Clark accepting that future lies away from Redfern
When Jason Clark was growing up on Botany Road, he only wanted to play for South Sydney and would have been satisfied to start just one match.
Now, as the 28-year-old prepares for his 150th Telstra Premiership game with the Rabbitohs, he has come to terms with the fact he will have to play elsewhere next season if he wants to continue his career.
Clark, who will start at lock in Thursday night's match against Sydney Roosters after Cameron Murray succumbed to a hamstring injury, was told last year he would not be offered a contract by the club for 2019.
It was a difficult conversation for Rabbitohs general manager of football Shane Richardson to have with a player whose passion for Souths is such that he was among the 80,000 fans who protested the club’s expulsion from the NRL in 2000.
Yet there was never any doubt that Clark would understand the Rabbitohs wanted to give him as much notice as possible so he could settle his future.
"It's hard but the club has been great with me dealing with that sort of stuff," Clark told NRL.com.
"Richo pulled me in last year and wanted to let me know early so I could get on the front foot and look after myself. I am very thankful to him for doing that.
"You never really think about it when you are starting out but as you get older you realise that players come and go, and that is part of the game. I've just got to try and play some good footy to get another contract."
Clark is prepared to move to the Super League but would prefer to remain in the NRL.
Regardless of what Clark does next season, Richardson hopes he will eventually return to the club in a non-playing role.
"Jason Clark is just a great human being and he deserves to be treated with respect," Richardson said. "If we weren’t going to re-sign him beyond his contract we needed to let him know early rather than late.
"We just felt that we have some really good young front-rowers coming through and we let him know last year so he could make arrangements for whatever he wants to do next year.
"He has been an excellent club man, he has done everything right by the club and I see a future for him with the club when he finishes his playing career."
Clark is proud of what he has achieved since his debut for Souths in round 25 of the 2009 competition.
He was part of the team which ended the Rabbitohs' 43-year premiership drought by winning the 2014 grand final and has witnessed the transformation of the club in the past decade.
"I grew up with the club, I lived on Botany Road and played junior grand finals at Redfern Oval," he said.
"To see what this oval has turned into and to train here on a regular basis is a big deal for me.
"As a kid I dreamed of playing just one game for Souths, so to play 150 games is a big milestone for myself. In those 150 games, I played with some pretty unbelievable players too.
"Some are still playing, like Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess and John Sutton but I have also been lucky to play with some big names in my career as well, like Matt King, Michael Crocker and Roy Asotasi.
"That group of blokes kicked off the change of the club and that showed the power of what Russell Crowe has been able to do to bring the club back to a good position."