This weekend marks the retirement of a handful of New Zealand players who have not only stood out for their club sides, but starred for the Kiwis on the international stage over the years. In particular three of them were members of one of the most-famous Kiwi campaigns in history, the 2008 Rugby League World Cup victory.
While some will play through the finals, for others this is it. So here, we pay tribute to our retiring NRL Kiwis.
When you imagine your ideal swan-song season it probably doesn’t include having one win, one draw and finishing dead last on the NRL ladder, but through exactly that with the Knights Jeremy Smith has shown once again just how tough he is. The back-rower has continued to lead from the front in what has been an unpleasant battle.
— NRL (@NRL) August 28, 2016
In the national jersey Smith will be best remembered for his try in the 23rd minute of the 2008 Rugby League World Cup final, a charging effort over the top of Billy Slater which iced the red-hot Kangaroos.
He came up with an equally important play on the other side of the ball late in the second half, ankle-tapping Johnathan Thurston and forcing a knock on to save what looked to be a certain try.
The Kiwis of course went on to win the game, adding another highlight to an individual career which includes NRL Premierships with Melbourne (2007) and St George Illawarra (2010).
Also important that night was Sam Perrett on the right wing, playing one of 19 Tests for his country. This year Perrett clicked over the 250-game mark, in a career which saw him play for the Roosters and Bulldogs.
One of the better dummy-half running wingers the NRL has seen, he is also and a class act off the field.
Joining Smith and Perrett in the squad for that historic campaign – but not the final – was Wests Tigers’ utility Dene Halatau.
The Merrylands Rams and North Ryde Hawks junior lined up 15 times for New Zealand between 2004-2008, and was a member of the Anzacs squad (combined New Zealand and Australia) in 2004, scoring a try in a 64-12 win over Cumbria.
At the other end of the scale is one of the newest Kiwis, Ben Henry, who will retire from a career which was cruelled by serious knee injuries.
Henry captained the Junior Warriors to a U-20 Premiership in 2011 and made his NRL debut for the club in 2012.
The Bay Roskill Vikings junior made his sole international appearance in the 2014 mid-year Test.
It remains to be seen if another injury-plagued Kiwi, Chase Stanley, will be forced to retire, but in Auckland Warriors hero Ali Lauitiiti looks to have played his last match for the club’s reserve-grade side.
Thanks for the memories, boys.
(Main photo: Sam Perrett crosses for a try against Australia in 2008. Credit: photosport.nz.)