North Queensland Cowboys outside back Justin O’Neill has been forced into premature retirement due to a chronic knee injury.
O’Neill, a dual premiership winner, played in 189 games for the Melbourne Storm and the Cowboys.
He was an integral part of the Cowboys’ 2015 premiership success but his current knee injury has taken its toll.
O’Neill has also played for both Queensland and Australia and has enjoyed success at all levels as a player.
Despite his career ending prematurely, O’Neill had a goal to play until he was 30 when he debuted back in 2010 and he did so.
“I am disappointed my career has come to an end,” O’Neill said.
“Starting out in 2010, I had a small goal in my head which was to hopefully play until I was 30 and I’ve done that.
“I am very grateful for the career I have had and the success and friendships I have gained along the way.”
O’Neill was also quick to thank the Storm and the Cowboys and looked back on the highlights of his career.
“I have had some amazing experiences which were only made possible through a career in the NRL and I’m very thankful for everything the game has given me over the years,” O’Neill continued.
“I want to thank everyone who has played a part, big or small in my career, including the two clubs I played my footy with – the North Queensland Cowboys and the Melbourne Storm.
“I would like to express a special thank you to the Cowboys for the opportunity in 2014 to further my career and the support they have given me and my family over the last seven years.”
Cowboys Head of Football Micheal Luck paid tribute to O’Neill’s career and what he has done for the club.
“We are devastated Justin has had to retire early due to injury,” Luck said.
“Justin has given terrific service in his seven seasons at our club.
“He was a class player and a massive contributor to the 2015 premiership and the golden run the club had during that period.”