Vodafone Warriors centre Jerome Ropati will be among 21 retiring players acknowledged by the NRL during a star-studded build-up to the 2014 NRL grand final between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium today.
A 145-game NRL veteran and a 2008 World Cup winner, Roapti will feature alongside a cast of premiership winners, State of Origin players and Test stars who are officially hanging up their boots.
Others include Sydney Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello, the last captain to lift the NRL Telstra Premiership Trophy on grand final day last year. Minichiello, who bowed out playing his 302nd match for Sydney Roosters in the preliminary final against South Sydney last week, will be joined in retirement by fellow 300-game player John Morris (Cronulla Sharks).
Also retiring are North Queensland Cowboys, Queensland and Australian representative - and former Vodafone Warrior - Brent Tate, Gold Coast's former representative players Ashley Harrison and Luke Bailey, and internationals Brett White (Canberra Raiders), Fuifui Moimoi (Parramatta Eels), Luke O’Donnell (Sydney Roosters), Braith Anasta (Wests Tigers) and Jharal Yow Yeh (Brisbane Broncos).
“We will say goodbye to some true greats and some real characters this year,” said NRL head of football Todd Greenberg.
“The game will miss their on-field talents, but thankfully their commitment and compassion in the work they do off it will continue in retirement.
“Anthony Minichiello debuted at the turn of the millennium and was still going strong up until last weekend at the same club, while Brent Tate, Braith Anasta and Luke Bailey have been wonderful servants in playing more than 200 matches in the NRL, and representing both state and country.”
Penrith Panthers hooker Kevin Kingston has the chance to retire as a winner when he captains the Panthers in the inaugural NRL State Championship against Intrust Super Cup side the Northern Pride in today's second grand final.
Ben Smith (Parramatta Eels), Anthony Quinn (Newcastle Knights), Matt Hilder (Newcastle Knights), Jason King (Manly Sea Eagles), Beau Ryan (Cronulla Sharks), Nathan Merritt (South Sydney), Joe Picker (South Sydney), Liam Fulton (Wests Tigers) and Matt Utai will be honoured alongside players leaving the NRL including Ashton Sims (North Queensland Cowboys), Willie Tonga (Parramatta Eels), Mark Minichiello (Gold Coast Titans) and Ben Roberts (Melbourne Storm).
The retiring players ceremony will be a high point of a full day of entertainment, which will also include performances by international music acts Train and Slash.
From the moment fans arrive at ANZ Stadium they will enter a free grand final entertainment precinct, which from 11am will feature rides, team bars, food stalls, family-friendly activities and a merchandise marquee.
The Australian women’s touch team will kick off the day inside ANZ Stadium in their friendly match against the media.
The first title decider will feature the Vodafone Warriors and the Brisbane Broncos in the 2014 Holden Cup grand final at 1:50pm, followed by the battle of the states in the 2014 inaugural NRL State Championship grand final between the Panthers and the Pride.
The grand final pre-match show will then take centre stage, lighting the stadium up with a spectacular pyrotechnic show and performances by Train and legendary guitarist Slash.
Train will perform a medley of their hits including ‘Hey Soul Sister’ and ‘Drops Of Jupiter’, as well as their new single ‘Angel In Blue Jeans’, taken from their new album Bulletproof Picasso. Slash will make a solo appearance to perform his new single ‘Bent To Fly’.
Simon Gleeson, lead act of legendary musical LES MISÉRABLES, will perform the national anthem to lead into the much anticipated 2014 NRL Telstra Premiership grand final.
The programme for grand final day is:
11.00am | Precinct opens
1.25pm | ANZ Stadium gates open
1.30pm | Australian women’s touch team v Media touch footy game
1.50pm | 2104 NRL Holden Cup grand final: Vodafone Warriors v Brisbane Broncos
3.50pm | 2014 NRL State Championship grand final: Penrith Panthers v Northern Pride
5.50pm | Live on-field coin toss
6.10pm | 2014 Victor Sports grand final relay
6.40pm | Tribute to retiring players
6.50pm | Pre-match entertainment, including Slash, Train
7.20pm | National anthem with Simon Gleeson (LES MISÉRABLES)
7.22pm | 2014 NRL Telstra Premiership grand final: South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs