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Wheelchair scare to Broncos royalty: One-club stalwart Glenn retires

Alex Glenn was once told rugby league could leave him unable to walk ever again.

Seventeen years and 282 NRL games later, it was the days off spent shuffling that little bit slower, getting out of bed each time a bit more ginger than the last, that has eventually forced his hand.

Not bad in the end though for a 16-year-old who once not only refused to put down the paintbrush for Wayne Bennett, but hung up on him.

Glenn announced on Thursday he will retire at the end of this season and will bow out as the fourth most-capped Bronco in history behind Darren Lockyer (355 games), Corey Parker (347) and Sam Thaiday (304).

But for the first real run of injuries in his NRL career over the past two seasons, the 33-year-old would be bowing out as one of the game's fabled 300-gamers.

Glenn finishes a Brisbane Broncos belter

A captain through Brisbane's darkest days, doting father of three, Kiwi international, cleanskin and genuine good guy through 13 years of first grade.

Glenn has always seemed to have a proper grasp on rugby league and reality but it wasn't always the case - he has come a long way since the days when "football was my life" not a livelihood.

"I was 16 and I saw a chiropractor and we got scans done," Glenn said at his retirement announcement, recalling a career at the crossroads before it had even begun.

Emotional Glenn announces he's hanging up boots

"Basically if I got put in a bad tackle and landed in the wrong spot there was a high chance I could be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

"As a 16-year-old you take a step back and think 'this is some serious business'. I was there with my mum and I was bawling my eyes out driving home. Football was everything I knew.

"When you're put in that position and ask what's more important, it's your own life.

"It's something I look back on now I don't think I ever would've played 280-plus games if I don't take that break.

"I believe in things that happen for a reason and it was a blessing in disguise."

Ultimately his reputation as one of the most durable forwards in Brisbane's proud history will endure regardless, having never played fewer than 20 games each year between his 2009 debut and 2019.

Versatility and loyalty still ring true as well.

To finish my career as a one-club player here is beyond anything I could have imagined.

Alex Glenn

As a 20-year-old his first foray into the Broncos starting side came via the wing in 2009, with appearances at centre, hooker, and even being named at halfback for a grand final qualifier, following over the next decade.

Penrith came closest to luring Glenn out of Brisbane a few years ago, while lucrative offers from the Gold Coast and Newcastle among others were also knocked back over the years.

So was Bennett when he first made that fateful call to a 19-year-old park footballer at Burleigh.

Alex Glenn hits it up for Brisbane against Melbourne's Aiden Tolman in his rookie season of 2009.
Alex Glenn hits it up for Brisbane against Melbourne's Aiden Tolman in his rookie season of 2009. ©NRL Photos

"Back then I was a painter," Glenn began with family, teammates and media in attendance at Brisbane's Red Hill headquarters.

"A painter?" interrupted coach Kevin Walters, sitting beside the workhorse who has played a guiding hand in his rebuilding efforts of the famous club.

"Yeah mate, Picasso.

League leaders: Glenn on what it means to captain Broncos

"I was painting houses and I got a call from Wayne Bennett, I honestly thought it was someone geeing me up and I hung up on Wayne the first time. He rang me straight back and I had to put the brush down.

"He wanted to come down and meet my mum. He met both of us at Mum's workplace the following week and said he wanted me to come to the Broncos and play under 20s.

"I was only six months into coming back to football. It was something that I never, ever expected. I only wanted to play park footy because I love the game. I found the passion again.

"... Six months later I'm talking to one of the greatest coaches who's ever led a football team. He signed my contract, brought me to this club and six months later I was doing pre-season for the under 20s."

Brisbane and the game's next generation is where Glenn will ply his trade after a round 25 farewell at Suncorp Stadium.

He and club officials are still working through the particulars of a development and community role to transition into, but it is an area Glenn has always paid far more than necessary.

"I'll be going out and helping kids chase their own dreams," Glenn said.

"For myself, coming from nothing and to give time to those kids, that's something I'm very passionate about and very grateful to the club to get that opportunity."

Glenn is comfortable with both how he leaves Brisbane's NRL stocks.

Flegler hoping for Origin bounce and strong finish

Star recruit Adam Reynolds shapes as his likely captaincy successor, though rising forwards Pat Carrigan and Payne Haas also boast obvious leadership credentials.

Closer to home was the only time Glenn's emotions got the better of him, extensively, during a 15-minute farewell.

"Not being the dad I could be" to Oakley, Miller and Gisele, played it's part in Glenn's decision, as family duties gave way to more and more recovery needed to keep his body in the game.

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A post shared by Alex Glenn (@alexglenn__)

Once told that rugby league could leave him in a wheelchair, Glenn saved his biggest tribute for long-time partner Jemma Morgan, his biggest supporter of all.

"Every footy player, we all know the sacrifices our partners make for us to be the best we can on and off the field," Glenn said.

"Being a supportive partner is never easy, being a mother of three is never easy ... holding the fort down at home, no one sees that stuff but us.

"From the bottom of my heart I just want to say a big thank you.

"Thank you for supporting me each and every step of the way, thank you for being the best mother my kids could ever have, I couldn't be the person I am here for this club and for the fans out there."

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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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