Only weeks after claiming he was keen to play NRL Rugby League for several more years, veteran Warriors forward Ruben Wiki has suddenly announced his retirement from NRL at the end of this season.
Such a massive backflip from Wiki suggests the Warriors have obviously consulted with the former Canberra Raider and New Zealand representative and urged him to reconsider his position with the Warriors in the years ahead. As recently as late January 2008, Wiki went to air on New Zealand television stating his desire to continue on with the Warriors for several more seasons if he could arrange a contract.
After retiring from test football in 2006 after a world record 55 internationals – the only player in the game’s history to reach the 50-test mark, when questioned about his decision to retire from the NRL; Wiki said “Its time now to make the hard decision to retire from NRL level as he eyed his fourth season with the Vodafone Warriors.”
“It was emotional making the decision but I want to leave the NRL on a good note,” he said.
“I’ve loved playing in this competition and it’s been an honour being with the Vodafone Warriors and also with Canberra but this is the right time to move on from the NRL.
“I wanted to have it sorted out before the season started so I could get on with giving everything I can to the cause for the team here at the Vodafone Warriors. As well as that, the fans have always been great to me here and I’ll be dedicating the season to them – what a ride it will be!
“I’ve had the first proper off-season of my career and I’ve loved every minute of it, being able to train with the boys throughout the summer. I feel like I’m in the best condition I’ve been in.”
While Wiki said he was set to leave the NRL, he told the Vodafone Warriors he also wanted to play in the English Super League.
“That was a big part of the decision,” he said.
“I’ve toured England lots of times and plenty of my Kiwi team-mates have joined clubs there. I have always had an interest in playing there at some stage.
“In the past I’ve had offers from clubs in England but I’ve always resisted. Now it’s the right time. My manager Jim Banaghan is going to the United Kingdom next week to talk to three Super League clubs that have expressed interest.”
He added his decision was very much a family one. Wiki’s wife Santa said she was just as keen to see him make the switch to the English Super League.
“It’s important to us that Ruben makes the right decision for both himself and us as a family,” said Santa.
“It was a big move at the time leaving Canberra to come back home but it’s certainly been worth it on all levels. We’ve been back among family and Ruben has loved his time with the Vodafone Warriors.
“But he has always had a desire to play in England as well and now is the right time to do it.”
While he was moving on from the NRL, Wiki said he was keen to have a role with the Vodafone Warriors in the future.
“I’ve been studying to get my qualifications as a trainer and would like to get into that side of things when I finish playing. I want to come back to this club,” he said.
Wiki, who has consistently been rated by his peers as one of the hardest players in the game throughout his career, needs just 12 more appearances to become only the 10th player in history to achieve the milestone of 300 games in the premiership.
Vodafone Warriors coach Ivan Cleary said Wiki’s influence in the side and around the club would be impossible to replace.
“Ruben has brought so much to this club as a player and as a person. You can’t put a value on it but his contribution has been huge,” he said.
“It’s been a privilege for everyone who has been involved with him but it’s not all over yet. He has trained brilliantly throughout the off-season, he’s in great condition and he has set himself for a big year. We’re expecting a lot from him and he expects a lot from himself. He always sets high standards.”
Vodafone Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah echoed Cleary’s sentiments.
“People like Ruben Wiki are rare. We’ve been so lucky to have him because he has contributed so much to the success of the Vodafone Warriors in all ways,” he said.
“It’ll be sad when the end comes but there’s a full season to go before that and we’ll certainly be looking at opportunities to celebrate Ruben’s career along the way.
“And once Ruben stops playing, we would love to have him involved in the club in a new role.”
In his debut season with the Vodafone Warriors in 2005, Wiki was named the club’s player of the year. He received the ONZM (Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit) for services to rugby league in last year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours and he was also awarded the Ken Stephen Medal last year as the NRL player who made the most outstanding contribution to the community through rugby league. He also captained the All Golds in their commemorative match against the Northern Union last year, an event that marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of international rugby league.
Born: January 21, 1973
Birthplace: Auckland, NZ
Position: Prop/second row
Junior Clubs: Otara Scorpions, Otahuhu Leopards
NRL Debuts: Canberra: v South Sydney, Bruce Stadium, June 6, 1993 (Round 11)
Vodafone Warriors: v Manly, Ericsson Stadium, March 13, 2005 (Round 1)
Club Number: 123 (Vodafone Warriors)
NRL Career: 288 appearances, 1993-2007
Canberra: 225 appearances, 1993-2004
Vodafone Warriors: 63 appearances, 2005-2007
NRL Points: 284 (71 tries)
Canberra: 240 points (60 tries)
Vodafone Warriors: 44 points (11 tries)
International Career: 55 tests for Kiwis (world record), 1994-2006
60 points (15 tries)
Kiwi captain 18 tests, 2003-2006
All Golds captain, 2007
Kiwi Number: 655
Educated: Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate (Auckland)