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Trent Robinson and Boyd Cordner after the 2013 grand final.

Chris Cordner and his youngest son drove three hours with the summer sun still to come up 14 years ago, bound for North Bondi.

As is customary in those parts, first they looked around for a bloody parking spot.

The Cordners then looked around Australia's most iconic stretch of sand at 7am, spotted Nick Politis standing above it, Brad Fittler on it.

"I knew he was in safe hands when I dropped him off that morning," Chris Cordner reflected.

"I left him and he's stayed ever since."

Out the other side of broken jaws, ruptured ACLs, broken ankles, a pec muscle torn beneath a bench press bar, and the head knocks he eventually refused to push himself through, Boyd Cordner called time in a similarly iconic, and appropriate setting.

'A leader of men': Robinson pays tribute to Cordner

Standing in the SCG's Steve Waugh Room on Monday morning, an emotional Cordner could have done with the cricketer's famous red rag as he made the toughest call of all.

Afterward, Trent Robinson spelled out the exact nature of Cordner's influence on the Roosters.

Second to none. Not even the Godfather.

"When I'm a coach I think about what Boyd would think or would want," Robinson said.

"His ability to make a decision based on what was best for our club was up there with Nick Politis.

"That's the impact that he has. I often went to him to confide in him in critical times, to say 'what are your thoughts?'

"That was rare, that's why I value him so much as a confidant.

Jake Friend, Nick Politis and Boyd Cordner in 2018.
Jake Friend, Nick Politis and Boyd Cordner in 2018. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"He's a leader of men. That doesn't mean just players, that means all men. We all look up to him."

Throughout a career dripping with achievements and accolades, founded on grunt, grind, and an ability to coax his body through a barrage of punishment, the Roosters have been in the safest of hands with Cordner.

The feeling has been mutual. After 181 games and three Roosters titles – two of which saw Cordner lift the premiership trophy as co-captain with Jake Friend – he worked his way around the room with public thankyous as tears were kept at bay.

Brad Fittler, Mitchell Pearce, Wade Graham, Todd Carney and the entire Roosters playing squad were among those on hand for Cordner's farewell.

But Cordner started with the "girls from the front desk" and saved special mention for "Aunty" Cath King.

King has been a red, white and blue matriarch since the early 1990s, even more of a fixture at the club than Cordner.

"When I'm at my lowest times she's the first one there and I really cherish our friendship," Cordner said, making the same promise Friend did in his own retirement announcement two months earlier.

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"I can't wait to not walk into her office battered and bruised, we can enjoy a pinot together."

Cordner has worn all manner of blows for his club. His first meeting with Politis came in that exact fashion.

"I remember laying up in hospital with a smashed jaw and [was] probably out of it on all the drugs you can imagine," he recalled.

"Nick’s standing at the end of my bed just checking in on me to see if I was OK, to meet my dad and to make sure we’re all fine.

"I was only 16 years old and he had no right to be there that day, but it goes to show the care he has for this club and his players, and I will never forget that."

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A post shared by Boyd Cordner (@boydcordner)

Cordner's loyalty to the Roosters cause was only magnified by encounters like the above.

And matched by Robinson's return to lead the club as a rookie coach in 2013.

A shattered ankle should have ended Cordner's season that year as a ruthless Roosters outfit charged through the finals.

Despite not having played in six weeks and medical staff refusing to give him clearance to take the field, Cordner packed his boots for a preliminary final clash against Newcastle.

Afterward, Robinson declared publicly and privately that he would have played Cordner if Sonny Bill Williams had succumbed to a bout of pre-game food poisoning.

It was all the faith Cordner needed to prove himself fit for the following week's grand final.

But on Monday he thanked Robinson for so much more than that.

"I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done for my career," Cordner said, needing several seconds to compose himself as he did.

"Not as a player now but as a friend, thank you so much.

"The trust, the care, the love, the loyalty, the confidence, the belief, I’ve felt all of that.

"Coming down as a kid, very narrow-minded, very fresh. Footy was all I ever knew. But you've opened me up to this whole new world that I didn't know, it's rounded me out as a person."

His ability to make a decision based on what was best for our club was up there with Nick Politis

Trent Robinson on Boyd Cordner

After several head knocks last year, fears for his future and a six month lay-off, that influence was made plain in Cordner's decision on Monday.

Footy is not everything he knows now.

As he told his partner Jemma, sitting front and centre of Monday's press conference: "we're just getting started".

Chris watched much of his son's career with bated breath. A somewhat familiar "sinking feeling" set in when Boyd first told him of his retirement decision. But it didn't last long. 

"I always watched him hoping that he'd get up off the ground or the run that he made, he would play the ball," Cordner snr said.

"Your eyes are always on your child. It hurts. You don't want to see your child like that ... it's a sinking feeling.

"This was his whole life, it's security, it's his family, it's his way of life. But then you think, what's next? It's exciting. I'm extremely proud of him."

Cordner noted that his "body breaking down like a two-door car" has been well-documented across his career.

He had no need to call out his ability to keep returning from the wreckers in the same breath.  

"I've been able to pick myself up and if I want to go, my body just goes," he said.

"But I knew this was different because I couldn't get my head and heart to align."

For the first time since making that three-hour drive from Old Bar to North Bondi, Cordner could not convince himself to push through.

"For once in my life and my career, I had to put my own health and happiness first."

Just as Chris noted all those years ago, his son, and the Roosters in turn, have always been in the safest hands of all.

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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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