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The Biggest Names To Retire From The NRL In The Past Decade

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This past April, three-time Premiership winner and Roosters co-captain Jake Friend announced his retirement from the NRL. In doing so, he joined a list of elite players who have retired from the world’s biggest league in recent years, so let’s take a look at the best players who retired from the NRL over the last decade.

Before we start, let’s understand what the NRL is. The NRL or National Rugby League is a popular sport in Australia that most people call Rugby League. I never paid much attention to Rugby until the summer Olympics in July and now I’m a fan!

Cameron Smith

We don’t need to look back far to find one of the most notable NRL retirements in recent memory. Cameron Smith is one of the most decorated players in the game’s history, having played 433 games — 61 more than any other player in history — with the Melbourne Storm over nearly two decades.

During that time he won three Premierships, two Dally M Medals (awarded to the best player in the NRL each year) and captained his side for an incredible 15 years. His retirement seemed in the offing for many years, but despite an athletic decline he remained one of the most valuable players in the league right up until his final game — the 2020 Grand Final, in which he led his Storm to a fourth Premiership.

Johnathan Thurston

Thurston is right up there with Smith as one of the greatest ever Rugby League players, and his retirement in 2018 brought to an end perhaps the most successful individual career in NRL history. After beginning his career with the Canterbury Bulldogs, Thurston spent 14 years with the North Queensland Cowboys, and during that time accumulated accolades like they were going out of fashion. He ended his career as the only player to win four Dally M Medals, and the only player to win the Golden Boot award (awarded to the best player in the world each year) on three occasions. He also won two NRL Premierships and led his Queensland side to an incredible 11 State of Origin series wins over the course of his glittering career.

Darren Lockyer

Lockyer only just qualifies as a player to have retired in the past decade, having called time on his NRL career at the end of the 2011 season. That retirement brought to an end what was, at the time, the longest NRL career in history — he played a huge 355 games over 17 seasons, all of them for the Brisbane Broncos. Lockyer was a four-time Premiership player, two-time Golden Boot award winner, and captained his country a massive 38 times. 

Billy Slater

Billy Slater spent 16 years with the Melbourne Storm up until his retirement in 2018, and, with Cameron Smith at his side, played a major role in turning the club into one of the most successful in NRL history. One of the most talented fullbacks to ever play the game, Slater played a huge 323 games with the Storm, scored 191 tries, and won a Dally M Medal and a couple of Premierships. Not a bad resumé. Indicative of the winning culture both he and Smith helped to establish at the Storm, the club remains one of the favorites for the 2021 NRL Premiership, even in their absence.

The above four players all rank among the greatest players in the history of Rugby League, and the retirements of each of them were significant moments for the NRL. There are numerous other recently retired NRL players who have also had a major effect on both the league and their clubs, but as some of the most decorated players to have pulled on the boots, the above names get the nod as the four biggest names to retire from the NRL in the past decade. 

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