Every player wants to depart on their own terms but unfortunately for Matt Ballin, he will not have that opportunity as he has been forced to retire due to a knee injury.
Since making his debut with the Manly Sea Eagles in 2007, Ballin played 220 NRL games throughout his career.
In that time, he won two premierships in 2008 and 2011 and represented Queensland in 2010.
Despite his injury, Ballin will not be lost to the club; he will continue his rehabilitation and take part in a player transition program as well as working in the club’s community programs.
Whilst his career has ended suddenly, Ballin said he was pleased to play just one game let alone 220.
“I never thought I’d play in the NRL, I never thought I’d accomplish that,” said Ballin. “To do that at the Sea Eagles was one of the first steps in a long career that I’ve been very lucky to have. Just playing first-grade was a massive accomplishment for me and something I’d always wanted to do since I was a young kid.
“To do that at the Sea Eagles was one of the first steps in a long career that I’ve been very lucky to have. Just playing first-grade was a massive accomplishment for me and something I’d always wanted to do since I was a young kid.”
Ballin was quick to praise both the Tigers and Sea Eagles staff, players and fans for their role in his NRL career.
“Being successful and making the friendships I did at Manly was great, but coming to Wests Tigers for the past two years has also been incredibly rewarding,” he said.
“I haven’t played much footy, but I’ve met some great people and been able to help off the field, which I hadn’t been able to do as much before.”
With his playing career now over, Ballin looks forward to helping the next generation of players and to spending more time with his family who gave him continued support throughout his career.
“It’s been a bit of an evolution for me, going from a young guy who just wants to play footy to winning competitions to now getting to the end of it and being able to help the next generation come through,” continued Ballin.
“My Mum and Dad, and my two brothers have been amazing,” said Ballin.
“The support and love and care they gave me growing up and all the way through to the end of my career has been fantastic as well.
“The ones that are close to you, particularly my wife Shannon and my kids, I can’t thank them enough. They see the ups and the downs and yet they support you all the way through, I couldn’t say anything but I love them and I’m very thankful for their support.”
Despite a short career with the Tigers, club CEO Justin Pascoe praised Ballin for the role he played with the club during his time with them.
“I’d like to thank Matt for all of his efforts during his time here at Wests Tigers,” said Pascoe. “While unfortunately his time on the field has been limited he’s had a major impact off it.
“He’s been a part of our leadership group almost since day one, which speaks volumes about his character and standing in the game,” he said.
“Matt’s been heavily involved in a number of our community programs over the last two seasons. From reading programs and school visits, to extended trips to regional areas and our new initiative with Goulburn Correctional Facility, Matt has played a key part in all of them and we thank him for that.