Boyd Cordner has become the third high-profile Sydney Roosters player to retire in 2021, forced out of the NRL because of repeated concussions.
After months of agonising, the Roosters, NSW and Australia captain confirmed his retirement at a press conference on Monday morning.
In a measure of the respect in which Cordner is held in the game, a who’s who of the Roosters and rugby league royalty attended his emotional announcement, including club patriarch Nick Politis, dual premiership-winning great Cooper Cronk, Blues coach Brad Fittler and the tricolours’ entire 2021 squad.
The 29-year-old Cordner hasn’t played a game since sustaining a head knock during the 2020 State of Origin series opener last November.
He returned to the field in that game but took no further part in the series, won by Queensland.
Cordner stepped away from the game to consider his future with the Roosters hopeful of a round 14 NRL return for their inspirational skipper.
That comeback date passed in the Roosters’ heart-stopping 35-34 win over Gold Coast on Saturday with speculation that Cordner’s comeback had been put on hold.
“The last six months or so have been a really challenging time in my life in regards to my head knocks and my health,” Cordner said.
“But not at one stage did I think I’d have up here in front of you today announcing that this will be it for me.
“All I ever wanted to do was get back and play the game that I love and most importantly for the club I love.
“I’m a stage now where I’m doing really well. I’m fine, I’m back at training with the team fulltime for a while and I was getting ready and prepared to play in a couple of weeks’ time.
“All that was going well and I fell really good at training and was training really hard. When I was at footy with the boys, that’s all I was thinking.
“But away from footy, when I was at home, it was a different story for me.
“It felt a different way for me. I knew that was a natural feeling, to come off what I experienced last year.
“It was like my heart was telling me I that wanted to play on and I was doing everything I could but my mind and my head was telling me otherwise and dragging me the other way.
“They just didn’t align at the end of the day.”
Cordner joins former club co-captain Jake Friend in retiring mid-season because of concussion issues.
The Roosters farewelled Brett Morris last week after the star winger suffered a career-ending knee injury in early May.
Cordner’s call marks a cruel end to a decorated career.
One of the most reliable players in rugby league, Cordner figured in premierships with the Roosters in 2013, 2018 and 2019.
He led the Blues to Origin series victories in 2018 and 2019 and took over as Kangaroos Test captain in 2018.
Cordner, who was contracted for another two years with the Roosters, will instead end with 181 games for the foundation club, 20 matches for the Kangaroos and 16 Origin games for NSW.
It’s another brutal blow to the injury-ravaged Roosters, who lost representative stars Luke Keary and Lindsay Collins earlier this season with long-term injuries.
Cordner’s medical retirement has been cleared by the NRL, according to media reports.
His decision to walk away from the game on health grounds comes with NRL recently launching a crackdown on head-high tackles.