We at 26 Rounds didn’t see that coming. With all the players the Roosters have let go this year, including Tinirau Arona, it was widely assumed that the Roosters would sign the 33-year-old prop Luke O’Donnell to another one-year deal.
Or, failing that, he’d accept a contract with the Cronulla Sharks, who were reportedly chasing him hard — and who could probably use some forward grunt next year if ASADA comes down as hard as expected.
But instead, LO’D rides on into the sunset having achieved everything in the game, thanks to the premiership he won with the Sydney Roosters this year.
According to an article on Roosters.com.au today:
Sydney Roosters prop Luke O’Donnell has today announced his retirement from rugby league, closing the curtain on a career that has spanned more than 14 years with success at club and representative level.
33 year-old O’Donnell made his return to the NRL with the Roosters this year following a two-year stint in the English Super League and quickly established himself as an integral member of the Club’s forwards.
“I’ve had some time to reflect and think about my future since the Grand Final, and this definitely hasn’t been an easy decision, but it’s the right one,” said O’Donnell.
O’Donnell becomes the first and only player to depart the defending premiers. Had he stayed on another year, the Roosters would have become the first team in 30 years to return their full squad for the season following a premiership victory.
It’s been a winding road and a heckuva career for O’Donnell. One of the most suspended men in NRL history, he came to the Roosters via the Balmain then Wests Tigers, Cowboys and Hudersfield. He missed 30 games to league-sanctioned suspension through his career — and missed a fair chunk of the rest through injury, having recovered at various stages from hamstring, shoulder and knee injuries.
But when he was active, man could he play.
He represented NSW (five games) and Australia (11 games), and at his best was a tackle-busting second rower who could go the full 80. He finishes his NRL career with 188 games and 27 tries under his belt.
But most importantly, he finishes with a premiership ring, having played a crucial role in the Roosters’first title in 11 years.
He modified his game in 2013 to become a premier front rower, someone who NSW probably could have used this year. Famously he was suspended for three games after pancake-flipping Tim Simona of the Tigers, despite spear tackles from other players not being charged.
He came back from a hammy complaint which forced him to miss the GF qualifier against Newcastle to play in the big one — putting in 33 minutes for 10 tackles and 10 hitups for 71 metres.
His departure means the Roosters will now depend heavily on Dylan Napa, Kane Evans, Remi Casty and Isaac Liu for prop play, with Casty the most likely to assume LO’D place as first prop off the bench.
A great career comes to an end, in the best way possible. It’s a shame we didn’t get a chance to give him a farewell lap of honour, but don’t doubt for a second O’Donnell would have preferred the lap of honour he did instead.
Legend, and thanks for the memories Luke.