Graham

Jason Nightingale to retire

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What a player he has been! Totally committed to the cause of his team and 100% professional in his approach to fitness and this great game of ours.

I've always admired his approach to the game, knowing that every time he got the ball he'd give his all.

 

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"Team first" has been the mantra for St George Illawarra players this season but it is one Jason Nightingale has abided by since joining the club as skinny kid in 2006.

In the 12 years since, Nightingale has played 265 NRL matches, 33 Tests for New Zealand, scored two tries in the Dragons' 2010 grand final triumph and won every individual award the club has to offer.

Considered one of the game's best wingers of the past decade, the 31-year-old has also played fullback and in the back row – a role which recently meant he had to make 41 tackles against Melbourne and has resulted in Nightingale suffering a nagging neck injury.

"I have got two bulging discs in my neck that I didn't know about until yesterday," he said. "It's from trying to tackle people and getting into awkward positions ... ducking at the wrong times and things like that. But I have been lucky with injuries.

"I thinking working on strength is a big part of that ... and being a bit selfish in what you do in recovery, is part of what goes into durability. Doing things like going for a massage on your day off rather than playing Play Station and little things to make sure you do recover are a big thing." 

After initially deciding that this season would be his last, Nightingale was enjoying the environment at the Dragons so much with James Graham, Jeremy Latimore and Ben Hunt joining the club that he had second thoughts and was offered a new one-year deal.

Again, Nightingale put the team ahead of himself and announced his retirement at the end of the season.

"It would have been selfish of me to keep going and I wanted to make sure I went out when I wanted to go out and not the way it may have played out if I had played on," he said. "The club were great in offering me a contract for next year and they left the ball in my court."

Nightingale said he had never contemplated leaving and was pleased to have been able to remain a one-club player, whereas the likes of Brett Morris, who he came into grade with and played alongside for much of his career, will next season play for a third team after leaving Canterbury for Sydney Roosters.

"I found a lot of motivation in not wanting to let people down," Nightingale said. "That is something I am proud of myself for being able to do.

"I love the game. I don't love wing or fullback as a preference, I just love the game. I love tackling people and I love getting tackled. I love contact."

Describing himself as "awkward and ungainly", Nightingale said he would have been a "terrible individual athlete".

Yet he bows out as one of just six players along with Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Bob Fulton, Brad Fittler and Darren Lockyer to have played more than 250 premiership matches, 30 Tests and scored 100 tries.

Fittingly, Nightingale doesn't regard any of the spectacular put downs among his most memorable tries.

"I think the tries I remember the most are not where I have run the furthest or anything like that but are based on the occasion - obviously, the grand final tries or the tries you score at the end to win games," he said.

Nightingale is hoping to continue playing until the grand final, believing he can collect a second premiership with the Dragons and equal Ben Hornby as the most capped St George Illawarra player in what would be his 284th NRL appearance.

Beyond that, he will take up a role as an ambassador with the Dragons and is looking forward to spending more time with wife Bianca, their daughter Chloe and a soon-to-be born son.

"Team first has always been something I have tried to live and motivated me through not wanting to let my teammates, myself and my family down," Nightingale said. "I think it is probably a point for me to shift that to family first."

 

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Great servant and clubman . Agree with this decision though watching him this year and obviously with the team moving on beyond him when everyone’s fit

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Well if he's gone and Luke Lewis is gone and Ivan Cleary is leaving Wests, I'm running out of reasons to keep watching NRL.

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A fine player, for both club and country. He seems to have been around forever.

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