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Russell Packer announces retirement from NRL

Wests Tigers forward Russell Packer has today announced his retirement from the NRL following 12 seasons in the top grade.

The 31-year-old, who made his NRL debut in 2008, will retire with 184 first-grade games to his name — including 33 for Wests Tigers.

The representative prop played 110 games for New Zealand Warriors and featured 41 times for the St. George-Illawarra Dragons, before joining Wests Tigers in 2018. 

Leading from the front, Packer had the opportunity of captaining Wests Tigers in 2018 as one of five members of the leadership group that season. 

In addition to his vast achievements at club level, Packer has also reached numerous representative honours including playing seven matches for New Zealand —highlighted by the 2017 Rugby League World Cup — as well as matches for the New Zealand Maori (2010) and Maori All Stars team earlier this year.

“Rugby league has been my life since I was 17 and it’s always been a constant, so I’ll definitely miss that,” Packer said in reflection of his career.

“I got to play in a Grand Final and play for New Zealand early in my career, and while my life took a different path, being able to come back and re-establish myself and reach the pinnacle again with international football was a very special moment for me and my family.

I’m incredibly proud of the way we have fought through the adversity we have. 

Russell Packer

“With the injuries too that I’ve had in the past few seasons, this decision is something that I’ve been contemplating for a while,” he said, “but it’s allowed me to be thankful this year and leave it all out there.

Russell Packer celebrates a win over the Warriors in 2019
Russell Packer celebrates a win over the Warriors in 2019 ©NRL Photos

"I’ve noticed particularly through COVID just how special sport can be and I’ve really enjoyed what I have been able to achieve in the game.

“I’m also incredibly thankful for the opportunity I had to captain Wests Tigers,” Packer said. “I never expected to be made captain of a club, so it was a massive moment for not only myself but all who have been on the journey with me to get to that point.

“I’ve been around rugby league for a long time so I can’t thank and appreciate everyone properly, because sport has always given me such a connection to people.

“From a small town in New Zealand, I have been given opportunities I will always treasure and be thankful for because they have made me who I am today.”

Russell Packer in action for New Zealand during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup
Russell Packer in action for New Zealand during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup ©NRL Photos

Packer’s on-field efforts have also been matched by his continued desire for excellence off the field — diligent in his studies as he completed a Master of Business Administration (Executive) at the University of NSW's Australian Graduate School of Management in 2021.

Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe congratulated the veteran forward on a successful career and praised his continued commitment to rugby league.

“On behalf of all at Wests Tigers, I’d like to congratulate Russell on a great rugby league career which saw him play at the highest level,” Pascoe said.

Russell Packer with his family after completing his MBA earlier this year
Russell Packer with his family after completing his MBA earlier this year ©Wests Tigers

“Russell has been a great asset to Wests Tigers in his determination on and off the field, and it is wonderful to recognise not only his career and achievements as a rugby league player but also the significant impact he has made away from the field.

"Since joining the club, Russell has been gone above and beyond in his contribution to the community while also working closely with the NRL on several core initiatives and programs.

“Russell is a fantastic family man, and we’d like to wish him, his partner Lara and children Madison and Marley all the very best for the future as they now transition into life beyond rugby league.”

At the completion of the 2021 season, Packer and his family will return to New Zealand where he will continue his work as the Managing Director of a residential development company, Capestone Developments.