Titans prop David Shillington announced his retirement from rugby league prior to the start of the 2017 season.

How Beetson shaped Shillington's NRL journey

They say all great journeys begin with a single step and for David Shillington a 17-year stint in the NRL began by moving in with the great Arthur Beetson.

A decorated career of 215 NRL games, 14 Tests and eight Origins for Queensland officially came to a close on Thursday but in truth the end came rushing into view last November prior to going under the surgeon's knife.

 


Told that he had only 40 per cent of his pectoral muscle left after numerous surgeries over the course of his career, Shillington also discussed fixing a permanently dislocated thumb that he has been carrying for the past five years.

That surgery will now come in retirement and involve fusing a thumb that he has been unable to bend for years anyway.

It's the physical toll that almost all NRL players take stock of when the their careers do come to a close and for Shillington it was a matter of "getting out while I wasn't too far behind".

Now that his playing days are over the 33-year-old will return to Brisbane where he played his junior football for Brothers and take up an ambassador role with the NRL, marking the completion of a rugby league cycle that began under the stewardship of one of the game's true greats.

As a young front-rower signed to the Roosters from Queensland, Shillington was always going to be of interest to Beetson and he said living with the Maroons legend in his first few months in Sydney gave him the grounding for what was to come.

"It was incredibly hard [to leave Brisbane] but luckily for me the Roosters were awesome and for the first few months I actually lived with Arthur Beetson," Shillington told NRL.com.

"He was the greatest man and the most kind-hearted fella.

"He'd take us around to all the different pubs that his mates owned for a feed at night.

"We went to Ron Coote's house the first week I was down there and I rang my dad and said, 'Guess where I am? Ronnie Coote's house!'

"I actually saw Ronnie a few years ago at a Men of League function and he introduced himself to me. He said, 'You probably don't remember this but you actually came to my house for dinner one night with Beetso,' and I said, 'Pretty sure I remember that one mate. Pretty sure I remember going to Ron Coote's house for dinner.'

"That was an incredible experience for a young fella and [Beetson] was a massive supporter to have in my corner in those early years and I really appreciated it.

"My dad was a huge footy fan and filled me in with what I didn't know about big 'Beetso' but it was definitely something that stuck with me and was a really important part of the story, being the start of my journey down there."

Shillington made his NRL debut with the Roosters in Round 22, 2005 at 22 years of age and after 73 games for the Bondi-based club made the move to Canberra at the end of the 2008 season.

He immediately became a starting front-rower under David Furner at the Green Machine and in 2010 enjoyed the greatest season of his career, helping the Raiders to week two of the finals, playing in all three Origin matches for Queensland and playing five Tests for the Kangaroos.

He was named the Dally M Prop of the Year, Raiders Player of the Year and was named Players' Player by his Queensland teammates but he says it is the 17-year journey in professional rugby league that he will hold most dear.

"Reflecting on it now it's been an incredible journey," said Shillington.

"I left Brisbane when I was 17 and I'm 34 this year and in that time I had a massive stint in Sydney at the Roosters, a massive stint at the Raiders and then to get the opportunity to come home to Queensland and play for the Titans, that was a dream come true to be honest.

"It feels like life has come full circle now moving back to Brisbane from when I was 17.

"I get to reconnect with all my old school mates so it's pretty mid-blowing how it's come full circle and had an incredible journey in the meantime."