Aquis Titans forward Ben Ridge, who has had a torrid run with injury since joining the club straight out of school in 2008, has decided to return to his home town Roma and no longer pursue a future in the NRL.
The tough back-rower, one of the most popular and hardest working clubman at the Titans, admits that the mental toll as much as the physical setbacks have weighed him down.
However he says he is excited about returning home next year after wife Cindy has their first child, and starting the next chapter of his life. He is hoping to secure a job with Ergon Energy
The 25-year-old will be sidelined for the rest of the season because of a medial ligament problem after starting the season late because of a pectoral injury suffered in the first trial match back in February. He had surgery to "clean out" both knees last week.
He had eight seasons at the club after starting in the under-20s in 2008, signed from St Brendan’s College at Yeppoon. He was the NYC captain in his second season and made his NRL debut against the Dragons in round 20, 2010.
“Since I started here I have had a bad run with injury and eventually it takes a toll on you,” Ridge said.
“I probably couldn’t have had a worst year coming off contract and the pressure of that, and in the end I decided it was time to do something else.
“Once the decision was made it felt like a weight off my shoulders and now I’m excited about what lies ahead.
“I definitely have no regrets that I came here. I am pretty proud of myself that despite what was thrown at me I played 58 games in the NRL and I put my best foot forward each time I had to come back from injury.
“It has been the best thing that has happened to me coming to the Titans and the Gold Coast. I have met some awesome people and long term friends and a lot of people outside of football, and it has opened doors for me.
“I want to thank the club, my teammates and the supporters, and plenty of people I’ve met.”
Ridge, who plays the game with great physical intent and is regarded as perhaps the biggest hitter in the club in defence, rattled off the heartbreaking list of injury setbacks that includes a broken ankle (in his first season), bad hamstring tear, cracked sternum, two pectoral tears, dislocated shoulder, groin surgery and posterior cruciate ligament damage.
Head coach Neil Henry paid tribute to Ridge’s tough attitude and resilience and paid tribute to his achievements despite his injury challenges.
“Ridgey showed enormous character, courage and resilience since coming here as a country boy straight out of school and is widely liked and respected at the club,” he said.
“He is most renowned for his fearsome defence and his strong, tough carries and would have played a lot more than 58 NRL games if not for his bad luck with injuries that he worked hard to overcome. He has enormous respect for how each time he fought back and the way he plays the game.
“Everyone here wishes him all the best in whatever he decides to pursue.”
The genuine country lad, a wonderful club contributor on and off the field, will certainly be missed.