NRL good guys set to say goodbye

Petero Civoniceva has played 307 matches in the NRL. Photo / Getty Images
Petero Civoniceva has played 307 matches in the NRL. Photo / Getty Images

Together they've amassed more than 2000 NRL games.

They've produced more than 430 tries, 3000 points and leave the game with a combined 105 years in rugby league's toughest competition.

There's Test and State of Origin jumpers aplenty in their keeping, as well as a handful of premierships.

But as they prepare to hang up their boots at the end of the season - St George Illawarra's Ben Hornby and Dean Young, Parramatta's Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt, Brisbane warhorse Petero Civoniceva, North Queensland's Aaron Payne, Cronulla's Colin Best and Warriors lock Micheal Luck - it's what's not written in their resume that really stands out.

They are exemplary figures who will be missed for their character as much as their ability.

"When you look at that group of blokes, I don't think any of them have ever been in trouble for something they've done off the field - ever," St George Illawarra veteran Matt Cooper said.

"They're all just good blokes.

"It's pretty sad to see guys like that leaving the game.

"I don't think these blokes get the credit they deserve. They stay out of trouble, stay out of the limelight, they're good role models for the kids.

"It's a big loss for the NRL losing blokes like this."

Being a role model is nothing new for Civoniceva and Hindmarsh, who for many years were fixtures in representative sides.

But it is a tag rarely given to the game's quiet achievers such as Burt, Payne and Luck - consistent quality performers never given the opportunity at Origin level.

For Cooper, it's an emotional time seeing so many players he regards as good friends prepare to bow out.

The connection with Dragons teammates Hornby - since junior days with Illawarra representative sides - and Young, is obvious.

But he's also played Test football alongside Civoniceva, worn the sky blue of NSW with Hindmarsh, and played a couple of seasons with Best at the Dragons.

He will get to take part in Sunday's final round finale night of celebration at ANZ Stadium - when Hornby, Young, Hindmarsh and Burt all bow out on the same patch of turf in the Dragons v Eels match.

For Burt he leaves the same way he came in for his debut in the 1999 season opener - against the Dragons at ANZ Stadium.

With their sides out of finals contention, that foursome along with Luck at the Warriors are all guaranteed to be playing their last games this weekend.

It may well be the case for Civoniceva too - with Brisbane's finals participation unclear.

The eighth-placed Broncos could lose to Penrith on Friday night and the respected prop will do a lap of Suncorp Stadium still not knowing if it's all over.

Payne had an emotional hometown farewell last weekend, but his Cowboys will make at least one finals appearance at Dairy Farmers Stadium.

Best will run out at Toyota Stadium - one of four grounds he has called home during his well-travelled career - for the last time on Sunday, with the Sharks to play at either ANZ Stadium or Allianz Stadium should they secure the right to host a game in week one of the finals.

NRL's 2012 RETIREES
Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels) 329 matches
Petero Civoniceva (Broncos) 307 matches
Ben Hornby (Dragons) 272 matches
Luke Burt (Eels) 263 matches
Colin Best (Sharks) 259 matches
Micheal Luck (Warriors) 225 matches
Aaron Payne (Cowboys) 217 matches
Dean Young (Dragons) 208 matches

- AAP

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