Hanging up the boots: Dene Halatau will retire at the end of the season after 14 years in first grade. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty ImagesOne of the NRL’s nicest players has decided to hang up his boots.
Career highlight: One of Dene Halatau’s greatest career moments was winning the 2005 grand final, the club’s first and only premiership. Picture: Andrew Quilty
Wests Tigers co-vice-captain Dene Halatau, 33, announced on Monday that this season would be his last after 14 years in first grade.
The utility player made his debut with the orange, black and white against Manly in 2003.
“I’ll always remember my debut,” Halatau said.
“I was so nervous beforehand but I only ended up playing three minutes.”
Halatau lists among the highlights of his playing career the 2005 grand final win –the first and only in the joint venture’s history –and representing New Zealand at test level.
But what he is most pleased to look back on is the people with whom he has shared the journey.
“To win that grand final at such a young age with a bunch of the other guys was such an amazing experience,” he said.
“What I’m really going to miss is meeting lots of different people.
“In my time I’ve gotten to know other players, administrators, sponsors and of course fans.”
Halatau loves seeing enthusiastic young players make their first grade debuts and since joining the leadership group has enjoyed helping them find their feet.
He is certain the Tigers have a strong future ahead and is thrilled with the talent coming through.
“There’s nothing better than seeing a young bloke who has worked so hard make his debut,” Halatau said.“Last game Jacob Liddle had so much fun in his first grade debut, and Kyle Lovett is another who springs to mind as being such a hard worker who really appreciated the opportunity to make the team.”
Halatau is excited by other promising young prospects like JJ Felise, who has made a big impact in his few games with the team this year.
He also thinks Liddle will be more than capable of taking the hooker mantle in coming years.
“Robbie [Farah] and [Matt] Ballin are both getting on like me and I have no doubt Jacob will do a great job at hooker,” he said.
“He played hooker in his first game and killed it.”
The veteran hopes to continue his involvement with rugby league into the future, whether it’s in an ambassadorial or administrative role.
He is proud of his work with the NRL’s State of Mind mental health program and would also love the chance to continue that role.
While the decision to retire had played on Halatau’s mind for a number of seasons, he will still miss the chance to interact with fans.
“I want to thank the fans that have been with me all along,” he said.
“They’ve been a great support throughout my career.”
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