Peats arrival swayed Friend's decision to retire
Departing Gold Coast Titans co-captain Nathan Friend has admitted that he may have played on again in 2017 if not for the mid-season arrival of Nathan Peats from Parramatta.
On Tuesday Friend announced that this his 15th season in the NRL would be his last with the 35-year-old one of only two remaining members of the Titans' initial squad in 2007 still playing in the NRL along with North Queensland's Gavin Cooper.
Starting his career out as a 'baby Bronco' in 2002 Friend has played 235 games to date for the Broncos, Storm, Warriors and Titans and was a member of the Storm team that lost the 2006 Grand Final to the Broncos 15-8.
When Friend returned to the Titans for the 2016 season after four years in New Zealand he was viewed as a senior figure who could impart more than a decade of wisdom onto the club's young players and in particular the hookers.
Long-term injuries to both Matt Srama and Daniel Mortimer effectively halved the Titans' stocks of No.9s and both are unlikely to be re-signed by the club at the end of the 2016 season. Kierran Moseley is also off-contract but is viewed as a player of the future by the coaching staff and is likely to form the primary hooker rotation along with Peats moving forward.
Friend had been seriously considering his future in the game after suffering three heavy head knocks in the opening rounds of the season and said the arrival of the highly-regarded Peats as a result of the Eels' salary cap dramas made his decision to retire a little easier.
"He's mid-20s and is signed for a few years and I feel that the club has got a handy one there," Friend told NRL.com.
"If he didn't arrive then they were probably going to be a little bit thin in that area and I may have gone around again but I couldn't say that his arrival has affected it too much.
"At the start of the year we had five hookers and we've got 'Peatsy' and young Kierran Moseley that the club see as the next up-and-coming guy and we've got a few guys that could fit the role in Karl Lawton so whatever Neil (Titans coach Neil Henry) sees fit I'm sure they'll fill it no worries.
"The club's in good hands in my position moving forward so it's really about myself and wanting to be the best parent I can and that's getting my duties right on the weekend. Enjoying my kids' time and giving back to them that have been so supportive over my 15 years."
As he made the announcement on Tuesday morning Friend had his right thumb heavily strapped after copping a knock during the 30-22 loss to the Raiders on Sunday.
Having played 86 games for the Warriors – and coinciding with his former skipper Simon Mannering's 250th NRL game – a return to Mt Smart on Saturday days after confirming his retirement at the end of the season would be rather appropriate.
Confident of taking his place in a Titans team desperate for an eighth win prior to their second bye, Friend said it will be nice to return to a place that holds so many fond memories, highlighted by last year's 'Friendy Flip' that went global.
"Post-game [the thumb] was a little bit tender but I'm getting a bit more mobility in it," Friend said.
"It's one of those games when you come up against your old team that you always want to try and make it and perform so I'll be doing all I can and I dare say I'll be there.
"The Warriors have been a part of my 15-year career so far and it just so happens that it coincides.
"I probably knew for a month or two but I thought I may as well get it out there and it just so happens to be this week where we're heading back over to New Zealand."
Although stipulations around his mid-season move would have prevented him from playing Konrad Hurrell remains on the injured list for the Titans although both he and David Mead are expected to be fit to take on the Dragons in Round 19.