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Tolman calls it a day, Fifita leaving Sharks, Tamou unsure of future


There is set to be thousands of games worth of NRL experience heading out the door in 2022 with several big names bringing down the curtain on their careers.

Some players have already hung up their boots while the next two rounds will be the last NRL fans will see of many stars, including former internationals Josh McGuire, Paul Vaughan and possibly, James Tamou, Aaron Woods and Andrew Fifita

Fifita on Tuesday announced he would be playing his last game at Shark Park in Saturday’s clash with the Bulldogs.

His career has included 246 NRL matches, international appearances for Australia and Tonga, 10 games for the NSW Origin team and six as a member of the Indigenous All Stars. The 33-year-old said there had been approaches from other clubs, and refused to rule out interest in a return to the Tigers next year under former coach Tim Sheens. There is also significant interest in the English Super League, with his twin brother David playing for Wakefield Trinity.

Sharks teammate Aiden Tolman announced on Friday he would be calling time on his 15-year career.

The veteran prop has played 314 NRL games at Melbourne, the Bulldogs and the Sharks.

One of just 45 players in history to have achieved the 300-game milestone, Tolman will move to 26th on the all-time list for most matches played when he runs out for game number 315 on Saturday night against Canterbury at Shark Park.

Woods is set to have the second year of his St George Illawarra contract activated after being named to start against his former club Wests Tigers. The second year on Woods’ deal was contingent on him playing 18 matches for the Dragons this year, with the veteran prop having so far featured in 17.

James Tamou of the Tigers speaks with the referee

James Tamou. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Tamou admits he could enter the final-round clash at Leichhardt unsure if he is playing in his last NRL game after being handed a reprieve by the judiciary. Tamou has had his two-match ban downgraded to one game for calling referee Ben Cummins “f**king incompetent” last weekend.

The Wests Tigers captain will miss Sunday’s clash with St George Illawarra, but will be back in time to face Canberra in the last round of the season on Father’s Day. Off contract at the end of the year, Tamou wants to play on but is also realistic about his future given he is yet to be handed another contract by the Tigers.

It means he will likely enter the September 4 clash with no clear call made on his future and retirement still an option.

“I’m not sure (if it will be my last game),” Tamou said after Tuesday’s hearing.

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Another member of the 300 Club, hooker Andrew McCullough is considering retiring at season’s end although he is under contract with St George Illawarra for next year.

McGuire and Vaughan are among a host of veterans heading to the Super League who will retire after a northern-hemisphere swansong.

And for some players who don’t have contracts for next year they could be forced into retirement unless they can jag a deal for 2023 in the coming months.

Club by club, here are the players who are on the way out of the NRL or facing uncertain futures heading into the off-season.

Brisbane

Veteran duo Ryan James and Albert Kelly are off contract while Tyrone Roberts, who was called up for a couple of games this season, is probably going to be on a Queensland Cup deal again next year. Papua New Guinean stalwart David Mead announced his immediate retirement in July after 171 NRL games for Broncos and Titans – scoring 75 tries since making his debut in 2009 – as well as 58 Super League games for Catalans Dragons scoring 29 tries.

Canberra

Journeyman half Sam Williams hung up his boots in June after 107 NRL games across three stints at the Raiders and a four-game sojourn with St George Illawarra in 2014. He also spent a couple of seasons with Catalans and Wakefield Trinity.

Canterbury

Paul Vaughan is off the UK after this season to play for Warrington while fullback Matt Dufty left for the Wolves in July but is still relatively young at 26 and could return to the NRL down the track.

Andrew Fifita. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Cronulla

Andrew Fifita and Wade Graham are off contract with both keen to go around again. Graham is likely to get another deal at the Sharks but Fifita’s future is uncertain although he is open to playing elsewhere next season. Fellow front-rower Aiden Tolman is calling time on his career at season’s end.

Gold Coast

Herman Ese’ese is coming to the end of a lucrative three-year deal at the Titans where he has not lived up to expectations. Veteran utilty Will Smith joined Hull mid-season while Kevin Proctor is struggling to find a Super League deal after being sacked in August for vaping in the sheds while he was an unused squad member for a game in July.

Manly

Veteran winger Jorge Taufua has already headed to the UK in July to play for Wakefield but then suffered a season-ending broken arm. Martin Taupau is without a deal for 2023 after a mooted switch to the Eels mid-season last month fell through. Ethan Bullemor is contracted for next season but the 22-year-old has reportedly been considering a premature retirement to concentrate on his professional career in the financial sector. Fellow forwards Andrew Davey, Kurt De Luis and Morgan Boyle are free agents without a contract for next season. 

Martin Taupau of the Sea Eagles looks on

Martin Taupau (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Melbourne

Tom Eisenhuth and George Jennings are off contract but should be able to get a new deal at the Storm or at another club.

Newcastle

Veteran forward Sauaso Sue’s journeyman career may come to an end after stints at the Bulldogs and the Wests Tigers.

NZ Warriors

Ash Taylor was forced to call it a day mid-season due to a hip injury. Fellow playmaker Chanel Harris-Tavita’s future is unclear after he opted to take a sabbatical next year. Shaun Johnson is under contract for next year but veteran forward Dunamis Lui is unsigned.

North Queensland

Lachlan Burr hung up his boots at the start of the year due to a chronic hip problem. Hooker Jake Granville has been retained for 2023. 

Parramatta 

Tom Opacic is joining Hull KR next year on a two-year deal but the 27-year-old centre may return to the NRL before his career ends.

Penrith

Matt Eisenhuth and Jaeman Salmon are unsigned but both should end a one-year contract at the least at the Panthers or another landing spot.

St George Illawarra

Aaron Woods won’t be remaining at the Dragons and could be forced to bring down the curtain on his career with no other options locked down as yet. Josh McGuire will finish his career in the Super League with Warrington after 258 games over 14 seasons. 

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 17: Josh McGuire of the Dragons avoids the tackle of Tyson Frizell of the Knights during the round six NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Newcastle Knights at WIN Stadium, on April 17, 2022, in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

South Sydney

Josh Mansour has yet to announce his intentions but the former NSW and Australian winger is another former international unlikely to be in the NRL next year. The 32-year-old former Panther has played 174 matches in the NRL but has only been used five times this year at the Rabbitohs.

Sydney Roosters

Kevin Naiqama returned to the NRL on a one-year deal this season and is unsigned for 2023. Siosiua Taukeiaho is heading to the UK to finish his career at Catalans after a decade in the NRL, including two premiership wins.

Wests Tigers

James Tamou is set to retire at season’s end unless he can line up a deal in the Super League. James Roberts is unsigned for next year and his career appears to be winding down after injuries have hampered his form over the past couple of seasons.





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