Broncos back-rower Matt Gillett struggled to keep his emotions in check as he announced his immediate retirement from the NRL due to ongoing injuries on Thursday.
Gillett fought back from a broken neck in 2018 to make a State of Origin return for Queensland this year, but has since succumbed to a shoulder injury doctors have advised him is beyond repair.
The 31-year-old bows out with 200 first-grade games to his name as well as 20 appearances for the Maroons and 12 Kangaroos Tests.
Gillett told teammates of his decision to call time on Wednesday before an emotional press conference, confirming a shoulder injury picked up late in the year against South Sydney had ended his 10-year career.
"I injured my shoulder late in the season which was something that was playing on my mind. Once the season was finished I went and got scans," Gillett said.
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"It showed there was a large amount of damage in my right shoulder. The shoulder is beyond repair.
"This has been a huge shock to me and my family, and we have taken time over recent weeks to consider what we should do. I have decided to take the medical advice from the experts and call time on my career."
Gillett was grateful for the career he has been able to have, with coach Anthony Seibold noting "he has reached the top of the game for Australia all the way from his beginnings at Bribie Island".
Gillett calls time on NRL career
Across the first eight years of his career following his 2010 debut, Gillett was renowned for his toughness, durability and superb defence, becoming a representative mainstay in the process.
"It's the last thing I wanted to do, give the game away because of injury, but I have to do what's best for myself, health and family," he said.
"I have plenty to be thankful for – I have been part of a great club here at the Broncos for my whole career. I’ve played for my state and for my country with some legends of the game.
"While today is really hard, I know that I can look back over my career and be thankful for what I’ve been able to achieve and the friends I have made over the journey.
"I’d like to thank my teammates, coaches, family and friends for all their help and support over the years."
Gillett's retirement comes just one year after he signed an extension through until the end of 2022, with Brisbane to pursue salary cap relief through his medical retirement with the NRL.
His exit further depletes Brisbane's senior ranks - Gillett was among the club's captaincy contenders in 2020 if coach Anthony Seibold opts to relieve Darius Boyd of the leadership duties.
Gillett's early retirement will have obvious implications for the Broncos salary cap, with the veteran forward understood to be earning more than $600,000 a year.
A successful medical retirement application would give Brisbane more clout in their retention battle around sought-after teenager David Fifita, who will be one of the NRL's hottest free agents when he comes off-contract on November 1.
The club is also expected to step up its pursuit of out-of-favour Storm halfback Brodie Croft, who Melbourne are willing to release ahead of next season.
Gillett was first forced to contemplate retirement when he broke his neck in round one of 2018, but continued to play for another month until the injury was fully diagnosed.
It's the last thing I wanted to do, give the game away because of injury.Matt Gillett
Gillett recovered from the career-threatening blow to return for Brisbane in 2019, but was beset by back and knee issues, the latter forcing him out of Origin III in July.
He will remain at the Broncos in an off-field capacity which he described as an ambassador role.
"I'm going to be a part of this club. My next journey is just starting," he said.
Seibold described Gillett as "an elite footy player and a special person", but was left in no doubt around his decision when medical staff spelled out the dire predicament following end-of-season scans.
"His record speaks for itself. He's had an enormous career and we'll miss him on and off the field," he said.
"The medical staff said if it was my son I wouldn't let him play on and that hit a chord with me."
Broncos teammate Jamayne Isaako described it as "really sad" that Gillett would not get to go out on his own terms.
"Gillo sent out a group message to the boys yesterday announcing that he was no longer going to be playing with us, and the team took it [hard] and it's something we wouldn't wish upon anyone.
"Gillo has had an outstanding career in rugby league and coming into the Broncos system, he was one of the blokes I really looked up to and he's been a leader I've gone to for advice as a younger player."