Beau signs off: family comes first for NRL star

Teammates swamp Beau Ryan after his try in last year's elimination final. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Teammates swamp Beau Ryan after his try in last year's elimination final. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

RUGBY LEAGUE

Beau Ryan will walk into the Cronulla dressing room on Saturday night, pick up his cherished black, white and blue No 5 jersey and probably become a little emotional.

Under normal circumstances, the game would probably mean more than most.

It will mark milestones for two of his best mates in Dan Hunt and Benji Marshall, who should be trading banter across the WIN Stadium divide in a match played in Ryan's home town.

But the 29-year-old will instead trigger another night to remember for unheralded Sharks winger Jacob Gagan, who will receive his first NRL jumper from the retiree.

"It will be an extremely emotional moment," Ryan told the Mercury. "Young Jacob has worked so hard and deserves it.

"And I'd give my left arm to go out and play in Dan Hunt's 150th and Benji's first home game for the Dragons in front of a local crowd where I live in Wollongong."

Unfortunately the prospect of giving his arm is just no laughing matter for rugby league's renowned funny man.

He is in the process of sealing an ambassadorial role with the Sharks for the next three years and has shaken hands with Channel 9 supremo David Gyngell on a new deal for his flourishing media career.

Between the 197 missed calls and upwards of 120 texts lighting up his phone while he attended a charity function on Friday and Ryan's thoughts switched back to his wife Kara and daughter Remi.

He'd seen former teammate Simon Dwyer have his life turned upside down as a result of a horrific rugby league injury - and when a persistent neck problem wouldn't go away he knew he had to put family first.

"After seeing what happened with Simon Dwyer, in particular, and with a daughter waking up a day after a game and having to carry her with no feeling in my arm ... it's a scary thing and there's more to life than rugby league," Ryan said.

And who would have thought the little kid out of Wests Wollongong would play 126 NRL games and stand side by side with his best mate Hunt representing the Prime Minister's XIII?

A Dragons lower-grader marking time behind Mark Gasnier and Matt Cooper, Ryan took a gamble and trained the house down to get a shot with the Tigers in 2007. It even impressed one of the game's hardest taskmasters in Tim Sheens.

"I got told at the time by a lot of people I'd never play NRL as I wasn't big enough and wasn't fast enough," Ryan recalled. "I trained my backside off and left training at 4.30 some days while mum and dad made a lot of sacrifices.

"Sheensy liked my work ethic and gave me a crack. I said 'give me one game' and he gave me one. Then I said 'give me two' and he gave me two.

"I've just surrounded myself with people who believe in me ... and I believe in myself. It's not how big, strong or fast you are, it's how hard you work."

And in between his quick wit in the conversation for this story - claiming he's already "bored" of retirement after one day and claiming his league-playing sister has similarities to Benji with man of the match awards one week and passes over the sideline the next - Ryan will pass on some sage advice for Gagan.

It will be about never taking a chance for granted and always getting back to your roots.

"It's important not to forget where you come from," he said. "That's the great thing about rugby league - whether you're Johnathan Thurston, Jason Ryles or Greg Reh playing in the local league - it's one big massive community.

"Everyone's got respect for each other and time for each other. I never forget where I came from, but I'm still keen on moving forward and a lot of things I want to achieve."

And the first will be making sure that No 5 jumper is in good hands.

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