Mark Gasnier has announced that he will retire at the end of the 2011 season and get on with life after football. Gasnier told the media today that he knew going into this season that it would be his last.
This is Mark Gasniers first full season of Rugby League, having returned by a stint in Rugby Union last year mid season.
He has not been the same player since his return. On his immediate return last year you could physically see he was a smaller player, he had lost a lot of muscle mass, and he just didn’t have the spark he did before he walked out on the Dragons to play Rugby Union.
Gasnier walked into a Dragons team last year that was on its way to the Grand Final, with or without him, and it afforded him the opportunity to get a Grand Final victory I’m sure he probably never thought he would get.
Gasnier is only 29 years old and I can’t remember any player who has walked away from the game at this age without injury forcing their hand. Gasnier could probably expect to play in the NRL for another 5 years, especially when you consider expansion is just around the corner and clubs will be looking to get hold of any talent they can.
So what will Mark Gasnier be remembered for?
At his best he was an incredibly evasive center with amazing footwork and a real X-Factor about him. He could embarrass a good defender and had the pace to go all the way.
Defensively he was not great. In fact before he went to Rugby Union, the Dragons were pushing him out onto the wing in defense at time.
The Dragons gave him a stint at fullback and even at five-eight at one point. You could see why they experimented, but at the end of the day Gansnier was a natural finisher, and the centers gave him enough ball and space to do what he did best.
I always felt that Gasnier was a bit of a cross over player in the sense that, he burst onto the scene with a famous name at a time when many of the games great centers had just retired, or were about to retire. His rise was rapid, but as injuries started to take their toll a new breed of center entered the fold.
Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges really hit their straps around this time, and Gasnier went from being considered the best center in the game to being a player that just didn’t have the fire power of those two.
Still, Gasiner was one of the top players in the game when he first decided to walk out on the Dragons for a stint in Rugby Union. You got the feeling that he never felt right about that move, that he always felt like a Rugby League player doing something he didn’t really enjoy for the money and nothing else. He was actually really successful in Rugby Union, that shouldn’t be forgotten.
The other thing Gasnier will be remember for, rightly or wrongly, is the 2004 State Of Origin series when the NSW team seemed to go one one big bender. Gasnier left a voice message on a womans phone that is now part of Rugby League folk law.
“Where the fuck are you? There’s four toey humans in the cab with sausages ready to spurt sauce. It’s 20 to four…and you’re in bed, fuck me. Fire up, you sad cunt.”
It was a weird time to want to have a BBQ with self saucing sausages, but still, I think most of us saw it from his point of view. Very embarrassing…
My thoughts now turn to St George/Illawarra Dragons fans, how must they feel.
In the last few months Wayne Bennett described his time with the Dragons as “Job done”. When Bennett announced he was leaving to coach the Newcastle Knights, their best player from last year, Darius Boyd was quick to let it be known that he would not be hanging around either, he would follow Bennett out the door.
Now, one of their favorite sons, Mark Gasnier, has again decided to walk out with a number of years to run on a long term contract, just because he doesn’t feel like playing any more.
Do Dragons fans feel like their clubs was used? That after all those years of waiting for a Premiership, they now face a 2012 season that will be about rebuilding.
As a Panthers fan I know what its like to wait years to get Premiership glory and have it all fall apart so quickly. In 1991, it was incidents out of the Panthers hands that caused things to fall apart. In this case, for the Dragons, it feels like the rats escaping a sinking ship to a certain extent.
I think Dragons fans deserved a whole lot better after the years of heartache they went through with this club.
Gasnier now looks ahead to life after football, which I have no doubt probably involves talking about football on TV. At 29 years of age though, and with the NRL salary cap set to be raised, I would not at all be surprised if he ended up playing again, most likely with another club.
What ever the case, Mark Gasnier has had a very interesting career, and like his uncle Reg, he will retire with people wondering what might have been from a young man with so much talent who was lost to the game way too early.
Good luck to him.
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