Malakai Watene-Zelezniak announces retirement, aged 29

Former Penrith Panthers winger Malakai Watene-Zelezniak has announced his retirement at the age of 29.

The Tonga 9s representative suffered acute kidney failure late last year and returned to training with Canterbury Bulldogs but he has now decided to hang up his boots.

Watene-Zelezniak made 31 NRL appearances between 2017-20 for Penrith and Wests Tigers. He made three appearances for Tonga at the Nines World Cup in 2019.

In an Instagram post, Watene-Zelezniak wrote: “I got to fulfil a lifelong dream of mine to play in the NRL and to do it with my little bro Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will always be something special.

“I debuted alongside my bro when it all started and I will retire next to him, I couldn’t think of a better ending.

“I started training with Bulldogs before Christmas and wow what an awesome club and great squad.

“The week before Christmas I had a little health scare and was admitted to hospital for acute kidney failure.

“After four days of being in hospital the image of my kids crying as they left me each night worried, stuck with me and gave me a lot of time to think.

“I went back to training as I wanted to focus on the season ahead but unfortunately it ended up with further complications again which made me realise that my health and family is more important which led to this decision.”

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