Cordner pays tribute to family, teammates

Cooper Cronk was among a number of former teammates as Boyd Cordner's retirement announcement.
Cooper Cronk was among a number of former teammates as Boyd Cordner's retirement announcement.

The room was filled with rugby league royalty, greats of the game there to pay respect to the celebrated career of Boyd Cordner cut cruelly short.

But instead it was the retiring Sydney Roosters, NSW and Australia captain offering heartfelt appreciation and emotional tributes to those illustrious figures who helped shaped Cordner the man.

There was barely a dry eye in the Steve Waugh Room at the SCG on Monday when Cordner, just five days after turning 29, announced he was quitting the NRL because of ongoing concussion complications.

The Roosters' class of 2021, plus club greats Anthony Minichiello, Cooper Cronk and Brad Fittler, until his final game last year Cordner's Blues coach, were all there.

"It was an extremely difficult time just before letting them know of my decision," a humbled Cordner said.

"I've been so lucky to play in such good Roosters teams, with some world-class players and I wouldn't have been the player I was without them guys.

"They've made me look so good and I've just been lucky enough to ride off the back of them and have such a successful career.

"I owe a lot to them."

Frequently choking up and having to pause, Cordner said he owed as much or more to his triple premiership-winning coach Trent Robinson.

"Apart from my dad, he's had the biggest influence on my footy career and I can't thank him enough for what he's done for me," Cordner said.

"The trust, the care, the love, the loyalty, the confidence, the belief. I've felt all of that.

"You're the leader of this club and the Roosters will always be a successful club no matter what but when you're the head coach of the Sydney Roosters... there's no question about it, it's the person you are.

"You're a winner. That's why we got along so well. We were very like-minded in that sense and the way we went about our love for footy."

Cordner claimed he was merely a "narrow-minded kid" when Robinson and Roosters patriarch Nick Politis lured him from Taree on the NSW mid-north coast to Bondi Junction "half a lifetime" ago, opening up a whole new world for him.

"When you think of the Sydney Roosters, you think of Nick Politis," the back-rower said.

"You know that he's an extremely successful businessman but, more importantly to me, he's a better person, a better human and his love, his passion and his loyalty towards this club is unmatched.

"I want to thank you for giving me all that.

"As a 16-year-old kid, I remember laying up in hospital with a smashed jaw and probably out of it on all the drugs that you can imagine and Nick (was) standing at the end of my bed, checking in on me, just to make sure I was OK.

"I was only 16 and he had no right to be there that day and it just goes to show the care he has for this club and his players and I'll never forget that."

Cordner said his phone call on Sunday to Fittler was one of his toughest.

"I can remember at the start of 2018 and there was talk and calls from some people for my spot in the Origin team and should I play or should I be sacked," he said.

"I remember (Fittler) came out straight away and said 'I was your captain and I was your first picked' and the confidence that gave me words can't describe and you'll never know the impact that had on my career.

"I just wanted to go out and didn't want to let you down and that's what you do to your players. You make them believe."

Kangaroos captain Mal Meninga wasn't forgotten, either.

"All your belief and confidence that you put in me. There's no secret why you're an Immortal of the game," Cordner said.

"Everyone knows how you play the game but the way you coach and the way that you demand excellence, I can't thank you enough for the confidence and belief you've put in me to go out and play in the jersey."

The biggest thank you, amid the "happy tears", came for Cordner's father Chris.

"Ever since I was a kid, you always told me that I was the best and you always made me feel that I was the best and you still do to this day," Cordner said.

"The sacrifices that you made for me as a kid, I didn't really know when I was younger.

"But when I was a bit older, I really appreciated what you've done for me ... as a son.

"You've shown me the way since I was a young kid what it was to be a man."

Last but not least Cordner recognised the role of his "beautiful partner" Jemma.

"You've been a tower of strength for me through the last six months of our lives when you've seen me at my lowest ... You've always had my back," he said.

"I'll never forget it and I love you very much.

"I look forward to what the future has in store for us. It's just getting started."

Australian Associated Press