Newcastle Thunder forward Rhys Clarke has announced his retirement from rugby league, after making nine appearances this season.
Clarke, 32, returned to Thunder in the off-season from Workington Town and took his appearance tally for the club to 164 before deciding to call it a day.
He said: “At the start of the season I felt alright and going into the pre-season game against Keighley, I felt good too. When we got into the league games, however, I just wasn’t the same player I was and felt it was a bit unfair on myself and the club to see the year out.
“I like to think I’m an honest bloke and a few of the lads would say that as well, I just knew I wasn’t playing at the same level as I had done in the past. We’ve got some good kids coming through as well and I just think it’s time for them to take over.
“It was a tough decision and not something I took lightly. I looked back at my performances and wasn’t where I used to be, I just knew it was time. I didn’t want to be a player who limps over the finish line.
“I just thought call it a day, you’ve had a good few years at it and now it’s time to let the young lads do their bit.
“I’ve always tried to be a good bloke first and foremost. Helping people wherever I can but ultimately a player who gave his all and got stuck in.
“I know I wasn’t the best player in the world, but I wasn’t the worst either. I used to just go out and get stuck in, doing my job.
“Hopefully the fans over the years appreciate that and I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me during my career.”
Reserves will be ‘massive’ for Newcastle future
Clarke had spent the 2021 and 2022 seasons with Workington, and followed head coach Chris Thorman from Cumbria in the off-season.
His nine appearances for Newcastle this season were all away from home – including what turned out to be his final game, the 22-18 Challenge Cup defeat to York.
The prop made his debut for Thunder back in 2009 and also played for York and Whitehaven in his career.
He will remain around the club as reserves coach.
Clarke added: “I’ll continue my work with the Reserves.
“I think the Reserves will be massive for the club moving forward and is huge in helping to bridge the gap between the Academy and First Team.
“With a combination of both the players’ hard work and having that competitiveness in the set-up, not just amongst the squad but also a strong league, it can only be a positive in years to come and I can guarantee we will see a lot of development.”
Clarke will oversee Newcastle’s reserve match against Warrington this Friday. The first team are back in action on Sunday week at home to Halifax.