Gold Coast Titans cult hero Anthony Don has announced his retirement from the NRL at the end of the season.
The winger will retire as the Titans top try-scorer of all-time, crossing the line 85 times in his 152 appearances.
The decision comes after the 33-year-old believed he wasn’t playing to the same standard as he had throughout his career.
“I’m my own harshest critic and I know when I’m playing good and not playing good,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“Last year I went in just looking for a contract extension and I was lucky that I did, and this year I just came in with an open mind and early in the year I probably wasn’t playing as good as I had been previously and that’s when I started thinking it was going to be my last year.”
Don’s professional career was born out of perseverance, he made his debut as a 25-year-old after toiling away the lower levels.
“I finished Uni at 22 as a PE teacher and just went to play a season in Grafton in country footy, I played pretty well that year but at that point in time I didn’t think I was a chance to play any NRL,” he said.
“I was weighing up whether I should play Queensland Cup at that point in time and I was thinking there are only two teams on the Gold Coast and I didn’t know if I was going to be in the top two teams playing Queensland Cup.
“So to where I am now playing 150 games and to spend my whole career at the one club is something I am very proud of.”
Don credits his love of the game for helping him persevere through the tough times.
“When I was 15 or 16, I hadn’t hit puberty and I was playing against men, I wasn’t even making my stating team for the Grafton Ghosts and there was probably 20 players to pick from,” he said.
“I just kept playing because I loved it, I would have played for free for the last 10-12 years anyway, so that’s why I kept going I wasn’t doing it to play it professionally I was doing it because I loved it.”
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He now hopes that he can inspire the next generation of kids that may not be receiving contracts straight out of school.
“So, for kids like that that aren’t making the rep teams or kids who aren’t in their first team at school… there is still always hope,” he said.
“People mature at different rates and peoples love for the game goes away.”
Titans coach Justin Holbrook believes Don is a perfect example of how to train and prepare no matter which journey you take into the NRL.
“It’s a great example of hard work and enjoying playing the game, I don’t think you can come in and make your NRL debut at 25 if you’ve lost the love of the game,” Holbrook said.
“So, I think when those guys do come straight into the top level I think that’s one thing that have to realise is how lucky they are to get the opportunity but they have to love the game and cherish the opportunity.
“He’s a great example for the young guys too, it doesn’t matter what age you get there, it’s how committed you are.”
Don continues to train hard in the hope of securing a spot in the starting 17 should the Titans make the finals.
“He’s still training well, and he is fit which is great for us,” Holbrook said.
“As a club we have to keep winning but we’re not sitting here saying it’s his last game either.
“I think he mentioned he wasn’t playing as great as he has in the past and he is still playing very well for us, he’s not a million miles off either, and that’s the funny thing about rugby league you never know.”
Despite still holding out hope for some finals action this season, Don believes that success is just around the corner for the Titans.
“I think the club is in the best position I have seen it in since I have been here in the ten years I have been at the club,” Don said.
“It’s in a great spot to move forward and that’s why it is sad to be out of the playing squad and watch them achieve the success that is on the doorstep.”
Don retires a cult hero in the eyes of Titans fans and is very appreciative of all the love and support he has received from the fans over the years.
“I don’t know why they got behind me but I definitely noticed all the support I got throughout the years since I played my debut game the Titans fans and the members and everyone else have been supportive,” he said.
“The Titans fans have been superb to me, and I really do thank them.”
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