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Kiwi Ferns legend Honey Hireme-Smiler has called time on a stellar 18-year career, announcing her immediate rugby league retirement on Sunday morning.

Fresh off the Kiwi Ferns' 28-8 victory over Fetu Samoa on Saturday, Hireme-Smiler says she hopes to have left the jersey in a "better place" following a journey that included 32 Tests and four World Cups.

The 39-year-old is arguably one of the greatest players to ever wear a Kiwi Ferns jersey but has suffered setbacks in recent seasons with injury and the personal loss of her mother Caryn.

Hireme-Smiler will also hang up the boots in the NRL Telstra Women's Premiership after a stint at St George Illawarra and false starts at the Warriors.

She leaves the game with plenty of accolades including selection in NRL.com's Team of the decade, player of the 2013 World Cup, a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit and three-time Kiwi Ferns player of the year.

Honey Hireme-Smiler scores for New Zealand.
Honey Hireme-Smiler scores for New Zealand. ©Andrew Cornaga/photosport.nz

"Deciding to retire has been a really hard decision, my heart and my mind would play footy till I'm 50, but my body tells me my time is done," Hireme-Smiler said in a statement.

"I love my team, my sport and I love to compete, I have given all I can as a player and have always aimed to give nothing less than my absolute best.

"Although I may not be out on the field, making an impact, I will continue to serve the game off the field for many years to come.

"Every teammate, every coach, every manager, trainer, medical staff, support person, mentor, fan, friend and most of all my loving whānau, thank you for being a part of this journey, for your guidance, support and love I am truly grateful to you all."

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The announcement is a blow for the Kiwi Ferns ahead of their 2021 World Cup preparations with the loss of Hireme-Smiler leaving a significant void in the backline.

Hireme-Smiler starred in the 2017 tournament with 13 tries in four appearances, including a record six tries against the Cook Islands in Sydney, a hat-trick against England in the semi-final and a double in the final against Australia.

"On behalf of everyone in our rugby league communities, we would like to thank Honey for her outstanding service to the game and for all she's achieved," NZRL CEO Greg Peters said.

"She's paved the way for countless women to get involved and succeed in rugby league, and she will continue to serve as an invaluable role model both on and off the field for years to come.

"We are extremely lucky to have had someone of her calibre wear the Black and White jersey for so long and we can't thank Honey enough for her over and above dedication to the game and its communities – which I'm sure will never end.

"She absolutely will be missed, and it's sad to see her call time on such an outstanding career but she's a great ambassador that embodies everything great about this sport, there is no doubt she has left the jersey in a better place."