Vodafone Warriors centre Jerome Ropati today announced he had decided to call time on his playing career ending an era in which he played across 12 NRL seasons and was a Rugby League World Cup winner with the Kiwis in 2008.
Regarded as one of the game’s best centres in his prime, the 29-year-old has had his last four seasons severely restricted by injuries, the last a broken jaw in what has proved to be his 145th and final game when the Vodafone Warriors met Wests Tigers at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on March 29.
In the past three and a half seasons he has been able to play just 18 NRL games.
While ending his playing days, though, he won’t be lost to rugby league or to the Vodafone Warriors. Chief executive Wayne Scurrah said Ropati would take up a role as a club ambassador for the rest of the season with plans to consider a full-time position for the longest-serving player in the 2014 NRL squad.
“It’s the right time for me to look ahead, to consider my family and my post-playing career,” said Ropati.
“It hasn’t been an easy decision to reach because this isn’t the way I wanted to finish. I love playing this game and I love playing for the Vodafone Warriors.
“I’m still young enough to carry on but the reality is my body is telling me it’s time to move on. I couldn’t tell you how many injuries I’ve had but I know I’ve had 15 operations.
“I’ve got so many great memories of my time as a player for both the Vodafone Warriors and the Kiwis. I’ve also got so many mates at this club, a place which has been such a huge part of my life.
“I want to thank all the team-mates I’ve had through the years, all the coaches, staff and members with a special thanks to the medical staff who have helped me get through my injuries.”
Ropati said he relished the opportunity to stay involved in the game and working for the Vodafone Warriors off the field.
“I always enjoy my involvement in the community including programmes like the League in Libraries initiative we run in schools with Konica Minolta,” he said.
“I also like working with our sponsors and meeting members and fans. I’m looking forward to being more heavily involved in areas like that for the rest of the season and also doing all I can to support our NRL, NYC and New South Wales Cup players and coaches.”
Scurrah said the whole club shared Ropati’s disappointment over his retirement.
“Jerome has been a terrific player for the Vodafone Warriors and has showed so much courage and dedication in the way he has come back from his injuries,” he said.
“Above all he’s an exceptional person. We all have the greatest admiration for him and thank him for the huge contribution he has made both on and off the field during his playing career.
“He has always been a fantastic ambassador for the club through the work he has done in the community and the way he has conducted himself. He’s has so much to offer the game off the field.”
Finishing five games short of joining the club’s 150-game club, Ropati (Vodafone Warrior No 108) scored 54 tries, one of only six Vodafone Warriors to top 50 tries behind Manu Vatuvei, Stacey Jones, Francis Meli, Lance Hohaia and Clinton Toopi.
Date of Birth: November 23, 1984
Birthplace: Auckland, NZ
Junior Club: Marist Saints
Rep Honours: 11 Tests for Kiwis 2005-2009, World Cup 2008, Tri Nations 2006, All Golds 2008
NRL Debut: Vodafone Warriors v Sydney Roosters, Sydney Football Stadium, August 31, 2003 (Round 25)
Club Number: 108
NRL Career: 145 appearances, 2003-2014
NRL Points: 216 (54 tries)