Brisbane Broncos veteran Sam Thaiday insists he has “nothing to lose” ahead of his final season in the Telstra Premiership.
The 32-year-old forward has known for months that 2018 will bring down the curtain on his stellar NRL career.
He was a wide-eyed 21-year-old when he played in Brisbane’s 2006 premiership-winning side and now aims to leave a legacy for “generation next’’, including a seventh club premiership.
“I’ve got nothing to lose now,” Thaiday said.
“I can go out and play a tough and exciting brand of football without having to worry about another year or another pre-season.
“I know too well how rare premierships are and that is why I will be pushing as hard as I can to help the players reach that goal.
“Hopefully I can hang my boots up with a smile on my face and some success. That would make it a fun ride.”
After Thaiday and several other senior player trained for the first time in their 2018 pre-season, the former Maroons and Kangaroos forward spoke with NRL.com.
The club trainer had put Thaiday through a variety of stretches and exercises before telling the group to finish with “your stretch of choice”.
On being asked what that would be, Thaiday grinned and said: “My stretch of choice provably right now would be stretching out on the couch and watching a bit of Netflix”.
His conversation took a more serious tone as he gazed out at the plethora of giant young forwards in the squad, including highly regarded teenagers Payne Haas and David Fifita. Matt Lodge and Salesi Funaki are only 22, Jaydn Su’A is 20 and George Fai is 21.
“To be honest with you, I happy to back training and in a routine again, and it is very exciting times at our club,” he said.
“We have some good young forwards who are under 20s and with that [NYC] competition finished now they will be pushing for first grade spots.
“It is a great time for me to be around the club to hopefully teach them some of my good habits.
“I remember coming to the club and thinking I’d never play first grade because I had Andrew Gee, Shane Webcke, Brad Thorn, Petero Civoniceva, Brad Meyers, Corey Parker, Dane Carlaw and Carl Webb all in front of me.
“That is the situation some of these young forwards probably feel they are in, but I can give them some of words of advice that if they stick at it and train hard the opportunities are there.
“I was fortunate enough to play first grade in my first year as an 18-year-old and a young guy here now like Payne Haas is probably in that same boat.”
Thaiday said he expected Tongan stars Joe Ofahengaue and Tevita Pangai jnr would return to training from World Cup duty as better players.
“I’m sure they would have learned a lot being around a monster, and great bloke, Jason Taumalolo,” he said.
“We have some big boys here and all that does is breed some healthy competition in our forward pack. We are all going to be on our toes.”
If all goes to plan, Thaiday - who will enter the season on 279 career games - will join Darren Lockyer and Corey Parker in the Broncos’ 300-game club before season’s end.
“It is such a hard thing to do, so to go through as a one club player is a huge honour,” Thaiday said.
“Clubs have knocked on the door once my contracts expired here, but as a young kid I have been loyal to my footy teams.
“I started playing for Brothers in Townsville as a kid because all my friends did. They packed up and moved to another club and I wanted to go with them, but my mother and father taught me loyalty at a young age and I stuck it out and had some great junior years there.
“That is what was ingrained in me and why I stayed so loyal to the Broncos.”
Thaiday said he was at peace with the fact that life after football was just around the corner.
“I know where my future is. It will be in Brisbane,” he said.
“I am enjoying the radio work I am doing, and hopefully I can get my foot in the door.
“Knowing so far out that this was going to be my last year I have some things in place to help with the transition.
“My wife understands it is going to be a tough time going forward but I have good family network and good friends that will help me through the years after footy has finished.”