South Sydney team-mates were “shocked” and “devastated” when Greg Inglis stood up in the dressing room after last Saturday night’s defeat of the Warriors and told them he was retiring because he could no longer maintain his own high standards.
Hooker Damien Cook knew as soon as Inglis asked to address the team what the Rabbitohs captain was going to tell them but he couldn’t control the tears
“As soon as he stood up I knew it was coming. I guess I just didn’t want it to happen,” Cook said. “I got a little bit of watery eyes in the sheds when he told us. One of the greatest ever players to play the game was calling it quits, and I’ve just loved my time playing alongside him.”
Inglis told the Rabbitohs players he felt a responsibility to deliver on expectations of him after a 15-year career in which he has won three grand finals, played 32 State of Origins for Queensland and represented Australia in 39 Tests.
“He has played at the top level for so long and been the best player, he sees that as his job and he said he can’t do that anymore,” Cook said. “It’s a credit to him for making the brave call that he did.”
Inglis feared not having the same presence in matches after the toll of knee, neck and shoulder injuries he has incurred in recent seasons and the 32-year-old superstar did not want to let the club down.
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“I’ll be honest, for me personally it was devastating,” Kyle Turner said. “I knew Greg was in that mind frame of whether he was going to keep playing or not but to hear him come out and say it was hard to take.
“Greg did it because he felt he couldn’t give the team 100 per cent, which is hard. He just said that his body wasn’t holding it up the way he wanted it to and he couldn’t give everything to the club, which is what we all want.
“You see it with some older players who play on that year too long and GI knew where he was at and he was honest with himself. It was very touching the way he told us. For him to come out and do that in front of the boys, we respect him so much for that.”
I got a little bit of watery eyes in the sheds when he told us. One of the greatest ever players to play the game was calling it quits.Damien Cook
Halfback Adam Reynolds said: “I was a bit shocked. Obviously he is an icon of our game and when you see a legend like that retire, it is a bid sad. You want them to play forever but that’s not realistic”.
With fellow centre Braidon Burns sidelined by an ankle injury and Adam Doueihi still recovering from a knee injury, the Rabbitohs were already on the lookout for another outside back but team-mates say it was impossible to replace Inglis.
“He’s a once in a generation player and an icon of the game,” five-eighth Cody Walker said. “It is obviously sad to see him hang the boots up but I think the one thing we can take away from Greg’s press conference is that he is happy with his decision.
“He has had a good hard think about what he wants to do, he has gone away for a week and spent time with his family and made the decision on his own.
"It’s obviously sad for us that we are not going to have a player like Greg Inglis in our side but we have got to back every decision he makes.
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“Before coming here I was a bit nervous about meeting him, and just to have the opportunity to play with him these last couple of years has been amazing.”
Inglis will move into off-field roles with the Rabbitohs and NRL, which involve coaching, mentorship, ambassadorships and community work.
While recovering from off-season neck surgery, Inglis attended training sessions and would assist the coaches on the field.
“He has got a great knowledge of the game; he has played fullback, he has played centre, he has played wing and he has played five-eighth. We would be silly not to utilise that,” Walker said. “He has won grand finals, he has played Origin, he has played for Australia so he has done it all.”
Reynolds said Inglis would continue to have an influence on the Rabbitohs in his off-field capacity.
“You just see the younger guys, when he gives advice they take it on and they seem to grow in confidence and learn and get better from it,” he said.