iSelect Titans foundation player Luke Bailey, a leader of this club whose legacy will remain for many years, has announced he will retire after the last round clash with the Bulldogs on Sunday.
The 34-year-old prop, who missed yesterday’s match against the Warriors in Auckland because of a neck injury, had anticipated playing on in 2015 but with the Titans unable to commit to a deal, he felt it’s time to end his outstanding 15-season NRL career.
“My body felt good and I’d had talks with the club and was hoping a further one-year deal but I can understand that the club needs to look to the future and I accept that,” Bailey said.
“I don’t really want to move and play for another NRL club and packing up the family and going overseas for just one season didn’t really appeal, so it’s time to call it quits.
“I feel very fortunate to have been in the game for as long as I have and I have few regrets.”
Asked how he would like to be remembered, Bailey replied:
“I’d like to think I’ve always been a player that had a crack and was consistently above average for 15 years and I am proud of that.
“And that was possible with the support of my family, my wife Rebecca and our children and my mum and dad.
“My one regret has been not reaching a grand final but I will settle with having a great, healthy family and being healthy myself.”
Bailey and close mate Mark Minichiello, who has signed a two-year deal with Hull in England, will play their farewell games as the last remaining foundation players from 2007 in Sunday’s last match of the season against the Bulldogs.
The evergreen prop who has played 269 NRL game since his debut for his home club St George Illawarra in round one of 2000, played 15 State of Origin games for NSW from 2002-09 and four Test matches from 2003-04.
Tributes flowed from those who have watched Bailey’s journey on the Gold Coast.
“Words cannot describe how I feel about Bails,” said his coach for almost all of his eight seasons as a Titan, John Cartwright.
“A warrior, club man, team man, tough, dedicated and above all a good mate. I would trust him with my life.
“I would have loved to have had the honour of playing alongside him. He was our co-captain at the start in 2007 and my greatest regret was not making him captain in 2009.
“He will go down as the best club player I have coached. He will be a success in whatever he chooses to do.”
Added Minichiello,who has shared a special bond with Bailey and appropriately will be there to share their last club match together, says his mate will be sorely missed.
“He is a club legend after his eight years here and played a big role in how the club has developed,” said Minichiello.
“His work ethic is something the young players here will want to emulate and that’s the legacy he will leave; if young forwards can learn from that it will help them enormously in their careers.
“He has such a big motor and to still be up there with the best in our fitness drills at age 34 is amazing really. And he always does extras, you see him sweating it out in the altitude room regularly; that is what has made him a legend of the Gold Coast Titans.
“You don’t last 15 years without being a quality player and person. I loved playing with him; he wore his heart on his sleeve every week and that’s the player you want to play with.
“He is one of the best front-rowers we have seen and it is the little things that not all people see that makes him among the best in the business.”