St George Illawarra veteran Jason Nightingale announces retirement

Hanging up the boots: Dragons winger Jason Nightingale has announced he will retire at the end of the season. Picture: AAP Image/Darren Pateman.
Hanging up the boots: Dragons winger Jason Nightingale has announced he will retire at the end of the season. Picture: AAP Image/Darren Pateman.

St George Illawarra Dragons veteran Jason Nightingale has announced the 2018 season will be his last in the NRL. 

The last remaining player from the Dragons 2010 premiership winning side, Nightingale will retire after a career spanning 12 seasons and featuring 265 NRL games and 33 Tests for New Zealand. 

Nightingale could potentially finish his career as the Dragons most capped player, with the 3-year-old just eight games behind former teammate Ben Hornby. 

The winger has been a mainstay for the club throughout his career, representing St George in Harold Matthews and SG Ball from 2002 to 2004 before making his first grade debut against the Panthers in round eight, 2007. 

It was a successful start to a successful career, with Nightingale scoring the first of his 110 NRL tries in the side’s 28-16 victory. 

Nightingale thanked the club and its fans for their support throughout his career.

“It's a very proud and solemn day for me to be announcing the end of the career,” Nightingale said.

“I am extremely grateful for everything that the Dragons and the game has done for myself, and what I've been able to achieve.

“There are so many people to thank for what's been a special journey. From Renown United through to the junior reps to now, through the highs and lows and great successes I've had, I'm just so thankful for this incredible journey.”

Nightingale has won every individual accolade possible at the club, including player of the year and Red V members player of the year. His highlight, however, was the Dragons drought-breaking premiership in 2010.

“There have been so many great seasons personally. To be recognised for so many different reasons that are celebrated at the Dragons, they all still sit on my mantelpiece very nicely. 

“The 2010 grand final win was the highlight for me and my family. There are so many fond memories from that day and the season as a whole. Although now is great time to reflect, there are still plenty of memories to be made this season yet.

“However I'm also looking forward to more family time with my second child on the way. My wife Bianka has sacrificed a lot for my career. She's been selfless by supporting me throughout my career, while also building one of her own.

“It'll be good to rearrange my priorities now and put her career first as well as continue to build the Elite Athlete Business School and help fulfil its potential alongside my business partner and the EABS family.”

Dragons coach Paul McGregor praised Nightingale for his contributions to the club both on and off the field. 

“It's hard to beat a person who never gives up and Gyspy typifies that,” McGregor said. “He's very tough and very committed. If you look at his career, what he's done season after season is quite incredible.”

“He's been fortunate enough along the way to avoid too many injuries and has represented his country with pride every time he's donned the Kiwis jumper.

“I've known Jason for a very long time so I feel very privileged to have had the honour as a head coach to watch this young man develop into a father, a husband and one of the best clubmen we've had over a long period of time.”

Nightingale is one of a shrinking group of one-club players currently in the NRL and Dragons chief executive Peter Doust praised the veteran for his loyalty to the club throughout his career. 

“Jason has always represented himself, his family and the Dragons with distinction and has always been committed to supporting the club's visions both off and on the field,” Doust said.

“He is an outstanding role model who typifies the club's values and we have been privileged that he has remained loyal to the Dragons for so long. He signed eight contracts to remain at the Dragons.

“We are a development club who have always invested and provided opportunities for players in the local area and he epitomises everything we stand for. We couldn't be prouder of what Jason has achieved throughout his career.”