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Titans fullback Michael Gordon.

Ever the professional, Michael Gordon is reluctant to look past his final game in the NRL or back at the 260 that have come before it.

The Titans fullback wants nothing more than one final win in his 14th clash with St George Illawarra before he turns his attention to a less intense pre-season with his junior club, the Tweed Coast Raiders.

But with some gentle prodding, the 35-year-old delved into the back catalogue to share with his most memorable moments and why he came so close to quitting at the end of the 2015 season.

'There's no way I can play first grade'

It seems positively ancient by modern standards but Michael Gordon was 22 years old when he made his NRL debut on April 28, 2006.

Enticed from Tweed Heads 18 months earlier, Gordon spent more than a year playing reserve grade for Penrith before John Lang called on him to play in the centres on the day of the game.

Flash Gordon rides final wave into retirement

"The year before I played reserve grade all year and when I was watching first grade warm-up I was like, There's no way I can play first grade. They looked giant and pyscho," Gordon recalled.

"You never know until you get thrown in there and I still didn't get much bigger but I realised that they're all human.

"I was getting ready to go and play reserve grade and my reserve grade coach rang me and told me I was playing first grade.

"I thought he was taking the piss so I went down to get ready for reggies and they told me, 'You're actually playing first grade.'

Michael Gordon playing for the Panthers in 2010.
Michael Gordon playing for the Panthers in 2010. ©NRL Photos

"It was perfect because I didn't have a whole week to prepare and get panicked.

"I just remember it being fast. It was the opening of the new part of the stadium at Penrith and we got flogged by Cronulla.

"I was still in shock that I'd actually played and then after the game I thought about it and felt like it didn't go too bad, even though we lost.

"The coach called me into his office the next week and said I was getting picked for the way I played from now on."

‘It felt like three years of turmoil’

A broken leg 20 minutes into his comeback game following ACL surgery saw Gordon's career at Penrith end at the end of the 2012 season with 108 appearances and 798 points including the record for most points in a single game – 30 in round 24, 2010 – that stands to this day.

He joined Cronulla in the off-season and by February 7 found himself at the centre of one of the most tumultuous periods in Australian sporting history.

Michael Gordon in 2015.
Michael Gordon in 2015. ©NRL Photos

That was when the Sharks became one of the focal points of ASADA's "darkest day in Australian sport" as the 2013 season kicked off.

"It was hard because that was a time when there was so much turmoil at the club with the whole ASADA thing, blokes coming and going and not training," Gordon said.

"It felt like three years of turmoil."

Named Cronulla's best and fairest in 2013 and 2014, Gordon's relationship with Sharks hierarchy was placed under immense pressure midway through the 2015 season when a mid-year switch to the Eels was blocked at the last minute.

It not only caused tensions between player and club but resulted in a Sharks sponsor walking away in protest.

He played 25 games that year including the team's two semi-finals yet for a number of weeks he thought he had played his final game in the NRL.

"That was the one time that I just hated football," Gordon revealed.

"There was a two or three-week period there where I was really over it.

It's anyone's game

"There were some things internally between the club and me that I didn't have any control of and it all got thrown on me. It just made me really not like footy. I was really keen on trying to go over to England or retiring.

"A mate of mine Peter Sharp was at Parramatta and he said if I came across they'd give me a year so I went over for one last year and fell in love with it again."

‘The happiest I've been playing footy’

Although he joined what he referred to as "a really tight group", Gordon's lone year at Parramatta also wasn't without upheaval.

With a salary cap investigation hanging over their head before the 2016 season kicked off, the Eels were stripped of 12 competition points just nine games into Gordon’s Parramatta career.

A meeting with Roosters coach Trent Robinson convinced Gordon to continue his career at Bondi in 2017 where he started 22 games in the No.1 jersey including the team's preliminary final loss to the Cowboys.

Michael Gordon in 2017 with the Sydney Roosters.
Michael Gordon in 2017 with the Sydney Roosters. ©NRL Photos

"All the backroom staff were really amazing to me and my family. It was probably the happiest I've ever been playing footy," said Gordon, a New South Wales Origin representative in 2010.

"Obviously you had quality players all around so you just fit into what they're doing and buy into their culture.

"It wasn't hard to do. I'd like to think that if you get given a role you do it the best you can.

"They were pretty simple with what they wanted from me."

Despite having a year to run on his contract at the Roosters, the arrival of Garth Brennan as coach of the Titans at the end of 2017 opened the door for Gordon to return to finish his career where it all began.

In 35 appearances for Gold Coast he has finished on the right side of the scoreboard just nine times but is adamant that it has been the perfect place to complete his NRL journey.

"It was hard to leave the Roosters because they won the comp that year and I knew that was something I was giving up but moving back home, I didn't for a second thought think I'd made the wrong decision," Gordon added.

"To be able to come back and finish here was amazing and I can't thank the club enough for that opportunity."

Michael Gordon in action for NSW in 2010.
Michael Gordon in action for NSW in 2010. ©NRL Photos

He has already started giving back to the game that has defined him for more than a decade.

He has been nominated for the 2019 Ken Stephen Medal for his contributions to his local Cabarita community where he often volunteers to help with junior sporting programs and school visits.  

"I'm obviously proud about it and footy players do a lot of great stuff in the community,” Gordon said of his nomination.

"I still remember when I was a little kid running onto Tweed Heads when King Wally [Lewis] was captain-coach and the buzz you'd get just from seeing rugby league players.

"I try and treat it as if I was that little kid still."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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