Injury ensures retirement for another Cowboy
For the second time in barely a week injury has sent one of the North Queensland Cowboys' favourite sons into premature retirement.
Winger Ash Graham, 29, had hoped to draw the curtain on his 11-year NRL career at the end of the season but won't play again after opting for wrist reconstructive surgery.
It is another blow for the Cowboys after hard-nosed lock Dallas Johnson's swansong season was cut short just last week by a serious knee injury.
Considered one of the best players never to play State of Origin, Graham proved this season that he was also one of the toughest.
He first suffered the wrist injury in a February pre-season trial against the Gold Coast Titans but nursed it through the year along with chronic ankle arthritis.
However, Graham was finally sidelined a month ago after ligament damage in his wrist worsened and this week he opted to go under the knife.
Wrist reconstructive surgery usually requires a six month rehabilitation.
"It's a shame to end up the season early but unfortunately it can't be avoided," Graham said.
"I'm finishing up my career content with what I've achieved.
"I think I've got as much out of my body as I can."
The combination of injuries restricted Graham to 14 games this year, boosting his career tally to 202.
After making his NRL debut with Parramatta, Cairns-born Graham played 161 matches for North Queensland from 2006 - the fifth highest in the club's history.
Graham was considered close to earning a Queensland Origin debut just last year when he enjoyed arguably a career-best season.
He completed 2012 as the NRL's equal top try-scorer, crossing 22 times.
Graham finished with a career haul of 102 tries.
"What we'll remember most about him was how he always did everything possible to get the best performance he could out of himself and his ability to get the ball over the line when a try didn't seem possible," Cowboys football manager Peter Parr said.
"He's provided some of our club's most memorable moments over the last seven seasons."
Apart from Johnson and Graham, back-up fullback Clint Greenshields had also announced he would retire at season's end.
Meanwhile, Cowboys coach Neil Henry named an unchanged starting side for Sunday's clash in Penrith.
In the only change to the bench following their last round shock win over South Sydney, back-up hooker Rory Kostjasyn replaces Scott Moore and Ricky Thorby has been added as an extra front-row option.