17 rounds into the 2018 season and the real talking point amongst the clubs seems to be retirements. Whether it be representative retirements, retirements due to unfortunate circumstances surrounding injuries or just because time was up, the league has been rattled with the reality that the game is quickly changing.
Reality truly struck when Cameron Smith announced his representative retirement. With the Maroons and Kangaroo jersey hung up forever, many questioned whether or not Smith would be retiring from football entirely at the season's end. This answer is yet to be answered but as the weeks ticked on both Billy Slater and Darius Boyd also hung up their respective representative boots leaving the future for State of Origin very, very exciting. It's been spoken about all year but the era of Smith, Cronk, Slater and Inglis dominating New South Wales seems to be just about over but that isn't all. The future of the NRL is changing. The players who a few years ago were looked at as just developing players are taking over. We've got the likes of Nathan Cleary, Kalyn Ponga, Victor Radley and so many more young guys dominating games week in, week out. The kids are taking over.
Johnathan Thurston (effective end of 2018 season)
Ryan Hoffman (effective end of 2018 season)
Peter Wallace (injury)
Beau Scott (injury)
Sam Thaiday (effective end of 2018 season)
Tim Browne (injury)
Jason Nightingale, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater,
Slade Griffin, Jacob Lillyman, Chris Heighington, Luke Lewis,
Michael Gordon, Robbie Farah, Tony Williams, Paul Gallen
No disrespect to those players definitely or potentially leaving the game in any way. They have each offered a tremendous amount and given fans many reasons to cheer during their careers. I can't deny my excitement though. The game is absolutely swarming with young players bursting at the seems with excitement and potential that it's almost impossible not to be as excited as they are. For so many years now we have become comfortable in the talent provided by players such as Thurston or Scott or Thaiday. They gave their blood, sweat, tears and so much more for so long that it became almost impossible to imagine the game without them in it. But it's actually happening. These men can not play this game forever. They have to eventually hang up the boots and pass the baton to the young guys - some of whom they took under their wing.
The future of the NRL is young and I am so ready for it.