El Masri announces NRL retirement - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

El Masri announces NRL retirement

30/06/2009 06:33:47 PM Comments (0)

When the cleanest of cleanskins believes the NRL can recover from its year from hell, maybe there is hope for the game after all.

Bulldogs winger Hazem El Masri - one of rugby league's true good guys - on Tuesday announced this season would be his last, the game's most prolific pointscorer to hang up the trusty right boot which has served him so well.

His retirement means the Bulldogs lose a player who has almost automatically turned four points into six for the last eight seasons.

But as one of the game's standard bearers, his loss to the NRL could be even greater.

For a code which has lurched from one off-field atrocity to the next in 2009, losing an ambassador like El Masri is a massive blow, but the man himself is confident the game can recover from the spate of incidents which have dragged it down.

And for anyone who wants proof it can be done, El Masri points to club he has called home for the last 15 years, the Bulldogs having reinvented themselves after several years as the NRL's bad boys.

"Obviously it hasn't been happy times, but I'm sure it's in good hands and everything will be turned around," El Masri said.

"There was a lot of talk about our club a few years back and in one year we've turned everything around because we know the foundation is right and we know that it's only a matter of time before everything will be on the right track."

Bulldogs great Terry Lamb, who played when El Masri debuted against Balmain back in 1996, said players coming into the league could do worse than use El Masri as a role model.

"The thing about it is he respects the game and that's what a lot of people don't do these days," Lamb said.

"You can't say enough about him, he's a gentlemen and I've never heard anybody say a bad word on or off the field about him."

The height of the Bulldogs' dramas came in 2004 when rape allegations were made against several players following a pre-season match in Coffs Harbour.

El Masri, a devout Muslim, refused to provide DNA evidence to police, claiming he was not a suspect so why should he have to go through the ordeal.

He described it as the most difficult period of his life.

But what started out as his toughest year, ended in his greatest triumph with the Bulldogs winning the premiership and El Masri breaking the record for most points in a season with 342.

He will leave the game as the NRL's greatest ever-pointscorer, with his current tally at 2318.

It's a record he's likely to keep for some time yet, with his closest challengers such as Craig Fitzgibbon (1560) and Matt Orford (1413) unlikely to play for long enough to surpass El Masri's total.

In fact, his closest real challenger would be North Queensland skipper Johnathan Thurston, but with only 684 points to his name so far, Thurston would need to average in excess of 200 points a season for the next eight years to come close to `El Magic'.

For all the records, though, El Masri said it was for his off-field achievements that he would most like to be remembered.

"I never set my sights on breaking every single record, it came along the way," El Masri said.

"I've enjoyed my footy and played in such a successful team in the last decade, they (the records) happened to fall.

"I'd like to be remembered for what I've done off the field as well, bringing people together and making a difference in their lives.

"I'm in a unique position and I always thank god for that position that he's given me.

"You get to inspire people ... I'd like to be remembered for that."

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