Goodbye Sailor: Wendell calls it a day - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Goodbye Sailor: Wendell calls it a day

12/11/2009 08:35:23 PM Comments (0)

St George Illawarra NRL coach Wayne Bennett says he and Wendell Sailor are like chalk and cheese, but rugby league's strangest double act were in total agreement over the timing of the dual international's retirement.

Former Kangaroos, Queensland and Wallabies winger Sailor, 35, pulled down the shutters on a memorable career which included 19 rugby league Tests, 17 State of Origins and 37 rugby union internationals.

A refreshingly charismatic and candid character in an era of anodyne athletes, Sailor earned "redemption" when he returned to rugby league halfway through the 2008 season after serving a two-year suspension imposed for testing positive to cocaine.

A typically cheerful Sailor reflected on the highs and lows of a colourful career during a press conference at St George Leagues Club in Sydney on Thursday.

It turned into the Wayne and Wendell show, with Bennett playing the droll poker face straight man to Sailor's quip-a-minute routine.

The mutual respect and affection was obvious for all to see.

The two men could hardly be more different.

The lean white coach and the muscular black athlete, one renowned for being a talkative extrovert and the other a taciturn introvert.

"We are chalk and cheese, there's no doubt about that, but there's a mutual respect and there's a lot of affection," Bennett told AAP.

While Sailor was certain he was in good enough physical condition to play again next year, both Bennett and himself were adamant the time was right to retire.

Bennett described the timing of Sailor's announcement as "impeccable" after spotting a few tell tale signs towards the end of last season.

"Not major stuff, but I knew the season was waring him down," Bennett said.

"I thought 'you are on top here, 36 next year, the only place for you now is to fall off the perch and everyone is going to forget what you've done and I don't want that to happen'.

"But I didn't push him, I just headed him in the direction, he invariably finds the right direction anyway and the thing I'm most pleased about today is I know he's happy about going into retirement."

Sailor said he had no regrets about his time playing rugby union, other than the fact he might have tallied 300 NRL games had he stayed in rugby league.

He finished on 222, scoring 110 tries in 189 games with Brisbane from 1993 to 2001 and added 17 more four-pointers in 33 appearances with the Dragons.

Sailor said the suspension, which he referred to as his "sabbatical" was definitely the lowest time of his life and he had let a lot of people down with that "stupid mistake".

He said returning to play rugby league following the end of the suspension meant he left sport with no unfinished business and it had helped restore his good name.

"I sort of knew after we lost in the finals that it was my final series, I knew in my heart and mentally that if I went another year that I don't think I would have played with the same passion," Sailor told AAP.

While renowned for his seemingly endless self-confidence, Sailor revealed he had suffered some doubts last year when he returned to rugby league from his enforced hiatus.

"This year I think a good pre-season helped me get rid of those demons," Sailor said.

Provided he gets sufficient votes from the public, Sailor will make one last appearance on February 13 next year for the Indigenous team against the All Stars on the Gold Coast.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2022 AAP

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