The NRL will pay tribute to 21 retiring players during the build-up to the 2014 NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final between South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
The group to be honoured includes Premiership winners, State of Origin and Test stars. They include Sydney Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello, who last lifted the NRL Telstra Premiership Trophy on Grand Final day in 2013. Minichiello, who bowed out playing his 302nd match for Sydney Roosters in the Preliminary Final against South Sydney, will be joined in retirement by fellow 300-game player John Morris (Cronulla Sharks).
Also retiring at the end of the 2014 NRL Telstra Premiership season are North Queensland Cowboys, Queensland and Australian representative Brent Tate, Gold Coast Titans’ representative pair Ashley Harrison and Luke Bailey, and internationals Brett White (Canberra Raiders), Fuifui Moimoi (Parramatta Eels), Luke O’Donnell (Sydney Roosters), Jerome Ropati (Warriors), Braith Anasta (Wests Tigers) and Jharal Yow Yeh (Brisbane Broncos).
“We will say goodbye to some true greats and some real characters this year,” NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg said.
“The game will miss their on-field talents, but thankfully their commitment and compassion in the work they do off it will continue in retirement.
“Anthony Minichiello debuted at the turn of the millennium and was still going strong up until last weekend at the same club, while Brent Tate, Braith Anasta and Luke Bailey have been wonderful servants in playing more than 200 matches in the NRL, and representing both state and country.”
Penrith Panthers hooker Kevin Kingston will have the chance to retire following a victory on Grand Final Day. Kingston will captain the Panthers in the inaugural NRL State Championship against Intrust Super Cup side the Northern Pride.
Ben Smith (Parramatta Eels), Anthony Quinn (Newcastle Knights), Matt Hilder (Newcastle Knights), Jason King (Manly Sea Eagles), Beau Ryan (Cronulla Sharks), Nathan Merritt (South Sydney), Joe Picker (South Sydney), Liam Fulton (Wests Tigers) and Matt Utai will be honoured alongside players leaving the NRL to come to Super League, including Ashton Sims (North Queensland Cowboys to Warrington), Willie Tonga (Parramatta Eels to Catalan Dragons), Mark Minichiello (Gold Coast Titans to Hull FC) and Ben Roberts (Melbourne Storm to Castleford Tigers).
The retiring players ceremony will be a high point of a full day of entertainment, which will also include performances by international music acts Train and Slash.
The Australian Women’s Touch team will kick off the day inside ANZ Stadium in their friendly match against the Media. The first decider will feature the New Zealand Warriors and the Brisbane Broncos in the 2014 Holden Cup Grand Final at 1:50pm, followed by the battle of the states in the 2014 inaugural NRL State Championship Grand Final between the Panthers and the Pride.
Grand Final timetable
11:00am Precinct opens
1:25pm ANZ Stadium gates open
1:30pm Australian Women’s Touch team v Media Touch Footy Game
1:50pm 2104 NRL Holden Cup U20’s Grand Final: New Zealand Warriors v
3:50pm 2014 Inaugural NRL State Championship Grand Final:
Penrith Panthers v Northern Pride
5:50pm Live On-Field Coin Toss
6:10pm 2014 Victor Sports Grand Final Relay
6:40pm Retiring players tribute
6:50pm Pre-Match Entertainment, including Slash, Train
7:20pm National Anthem with Simon Gleeson (LES MISÉRABLES)
7:22pm 2014 NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final Sydney Kick Off
A full report and photos from the NRL Grand Final will feature in Monday’s edition of Rugby League Express.