NRL retirement for Rooster Anthony Minichiello
Anthony Minichiello had a simple message to deliver his teammates. It was their reaction which caused the Roosters veteran to shed a tear.
Minichiello announced that he would call time on his 15-season career following the club's usual video session on Monday afternoon. What happened was the ultimate compliment for the one-club man.
The Roosters squad erupted with a round of applause and flocked to embrace their captain knowing he'll finish his career as one of the club's greats.
Choked up with emotion, it was left to coach Trent Robinson to address the squad moments before Minichiello confirmed publicly his retirement after a month wrestling with the decision.
Overlooking Allianz Stadium - where he has scored the bulk of his club record 132 tries for the Roosters - the room was filled by the entire squad, his wife Terry and daughter Azura plus former teammates including Luke Ricketson and Ryan Cross to pay tribute to Minichiello.
This year's face of the game eventually knew his time had come at 34.
"When I was asked last year about my future I couldn't see [the end]," Minichiello said. "I always thought that feeling would never come across me but there is that slight feeling deep inside of me."
He sits on 294 games, second only to Ricketson who holds the club record with 301. With 18 Tests and 11 NSW appearances to his name, Minichiello leaves the game as a two-time premiership winner, dual World Club Challenge champion and a Golden Boot award winner.
Minichiello nominated captaining the club's premiership win last year as a career highlight. Becoming a leader was the final frontier for Minichiello to overcome, according to Robinson.
He challenged Minichiello to prove he was captaincy material when Robinson took over the club last year.
"I remember a strong moment where I got a feeling from all the other players, all the other guys in the leadership group that he was their leader," Robinson said.
"They didn't see themselves on the same level as Mini. It was really clear that Mini was the captain. He wasn't captain for the first month or two at training and he trained as captain even though he didn't have the captaincy yet.
"That's what I was looking for. Mini set that standard for us and he led us into that new phase."
Minichiello joined the Roosters following a three-day trial as a 16-year-old when he was headhunted by Arthur Beetson before debuting for the Roosters as 19-year-old in 2000.
A debilitating back injury restricted him to 23 appearances at the peak of his powers between 2006-09.
Cross praised Minichiello's mental toughness.
"It took a lot out of him," Cross said. "When it all started to come crashing down he was at the top of the game. I've never seen a man work so hard. Everyone wrote him off.
"But he has come back bigger and better. We came on the scene at the same time and he was a player you wanted to play with. He had a lot of energy, trained hard, played hard and partied hard."
Minichiello's retirement open ups a place on the roster for Blake Ferguson while winger, Kiwi international Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, is set to fill the fullback role full-time. Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner are among the club's captaincy candidates.
Minichiello said he was eying back-to-back premierships before settling into an off-field in a corporate role in marketing and membership at the club.
Sydney Morning Herald