Tuiaki, who has undergone three separate operations in an attempt to fix an ankle injury he suffered in the 2009 Rd 24 clash against the Parramatta Eels, will no longer play.
Tuiaki, who has represented New Zealand was on fire at the time of his injury, scoring 21 tries in 22 games, as well as winning the Dally M, and being nicknamed ‘The Tank’ for being the hardest man in the NRL to tackle.
When the 2010 season rolled by, Tuiaki still had hope that he would play in 2011, but it was not to be, and Tuiaki had to make the tough decision to retire.
”It’s a real disappointment,” Tuiaki said.
”Last week I was training and running but there was no improvement in the ankle, it wasn’t getting better. My [right] leg hasn’t got the range back and the calf is really weak. I don’t know what else I could have done but it wasn’t recovering. I can’t keep running, even after all these surgeries – it’s not getting better.”
The Tank was also frustrated that he was on the sidelines, as he watched the Tigers lose in the Grand Final qualifier.
”It was very stressful not getting on the park last year and watching the boys play every week,” he said.
”I couldn’t sit in my chair properly, I was always jumping up. I wish I was out there helping the boys. I was looking forward to playing last year with Lote [Tuqiri] coming in to join us. Having him on the flank, to play alongside him, would have been good but it didn’t happen.”
Tuiaki still rates the 2009 season as one of his season highlights, and is proud to have played for both New Zealand and Tonga in representative football.
”I was scoring tries every week and was right up there for the leading try-scorer. I just missed out because of my injury,” he said.
”I was Dally M winger of the year. I missed out on the Kiwi Four Nations in 2008 because of injury.
”It was probably my best season to end my career.
”I’ve now got to think about what I’m going to do away from footy.”
In light of his injury, the Tigers have been working with Tuiaki, as they have been preparing him for life after football, with the Tank remaining involved with the club off the field.
”It’s a shame that a cruel injury has cut him down in the prime of his career,” said Tigers chief executive Stephen Humphreys. ”He is a very popular member of the club and and we’re really feeling for him.”
Tuiaki thanked the Tigers for their constant support, and is yet to rule out the possibility of ever playing again, should the leg heal enough.
”The club has been really excellent, helping me out with everything,” he said. ”The coach, players, all the team know what I’ve been going through. I don’t know how to thank them.
”The leg needs a rest for 12 months and maybe there will be some miracle and it will be better.”