Gareth Widdop: Former NRL champion announces retirement – ‘I have given every bit of my heart and soul into the game’

Ben Olawumi
Gareth Widdop

Gareth Widdop in action for England in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup final against Australia - Alamy

Former NRL champion and England ace Gareth Widdop has tonight announced his retirement aged 34 following his release from Castleford Tigers.

The Tigers confirmed his exit by mutual consent earlier tonight, leaving after just one season at the Jungle having penned a two-year deal ahead of 2023.

Half-back Widdop – who has also featured at full-back in his career – made close to 200 appearances in the NRL between Melbourne Storm and St George Illawarra.

Born in Halifax, the ace lifted the NRL Premiership with Melbourne in 2012, winning the World Club Challenge against then-Super League champions which followed the year after.

He would depart Australia for Super League, joining Warrington Wolves ahead of 2020 and scoring 20 tries in 49 appearances over the three seasons he spent at the Halliwell Jones Stadium before moving onto Cas.

Amidst the achievements at club level, Widdop also starred on the international stage, with caps for Great Britain and the World All Stars as well as 28 in England colours between 2010 and 2018, featuring in two World Cups.

Former NRL champion Gareth Widdop confirms retirement

The back – who stands at six feet tall – confirmed his decision to hang up the boots via Instagram this evening with a lengthy post.

It reads: “All feels a little surreal writing this, however all good things come to an end. After much thought and deliberation, my time playing Rugby League professionally is up!

“From sleeping with my rugby boots on as a little boy in Halifax, my parents running me around everywhere so I could chase my dream, following through to living the dream in Australia and being signed by the Melbourne Storm to go on and win a NRL Grand Final playing alongside some of the greatest players to the play the game.

“No doubt, they will be future immortals. Winning the World Club Challenge (What a feeling), playing for my country for over 10 years, representing and pulling on that famous Great Britain jersey, the tours live on in memory.

“Playing in the NRL All Stars game to picking up a Dally M 5/8 of the year award having immense coaches out there, I can honestly say I’ve had the best!

“To the Dragons where I was honoured to captain the club for a number of years, the place where I will cherish every moment of watching my daughters grow up and cheering me on from the stands, and my son running out every week to give me my kicking tee. Those are the moments I lived for. “

‘I have given every bit of my heart and soul into the game’: Widdop reflects on time in Super League

Picked up between Warrington and Castleford over the last four seasons, Widdop ends his career having just ticked over a century of domestic appearances in the British game, finishing on 103.

In the statement, discussing that time, he continued: “Following my dream to play back in my home country with my grandma and grandad close by, Warrington and Cas served me well to my 300 games!

“I’ve met some incredible, inspirational people along the way. The following of each and every club has been nothing but supportive… thank you so much for your kindness!

“I am looking forward and hoping to embrace this next chapter…. For now taking some time out and seeing where this life takes me!

“On 300 games, I finish off the game knowing I have given every bit of my heart and soul into the game since I can remember.

“Thank you all 🙏🏻”

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