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Wests Tigers vice-captain Dene Halatau has today announced his retirement, with his 14-year NRL career set to come to an end at the conclusion of the 2016 season.
The 33-year-old utility has decided to call time on his illustrious first grade career that started at Wests Tigers in 2003.
Playing his junior football for the Merrylands Rams and North Ryde Hawks, Halatau played SG Ball with Balmain before making his NRL debut as a 20-year-old at Leichhardt Oval against Manly-Warringah.
Halatau has played a total of 241 NRL games across two Clubs - Wests Tigers and Canterbury-Bankstown - and represented New Zealand on 15 occasions between 2004 and 2009.
The Invercargill-product was also part of the 2005-premiership winning Wests Tigers side, starting at lock against North Queensland.
Halatau said that while the decision was a tough one to make, he felt the timing was right at this point of his career.
"Announcing my retirement is obviously a big thing for me as it's a transition into the next part of my life," Halatau said. "I felt as though the time is right and it's something that I've been thinking about for a long time now.
"I was grateful to the Club, JT (Jason Taylor) and the coaching staff for giving me this year; I still feel as though I'm playing good enough football to on tribute well for the team.
"I've had a few little injuries over the past season that have just been quite frustrating more than anything and while I'm still feeling okay I think it's the right time to hang the boots up.
"I'm making the announcement now about retirement but it's definitely not putting a full stop on the season, and I don't think for the team either as we are building something really good here.
"Everyone is on the same page and we are working well together, there's genuine excitement among the group and our boys are figuring out how to make the top eight.
"It would be great to finish my career on that note, getting to the finals and showing what this team is actually capable of."
Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe acknowledged the great contribution that Halatau has made to not only the Club, but the game of Rugby League, during his time in first grade.
"Dene has made an enormous contribution to Wests Tigers during his first grade career," Pascoe said. "Not only on the field has excelled, but off the field with his commitment to our community programs and his work as an NRL State of Mind ambassador.
"He has been an excellent leader at this Club, coming on board as one of our vice-captains with Chris Lawrence.
"On behalf of everyone at the Club I would like to thank Dene for his efforts and achievement during his NRL career," he said.
Wests Tigers NRL Head Coach Jason Taylor paid tribute to Halatau, who he said has been a valuable leader both on and off the field for some time.
"Dene has been an absolute pleasure to coach," Taylor said.
"He is the ultimate professional, leads by example in every way that you possibly can as a rugby league player.
"He has great advice and sets a great example for every player at Wests Tigers, not just the young ones but the older guys also look to him for leadership and he will be sorely missed at the Club.
"Dene has been a player that I think everyone has looked up to for a long time, even when he was a younger guy he still would've been setting those great examples.
"It was great for us to be able to give him an official role as far as being one of our vice-captains in what has ended up being the last season of his career - he deserves that recognition because of the way he carries himself on and off the field," he said.
Date of Birth — 27th January, 1983
Rep. Honours — 15 Tests for NZ, Tri-Nations, European Tour, World Cup (2004-09)
Junior Clubs — Merrylands Rams; North Ryde Hawks
Clubs — Wests Tigers (2003-09; 14-16), Canterbury (2010-13)
FG Debut — Wests Tigers v Manly, Leichhardt Oval, Rd 13, 08/06/2003