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A neck injury has prematurely ended the playing career of Sharks hooker John Morris, with the 300-game NRL veteran officially announcing his retirement today.
Sidelined since suffering the injury in round 11, Morris harboured hopes of a return to the field, however the latest scans indicated no signs of improvement from when the injury had occurred.
"You can't take any risks with an injury like this to your neck and with a young family with two young boys in Cruz and Taj and wife Michelle to consider, I had to think about the future," Morris said.
Morris has what can be medically described as a large disc extrusion, in layman's terms a severe bulging disc and based on doctor's advice, Morris came to the conclusion it would be unsafe for him to continue to play.
While disappointed not to have bowed out on a more positive note, in reflecting on his time in the game Morris was departing the playing side with an abundance of wonderful memories.
"It has been a privilege and an honour to be able to play 15 years and 300 games in the NRL, in particular the last five years here at the Sharks," Morris said. "I've made numerous life-long friendships along the way and I've been fortunate to play with some of the world's best players. I'll be retiring with some great memories.
"I'd certainly like to thank my wife Michelle and my family, all those I've played with, as well as all the coaches, staff and fans for their support."
While unable to play for the Sharks over the past 12 weeks due to circumstances affecting the club Morris has been thrust into an assistant coach's role at the club. Having recently completed a Master's Degree in Coaching it is an area he would like to pursue into the future.
"I've really enjoyed the last eight weeks as an assistant to James Shepherd. Gaining this sort of coaching experience at an NRL level has been invaluable. I'm hoping to discuss the prospect of continuing in some capacity in an off-field role here at the Sharks next season," Morris said.
Sharks CEO Steve Noyce, in congratulating Morris on an excellent career, described him as one of the games' outstanding role models.
"In my experience I have always found John to be the consummate professional. Very committed, very dedicated," Noyce said. "He has been a great ambassador for rugby league and for the NRL both on and off the field.
"While it's disappointing his playing career has been cut short we'd like to think he has a future here in another capacity and once this season is over we'll talk about an off-field role for John next year," Noyce added.
Morris debuted in the NRL for the Newcastle Knights back in 2001, joined the Eels in 2003, before playing for the Wests Tigers in 2007, 2008 and 2009. He came to the Sharks in 2010 and went on to play 105 games for the Cronulla club over five seasons.
While his NRL debut came in 2001 in the halves, Morris displayed his versatility by moving to the wing for the Knights in 2002, where despite it being an unaccustomed position he managed to cross for 11 tries. Morris would go on to play the majority of his career as a highly dependable dummy half.
Ironically, Morris achieved his most significant career milestone when he played his 300thNRL game, against Souths at Remondis Stadium in round 11, on the same night his playing career came to a premature end. He became just the 19th player in the 106-year history of the game to play 300 first grade games.
Morris will continue to carry out the role of Sharks NRL Assistant Coach and ‘Blue Shirt' trainer for the remainder of the 2014 season.