Hull FC captain Gareth Ellis has confirmed that he will bring the curtain down on his playing career at the end of the current Betfred Super League season, on the eve of his 450th career appearance.
Ellis, 36, will call time on his career at the end of the year after an 18-year playing career that began at first-grade level in 1999. He is one of a dwindling number of current players to have made his Super League debut in the last century.
The former Great Britain and England international will take up the role as Hull FC’s football manager from 2018, replacing the departing Motu Tony.
After making over 100 appearances for Wakefield, Ellis, who’s set to make his 450th career appearance on Friday night against Huddersfield Giants, moved on to Leeds Rhinos where he was part of the side who clinched back-to-back Super League Grand Final wins and a World Club Challenge triumph.
One of the most revered players in the modern era, Ellis headed down under in 2009 to play for Wests Tigers in the NRL, making a huge impact during his three-year stay, winning the club’s Player of the Year honour three years in succession and being nominated for the Golden Boot award.
He returned to Super League in 2013 with the Black and Whites, where he became the first Hull FC captain to lift the Challenge Cup at Wembley last season.
Ellis, who is also closing in on a century of games for the Airlie Birds, was named in the Super League Dream Team for a fifth time in 2016, nominated for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award alongside team-mate and winner Danny Houghton who he was jointly crowned the winner of the Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters’ Association award.
On the decision to retire at the end of the season, Ellis told hullfc.com: “A 19 year career in professional Rugby League, launched as a teenager in 1999, has brought about a host of big decisions.
“Moving clubs on three occasions, including a round-the-world stint in the NRL, and returning to Hull in my current five year duty as captain of FC.
“None of those decisions have been as big or as difficult as deciding to hang up my boots!
“But the timing is right. To bow out now while I’m able to contribute wholeheartedly on the field.
“We’re back at Wembley next weekend and in sight of only a second ever Grand Final. I’m determined to finish on a high and I’m dreaming of that fairytale finish.”
Ellis will stay with the club after retiring from playing, taking up a new role on the club staff, working alongside head coach Lee Radford, the club’s Executive Director James Clark and Player Welfare Manager, Feka Palea’aesina.
It’s an opportunity that the former Great Britain international will relish.
“Thankfully I have been invited to play a major part in the future success of this ambitious club in the prestigious and demanding role as Football Manager,” he said.
“This decision to call time on my career will ensure my long term future whilst also acting as a further spur to lead FC to a successive Wembley triumph and onward to the Grand Final for my last ever victory on the field in 2017.”
Hull FC head coach Lee Radford added: “It will be disappointing not to have Gareth out there on the football field next season, but I’m really excited to have him involved in an off-field role with us next season.
“He’s been absolutely fantastic to work with ever since I came through the door as head coach. He’s very professional in everything he does and we’ll miss him out on the field, but with the football manager’s role being so important now, it’s great that we have someone like himself fulfilling that role.
“We have assured one final but I’d love nothing more than to see him with the Super League trophy raised above his head at Old Trafford in October. That’s what we’re all striving for at the moment and that’s the focus for us – to send him out on the highest note possible.”
Hull FC Chairman, Adam Pearson, added: “Gareth is the model professional who handles himself with the utmost modesty, humility and credibility whilst achieving so much personal and team success in a fantastic career spanning almost two decades.
“He possesses the personal and professional qualities to make a seamless transition into a new role at the club, he is well respected across the game and we’re looking forward to seeing him develop and influence the ongoing success our performance department.”
Meanwhile, the club’s Executive Director, James Clark, also said: “The football management position is an important conduit between on-field and off-field activity and Gareth already has a great understanding and respect for the amount of work that goes into making Hull FC a success, right across the club.
“He has continually shown a strong interest in the club, a desire to learn and an eagerness to contribute in any way he can since signing for us, which is a sign of his character and the huge potential he has to fulfil his new role.
“That knowledge of Hull FC and the experienced gleaned from his time in Super League, NRL and in the international game make him an ideal person to support Adam, Lee and myself, as well as our players, coaches and staff.”
Gareth Ellis will be available for interviews at tomorrow’s pre-match press conference at the club’s training ground County Road from 10.30am ahead of Friday’s Super 8s clash with Huddersfield Giants