Ashley Harrison always intended to call an end to his NRL career on his own terms – but crying in front of his Gold Coast teammates was never part of the plan.
“We had a player here a couple of years ago who broke down and I thought `surely, that’ll never happen to me’. But it did,” the veteran lock said as he announced his surprise decision to retire at season’s end on Monday.
“I’ve been playing rugby league since I was seven and pretty much put everything I had into it.
“I’m just at the stage of my life where I need a few more different challenges and there’s no better way to announce it than coming off three good wins.”
Harrison again struggled to hold back the tears when thanking his family and supporters for their guidance throughout his storied 15-year career.
The 32-year-old still has a year left on his contract with the Titans, but said 2014 was the right time to hang up his boots and begin a new life as a financial planner.
“I’m probably enjoying (rugby league) more now than I ever have and that’s the way I wanted it to be, that’s the way I planned it to be,” he said.
“I’ll definitely still be in the game in some capacity. It’s given me so much, probably everything I’ve got, and I’m looking forward to giving something back.
“(But) at the moment for me it’s just about playing some good footy and ending this chapter on a high.”
Harrison will run out for his 272nd first-grade match on Friday at home against Brisbane, the team with whom he began his career back in 2001.
He played 52 games for the Broncos, before moving to South Sydney in 2003 and then the Sydney Roosters in 2007.
Harrison joined the Titans a year later and has since racked up 111 appearances for the club – the third-highest in Gold Coast’s short history.
He has also featured in 15 State of Origin clashes for Queensland, winning six series in the process.
Titans coach John Cartwright admitted he was surprised by his senior charge’s decision to call it quits and said he would certainly be missed.
“They don’t make guys like Harro anymore,” he said.
“He’s probably one of the lowest maintenance players I’ve ever come across.
“It’s very rare that you come across guys like that in this era, or this generation of players coming through. That’s why I say you don’t look at replacing him. You just don’t do it.”
The Titans currently sit atop the NRL ladder thanks to their 28-26 upset win over Melbourne on Sunday.