iSelect Titans vastly respected back-rower Ashley Harrison has brought forward his planned end of season retirement and has played the last of his 276 NRL games.
Harrison confirmed the decision yesterday after discussion with the club after receiving medical advice that he may risk further nerve damage in his neck if he was to receive a blow to the area he first injured in the round 9 clash with South Sydney.
“I have chosen to retire immediately through strong medical advice,” said the 33-year-old who reiterates he went into his last game against Melbourne, wanting to help out his under-strength side, with no risk of serious damage to the original fracture. Nerve damage that night complicated the injury.
“The advice I have been given stipulates that if I continued to injure the nerve in my neck I'm at risk of losing all feeling in my arm and, at this stage of my career, I would be foolish to jeopardise my long term health, nor do I feel I could have contributed to the team as well I would want to with that in the back of my mind.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has been a part of my career in some form or another; they know who they are. I have been blessed to play the game I love for such a long period of time.
“I am truly grateful for the opportunities that the game has presented me and will forever be in debt to it.
“A massive thank you goes to the Titans who bought me back home in 2008 and believed in my ability to get the job done. They are a big reason why I was able to represent my state at Origin level where some of my fondest memories were created.
“I want to thank my family for being so supportive throughout the highs, the lows, the ups and the downs, and my manager Chris Orr who has helped me map out a pathway from start to finish.
“My priorities are now with my family; now is the time to put them first.”
John Cartwright, Harrison’s coach of seven season during which he played 117 games with the Titans after eight seasons with Brisbane (2000-02), South Sydney (2003-05) and Sydney Roosters (2006-07), said one of the most professional footballers he had seen deserved a better farewell.
“He didn’t deserve his career to end this way but you don’t get to pick how you’re going to finish; he deserved to go out with a premiership if that was possible,” he said of Harrison who played 15 times for Queensland.
“Having said that if he looks back on nearly 15 seasons in the NRL, the highlights will far supersede any memory of how he finished.
“The best way to describe ‘Harro’ is that he was as professional as any player in the game; a player all his teammates loved to play alongside. If the players were to pick a side they wanted to represent their club each week, he would have been the first one they’d choose.
“To every coach on the coaching group here he was the first guy you look to when the team was in trouble, whether on or off the field.”
CEO Graham Annesley only joined the Titans last October but was immediately impressed with Harrison’s standing within the club.
“Ash is one of those rare players who epitomises everything that is great about our game,” he said.
“He’s been a model player and a model clubman but over and above that he is simply a thoroughly decent person. His commitment could never be questioned and he has given the Titans his all during seven years here.
“I look forward to him contributing just as much off the field as he always has on the park.”