St Helens forward Joel Thompson confirms he will retire at end of season
As I reported earlier today about Aussie Joel Thompson's possible move back home, Saints have confirmed he will be leaving at the end of the season and retire from the sport at the end of the 2021 season.
Thompson signed a two-year-deal with Saints in October 2020 after joining from Manly Sea Eagles, but he has decided to return home at the end of the current campaign in a year which will be his last as a professional player.
The 32-year-old told the playing group of his difficult decision earlier this week and with rumours breaking in Australia, Joel thought now was the best time to confirm the news.
He said: ''Firstly I want to thank everyone at St Helens for giving me the opportunity to play for this great club. I want to thank the players and of course the fans for welcoming me so openly.
“I also want to pay thanks to head coach Kristian Woolf for putting his trust in me and for the way he has looked after me since I came over here.
“It’s not been an easy decision for me to call time on my career, but I do feel the end of the season is the right time to do that.
“I will make no secret of the fact that, although my short time over here in the UK has been enjoyable for me personally, it has been extremely tough for my family, both here and in Australia with everything that is going on right now.
“Family comes first for me and that is ultimately why I am making this tough decision to return home at the end of the year.
“I want to wish the club all the best in the years ahead, but my job is not over yet as I want to finish my year here with success both at Wembley and in the Super League. All my focus is on achieving that with St Helens.”
Woolf said: “I knew when we brought Joel into the club what a professional he is and working with him has only emphasised that to me.
“He has vast experience and he is such a tough competitor. That’s what makes him the player he is and that is why he has such a glittering career. Over the short time he has been here we have really valued his input and his influence amongst the group.
“I know how tough it has been for Joel’s wife, Amy, and the girls, but they fit into this club really well and we all thoroughly understand and respect his and his family’s decision. We now want to support Joel and his family to ensure they enjoy the rest of their time with us.
“Joel is not finished yet ,though, and I know he is fully focussed on achieving success with this group this season.”
Thompson made his NRL debut in 2008 with before stints with the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2014 and more recently playing 60 times for Manly, bringing his NRL career tally to 234, scoring 62 tries.
Last year he captained the Indigenous All Stars in his seventh appearance for the side whilst he is also an influential figure off-the-field, a strong advocate for both Indigenous voices and mental health, founding The Mindset project in 2012 and being awarded the Ken Stephen Medal in 2016 for his community work. He has so far made 11 appearances for Saints.