No regrets as humble Halatau calls time
Popular and long-serving Wests Tigers forward Dene Halatau says his retirement announcement this week has been building for some time and hopes now the decision is made he can look forward to staying in involved in the game through the next chapter of his life.
The 2005 premiership-winner made the announcement after considerable thought.
"I've been thinking about for a while. Before I re-signed last year I anticipated this would probably be my last year," Halatau said in a low-key media opportunity at Wests Tigers training at Concord this week.
"My wife and I have spoken about it quite a bit. I just felt like it was best to make the definite decision so I could say something, get it out of the way, and focus on the next weeks of football."
He added he preferred to make the decision now rather than after the season to allow himself and his family to start preparing for life after football ahead of time.
"The season finishes and I need to start something else so the more time I've got in that regard the better."
Halatau is "mentally and physically" nearing the point where he doesn't want to be just hanging in there.
"I want to be playing football and really enjoying it and feel like I'm at the top of my game," he said.
"I think next year I'd be thinking 'Oh man, get me out of here'. Right now I feel good and also feel like it's the time to take that next step."
The humble Kiwi international insisted that he is not one of the superstars of the game, despite a premiership, 15 Test caps for his native New Zealand and close to 250 NRL games for the Tigers and Bulldogs. If the Tigers fall short of the top eight this season Halatau will finish on 249 games if he plays every fixture for the rest of the season.
"I've always been realistic about where I sit as a player. I'm not a superstar. I get my job done, I fill a role in the team and I'm comfortable with that," he said.
"I never thought I'd play 12, 14 years in the NRL. So to play for so long is a blessing and I'm very thankful I've been able to do that.
"As a career I'm just really appreciative I've been able to do it. Winning a premiership was amazing and also representing New Zealand have been two of the highlights but just being around good people and making life-long friends. It's a great game and I'm proud to have been a part of it."
"I've spoken to the Tigers about a role here and there's something materialising now. I'm happy to stay working in the game," Halatau said of his post-playing options.
"I've done quite a bit with welfare at NRL level and at community level so I'd be looking to building on that, and definitely staying involved with the team here in come capacity at the club.
"I've loved being at the NRL and playing with the Tigers so I want to repay some of the good things that have happened to me."
Halatau is comfortable he leaves the club in a situation where the future is bright with some talented youngsters coming through and a new core leadership group forming among the forwards.
"I think we're in a really good place at the moment. All the boys are showing a lot of maturity in the way they prepare for games. In games our halves have really grown up a lot this year and are becoming leaders in the team. They are very young guys so for that to be happening for them is really good and puts the club in a really good position," he said.
"And it's pretty well known what 'Teddy' [James Tesdesco] can do. He's a superstar already. Anything he does on the field is remarkable. So to see those guys come through and the strength we've got as a club moving forward, it's only going to keep building. Hopefully that professionalism continues and we get some success in the future.
"Jesse [Sauaso Sue] and 'Woodsy' [Aaron Woods], those two guys you can build a forward pack around. Jesse has been awesome for us for the past 18 months to two years.
"He's been one of the main guys and he's been so consistent. He works his butt off and he's great to be around.
"Woodsy is a larrikin and he's good fun. But when he switches on to the job at hand, he switches on hard.
"He's a great skipper. I've been vice-captain to him and I love playing under him. Those two guys are really going to hold our forward pack going forward."
Halatau's fellow vice-captain Chris Lawrence was sad to see him depart.
"It is going to be really sad to see him leave the club. All the boys would have liked to see him stay on for another couple of years but at the start of the year he said he'd wait until after the year and if he felt like the time was right then that decision would be made for him by how his body felt and what not. Unfortunately that's the case," Lawrence said.
"I just hope he's not lost to the game, either the club or the NRL, because he's such a good mentor and role model and I think he's what every young footy player should aspire to be like.
"He was here when I debuted and really accepted me, being quite young when I came in , was really helpful to me the first few years then left to go to the Bulldogs but I was glad to see him come back. "He's been a great mate of mine for so many years and it's been a pleasure to play so many years alongside him."