For some years now, Ashley Harrison has been considered one of the toughest men in rugby league. A player that hates leaving the field when injured and a player that gives it his all when he is playing and doing what he loves.
Rugby league, however, can be a cruel game and due to a neck injury, the Gold Coast Titans veteran has been forced into early retirement.
In a career that spanned 276 games, 4 clubs (Brisbane Broncos, Sydney Roosters, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Gold Coast Titans), it was not a decision that Harrison made lightly. Though with the risk of further nerve damage had he continued his playing career, he opted to retire now and deal with life after footy.
â€œI have chosen to retire immediately through strong medical advice,â€ said the 33-year-old.
â€œThe advice I have been given stipulates that if I continued to injure the nerve in my neck I’m at risk of losing all feeling in my arm and at this stage of my career, I would be foolish to jeopardise my long term health, nor do I feel I could have contributed to the team as well I would want to with that in the back of my mind.
Harrison was quick to thank the players, staff and personnel that guided him and helped him throughout his career.
â€œIâ€™d like to thank everyone who has been a part of my career in some form or another; they know who they are. I have been blessed to play the game I love for such a long period of time.
â€œI am truly grateful for the opportunities that the game has presented me and will forever be in debt to it.
â€œA massive thank you goes to the Titans who bought me back home in 2008 and believed in my ability to get the job done. They are a big reason why I was able to represent my state at Origin level where some of my fondest memories were created.
â€œI want to thank my family for being so supportive throughout the highs, the lows, the ups and the downs, and my manager Chris Orr who has helped me map out a pathway from start to finish.
â€œMy priorities are now with my family; now is the time to put them first.â€
Ask Titans coach John Cartwright about Ash Harrison and you would be hard pressed to see him talk ill of the veteran. Disappointed that Harrison has been forced to retire, Cartwright was hopeful that a player of Harrison’s class could have finished his career in a different manner.
â€œHe didnâ€™t deserve his career to end this way but you donâ€™t get to pick how youâ€™re going to finish; he deserved to go out with a premiership if that was possible,â€ he said of Harrison.
With representative games for Queensland and Australia to his name and a 15-year NRL career, Cartwright knows that Harrison has a lot to be proud of.
â€œHaving said that if he looks back on nearly 15 seasons in the NRL, the highlights will far supersede any memory of how he finished.
â€œThe best way to describe â€˜Harroâ€™ is that he was as professional as any player in the game; a player all his teammates loved to play alongside. If the players were to pick a side they wanted to represent their club each week, he would have been the first one theyâ€™d choose.
â€œTo every coach on the coaching group here, he was the first guy you look to when the team was in trouble, whether on or off the field.â€
Although he is relatively new to the Titans system as CEO, Graham Annesley immediately saw just how much of an impact Harrison had both on and off the field.
â€œAsh is one of those rare players who epitomises everything that is great about our game,â€ he said.
â€œHeâ€™s been a model player and a model clubman but over and above that, he is simply a thoroughly decent person. His commitment could never be questioned and he has given the Titans his all during seven years here.
â€œI look forward to him contributing just as much off the field a she always has on the park.â€