Darius Boyd has revealed the "lightbulb moment" that made him decide to retire at the end of this season with the Brisbane Broncos.
The 32-year-old spoke about his decision at a press conference at Broncos HQ on Friday in front of his wife Kayla, daughters Willow and Romi and a room full of current and former teammates.
"I was at a dinner last month when a friend asked me if this would be my last season. It had been in the back of my mind but that one question made it feel urgent and I knew right then that this would be it," Boyd said.
"I have never retired before, but the decision came into my mind and from that night. My friend said don't make any rash decisions, but I knew I was coming to this conclusion.
"This 2020 season will be my last in rugby league. I have another season to give. My body feels great and I'm excited about the season.
"I'm also excited about the next chapter of my life and I will go into the next chapter so grateful for everything that has happened in my last 15 seasons in the NRL.
"Rugby league helped me out in my dark times. The game provided me the support I needed as I support to improve my mental health. And the game has provided that platform for me to tell that story to others. I will always be grateful for that."
Darius Boyd confirms 2020 season will be his last
The dual premiership winner and veteran of 317 NRL games, who was contracted until the end of 2021, will play left centre this year in a positional change after lining up at fullback and five-eighth last season.
Boyd played most of those games under former coach Wayne Bennett, who he told earlier this week of his decision.
"That is why I think I knew the time was right. It was just that lightbulb decision. I didn't consult Wayne. I rang him three or four days ago and he was very supportive as he always has been," he said.
Boyd is determined to continue to make a difference in the mental health space and spoke of the time spent in a clinic while playing at Newcastle as a pivotal moment in his life.
"All the things I have achieved I wouldn't have if I didn't put my hand up and ask for some help with my mental health and well-being and that is why I am so passionate about it," he said.
"It changed my life and turned me around for the better.
"I have been fortunate to have some great times in footy, a premiership in my first year with the Broncos, a premiership with the Dragons, State of Origin series wins that will stay with me forever and the honour of playing for my country.
"I grew up a Broncos supporter and I was lucky enough to captain this great club. You can only do those things because of teammates, coaches and management and I am grateful to them all."
Boyd has a group of young outside backs snapping at his heels but that is a fact he is set to embrace in his final year in the game.
"That is why the future of this club is so bright. Seibs [coach Anthony Seibold] said we have the youngest average age in the NRL and that brings a lot of excitement," Boyd said.
"I don't look at it as pressure for me. If I do my job I will be there. I want to help these guys grow in their journey and have special careers just like Darren Lockyer, Petero Civoniceva and Shane Webcke helped me in mine."
Seibold said Boyd had achieved "everything" in the game and predicted his last year would be one to remember.
Rugby league helped me out in my dark times...Darius Boyd
"To have him in the team environment for another 12 months is a fantastic opportunity for the younger players to learn," Seibold said.
"There are so many traits that he has that I'd love him to pass on to the younger and emerging players coming through at the club so I will certainly be leaning on Darius. A lot of our players will cherish the time they spend with him.
"Darius has made a really smart decision with regards to his announcement and he seems at peace with it. I know it is the right decision for him and it gives everybody clarity so I'd like to think our members and supporters, the general supporters of rugby league and the media will recognise the achievements Darius has made in the last 15 years in the NRL."
As for Boyd's future beyond the playing arena, club CEO Paul White insisted it would be bright.
"I think he could become a CEO whisperer. I always feel better after spending time with him so he could have a career in that," White said.
"He has been a great support for me and I think his career could develop in so many different ways. I have been a passionate supporter of mental health.
"My background in the police taught me that men really struggle to reach for help when they are doing it tough. Darius has been a great ambassador and the legacy of his story gives permission to other people in our game to reach out and ask for help when they need it. He already works in our community programs and will have an ongoing role there. His future looks bright off the field."
Boyd had a stirring message for his many supporters about his feelings about the game that has given him so much.
"I will miss competing. I will miss the victories. I will miss sharing the journey with my teammates but most of all I will miss the good wishes of the fans who make rugby league possible," he said.
"Yes I have copped criticism over the years, but I have received far more good wishes than bad and the support of fans has meant a lot to me. It is humbling to think of the person who saves every cent to buy a ticket to watch their team. They are the foundation of this game."
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