Sea Eagles front rower Richie Fa’aoso has announced his immediate retirement from rugby league, closing the curtain on a career spanning 11 years.
Fa’aoso had been contracted with the Sea Eagles until the end of 2014, but has been forced into premature retirement on the back of strong medical advice and recommendations.
The premiership-winning forward fractured his vertebrae against South Sydney during last year's finals series and despite the 29-year-old remaining hopeful of a return to the field in 2014, results of extensive tests unfortunately proved a return rugby league could no longer be an option.
"It's an unfortunate situation for Richie and his family. No one wishes for the career of a player to be cut-short, but regardless of who you are, a player’s health and wellbeing will always remain the most important factor when a decision such as this is made," Sea Eagles General Manager David Perry said.
"The Club, along with the NRL, will continue to support Richie with his rehabilitation, as well as the transition to life after football. This includes assisting him in the completion of suitable educational courses.”
"On behalf of all Sea Eagles members, supporters, fans and staff - I'd like to thank and congratulate Richie for his commitment and achievements to our Club and the game of Rugby League."
Fa’aoso played 155 NRL games across six clubs, as well as a full season with English Super League club, Castleford Tigers, in 2006.
“It’s very disappointing and unfortunate, but I feel blessed to have played with the people I have over so many years,” Fa’aoso said.
“I’ve had many highs and lows in my career and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities the game of rugby league has given me.
“I want to thank the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, and in particular, my family and friends, who have supported me throughout my entire career.”
The international prop made his NRL debut for the Penrith Panthers against St George Illawarra back in round 14, 2004.
He then joined the Sydney Roosters where he made 21 appearances before deciding on a move to play in England with Castleford.
In 2007, Fa’aoso returned to the NRL, signing a three-year deal with the Parramatta Eels.
Fa’aoso was later granted a release one year into his contract with the Eels, choosing to follow coach Brian Smith to Newcastle where he had his most productive period in the game.
Mid-way through 2012, Fa’aoso joined premiership frontrunners the Melbourne Storm before the 30 June transfer deadline. In what was impeccable timing, Fa’aoso found himself collecting his first premiership ring after only six matches for the club under the guidance of coach Craig Bellamy.
Fa’aoso then made the move to the Sea Eagles where he made 18 appearances, before his season ended in injury, robbing him of the chance for back-to-back grand final appearances.
“Richie was an integral part in our march to the grand final last year and it’s upsetting to see him have his career ended in this way,” Sea Eagles Head Coach Geoff Toovey said.
“On behalf of everyone involved with the Club, we thank Richie for his contribution over the past 18 months and wish him and his family all the very best for the future.”
Fa’aoso made 10 Test appearances for Tonga between 2006-2013 and was named Tongan Player of the Year in 2009.