Photo / File
Veteran rugby league forward Russell Packer has retired from the game, announcing his immediate retirement earlier this week.
“Rugby league has been my life since I was 17 and it’s always been a constant, so I’ll definitely miss that," Packer said on Thursday.
Packer (Ngāti Apa, Ngāti Kuia) retires after 12 seasons in the NRL and 184 first-grade games, ending his career with Wests Tigers after getting his start with the NZ Warriors in 2008 where he played 110 games, including the 2011 Grand Final loss to the Manly Sea Eagles.
He followed this with 41 games for St. George-Illawarra Dragons from 2015 and 33 appearances for the Tigers who he joined in 2018.
The 31-year-old played seven tests for the Kiwis, including the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, and represented NZ Māori in 2010 and the Māori All Stars in the Indigenous All Stars game in February this year.
“From a small town in New Zealand, I have been given opportunities I will always treasure and be thankful for because they have made me who I am today," said Packer.
“I got to play in a Grand Final and play for New Zealand early in my career, and while my life took a different path, being able to come back and re-establish myself and reach the pinnacle again with international football was a very special moment for me and my family," he said, referring to his 2014 conviction for assault.
"I’m incredibly proud of the way we have fought through the adversity we have."
Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe congratulated Packer on his "great rugby league career".
“Russell has been a great asset to Wests Tigers in his determination on and off the field, and it is wonderful to recognise not only his career and achievements as a rugby league player but also the significant impact he has made away from the field.
"Since joining the club, Russell has gone above and beyond in his contribution to the community while also working closely with the NRL on several core initiatives and programs.
Packer with his whānau after completing his MBA earlier this year. Photo Credit / Wests Tigers
“Russell is a fantastic family man, and we’d like to wish him, his partner Lara and children Madison and Marley all the very best for the future as they now transition into life beyond rugby league.”
Packer and his family will return to New Zealand where he will continue his work as the managing director of a residential development company.