Nathan Friend wants to tackle The Block
He has spent the past 15 years bringing down towering forwards in one of sport's toughest arenas but now Nathan Friend has set his sights on an even bigger assignment; a spot on Channel Nine's ratings smash, The Block.
Friend announced on Tuesday morning that his 15th season in the NRL would be his last, the Titans co-captain calling time on a career that has seen him play 235 games at the Broncos, Storm, Warriors and Titans.
Nursing a bruised thumb as he made the announcement that he hopes won't prevent him from lining up against his former club on Saturday, Friend joked that he had his sights set on a move into reality TV before confirming his genuine interest to NRL.com.
Currently juggling his duties with the Titans with a part-time return to his trade as a bricklayer/renderer, Friend said he was serious about putting his hand up for The Block, the program that has twice featured former AFL star Darren Jolly and his wife Dee.
Although she is currently studying to become a schoolteacher, Friend's wife Kellie is an interior designer and the pair renovated two homes during their four-year stint living in Auckland.
Determined to leave the club with a finals appearance in 2016, Friend is also exploring ways to work in the nutrition and healthy eating space but said The Block was of definite interest.
"I'm a brickie by trade so I might hit up The Block or home 'reno' shows now that I have got a bit of free time," said the 35-year-old who debuted in the NRL as a member of the 'Baby Broncos' in Round 12, 2002.
"I've been speaking to the bride for a number of months and this year was always going to be a transitional period for the family, not just myself, to make sure that I had everything in line.
"At the end of the day I've had 15 years and in our sport when you've got a family it's quite selfish because you are away for three days a week and everything revolves around you.
"You can't go and have a barbecue with friends and family and all that kind of stuff that your family has to put aside.
"I really look forward to being a normal human being and supporting my wife in her new endeavours of becoming a schoolteacher and spending time with my kids again on the weekend."
Having been around the game for the past 30 years, Friend has heard the stories about players struggling to transition to what life holds after football.
With a trade behind him that adjustment may not be as intimidating but he admitted that replacing the camaraderie that comes with 15 years spent in a team environment will be key to making a success of the next stage of his life.
"None personally but you always hear the stories about people," said Friend when asked whether he'd seen former teammates struggle in retirement.
"I haven't put myself in those shoes as yet to realise whether I will struggle or not and I'd like to think with that the foundation I have provided for myself over the years I should be fine.
"I've made the decision now and I'm moving forward and I'm very positive in what I do next, whatever it may be.
"It's probably just the team environment [that I'll miss] and why I'm leaning towards the building industry where you might have a gang of four or five guys that you can muck around with and it just makes the day go a lot quicker.
"In this environment we've got a squad of 30 blokes that you love mucking around with and you have a good old laugh every day you get here so there's not too much of a care in the world when you get here."
Titans coach Neil Henry and club CEO Graham Annesley both expressed their desire to see Friend remain involved with the club, whether in formal employment or as an ambassador.
"Regardless of what role may or may not transpire in the future Nathan is always going to be welcome at this club," said Annesley.
"As a foundation player and someone who has given so much to this club anything we can do to keep him involved – whether it be socially or in some kind of employment role – then we would certainly consider that.
"We're hoping he will be around the club to influence players that are coming through for many years to come."
Henry added that in his role as co-captain this season Friend had played a pivotal role in showing the squad's younger players the sacrifices necessary to be a success in the NRL.
"There's no place to hide in the mid-field but he has been a thorough professional and squeezed the most he could out of his body and has had a wonderful career and he's a big influence on our players this year and moving forward," Henry said.
"He's been around and knows what it takes to be prepared each week and have a few honest words about performances and what we're trying to achieve with our standards to be a consistent team in a tough competition.
"I'm just thankful that we could get 'Friendy' back for his last year in rugby league. Being a foundation player and having a lot to do with the early days at this club he has been a wonderful role model for what we're trying to do here."