At the end of every year it’s time to reflect on the people whose career has come to a close.
On the field, this year has seen the end of the respective playing careers of Lee Briers, Stuart Fielden, Paul Prescott, Shaun Briscoe, Steve Menzies and several other players.
Lee Briers was the longest serving one-club man in the game, having made his debut for Warrington against St Helens on 20 April 1997.
His record is astonishing, and yet it could have been even greater if a succession of Great Britain coaches had been able to recognise his unique ability. His performance for Wales against Australia in the 2000 World Cup still stands out in my memory.
I was so glad to see him winning trophies late in his career under the coaching of Tony Smith, who I’m sure enabled Lee to extend his career and improve his approach to the game. What’s that about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks?
Stuart Fielden finally came to the end of a glittering career that began for Bradford in 1998. Who will ever forget the awesome foursome pack of front-row forwards for the Bulls from those days, when Stuart combined with Paul Anderson, Brian McDermott and Joe Vagana?
Steve Menzies’ career began even earlier. He made his debut for Manly against Brisbane Broncos on 23 June 1993. So he is one of the very few players in history who have enjoyed a first-grade professional career that lasted for more than 20 years.
Shaun Briscoe played for Wigan, both Hull clubs, Widnes and Workington, and with his retirement goes the most famous nose in Rugby League.
But Shaun should be remembered for much more than that. At his best he was a brilliant running fullback, while he was fearless in defence, as that nose suggests. Perhaps now is the time to get it mended.
And Paul Prescott is one of those players who is having to retire before his time is up. Paul will celebrate his 28th birthday on New Year’s Day, and I wish him all the best. He was one of those players that every club needs. Maybe not the best player on the field, but totally reliable and wholehearted.
But a recurring back injury has put paid to his career. Rugby League can be a very cruel game.