he ALWAYS seems to come up with something.  

When announcing his retirement, Hindy summed it up best. "I am going to finish my career the same way I started - utterly and deeply exhausted - knowing I have tried my best and left it all on the field,” he said.

He’s a bloke from the old school. What you see is what you get. Who else can run around with their bum out of their footy shorts and get away with it? He is a genuine, knockabout bloke who’ll be sorely missed.

If losing Hindy isn’t enough for Parramatta fans to deal with, they’ll have to cope with the loss of another icon. Luke Burt. Burty is also a one-club player and his achievements in the blue and gold have been outstanding. He’ll hang up the boots as the club’s most prolific try scorer, having surpassed Brett Kenny’s record for four-pointers with the Eels, and with more than 1700 career points. While his on field heroics will always be remembered, it’s off the field where Burty really shines.

He’s one of the great role models of the game and a champion ambassador for the club and his family. He’s rarely seen without his trademark sunny smile and is always a pleasure to interview. It came as no surprise that this good guy of the game was this year crowned Women in League’s Favourite Son. Luke Burt and Nathan Hindmarsh have been the heart and soul of Parramatta for over a decade. It’s up to players and fans now, to ensure their legacy lives on.

Dragons fans will be hurting too, with the curtain set to close on Dean Young’s time at the club. Young has been an inspiration. He is testament to how much pain someone can endure, playing with a chronic knee injury and being forced to train on his own. It just made that tearful embrace with him and his dad on the field after the 2010 grand final even more moving.

Former Dragons coach Wayne Bennett summed up Young’s character perfectly. “The doctor told him he'd never play again - but excuses aren't a part of his genetic make-up. They just don't exist in Dean's life. There are a lot of wonderful blokes in that club but let me tell you, he is the heartbeat.”

For me, nothing will beat big Petero Civoniceva. A Brisbane, Queensland and Australian hero, Pet is one of the most respected men in the game. He’s also responsible for kick-starting the revolution of prop forwards. The guy is a genuine warhorse who can unleash 80 minutes of pure hell on the opposition. But off the field, he’s one of the most genuine, lovely fellas you’ll come across…and one of my favourite players ever.

I ran into Petero after the Four Nations in Melbourne back in 2010. We got talking about my career and life goals. He gave me some invaluable advice and a real wake-up call to get out there and get amongst it. I feel very privileged to have witnessed his 15-year career.

He’s handled himself with such humility and dignity. In victory and defeat, he has been a true gentleman of the game. There is no better role model for kids across Queensland and Australia. Pet will leave a huge gap in the Maroons and Broncos sides…but I am certain his legacy will live on. While I’ll miss Petero - all fans have a reason to reflect on their favourite player leaving, the countless memories, and kids they’ve inspired.

Sports psychologist Robert Brown reinforces this, saying the final home game for these iconic players offers us the opportunity to say goodbye, not just to someone we have come to view as a friend or an essential part of our weekly environment, but also to bid farewell and come to terms with letting go of, a part of how we’ve come to define the game itself.

It also offers a last chance to stand together and applaud as one, that rare player who beat the odds and got the chance to leave the arena on their own terms. More than this though, it allows us all to witness and be part of history, so we can one day pass down the story of how we were there “the day Petero hung his boots up.”

So, let’s send these players out with a bang. They thoroughly deserve it. It’s our moment to celebrate loyalty, pay our respects and show these players how much they’ve meant to us over the years. So get out there, cheer for them and watch these guys go around one last time. Not everyone gets that fairytale finish… but they all deserve that lap of honour in front of family, friends, teammates, members and fans.

For all these players who are leaving…we salute you. You will be missed.

Follow Sarah Coates on Twitter: @SarahCoates13