Tallis set to step down

Inspirational Broncos skipper Gorden Tallis has confirmed he will retire at the end of the 2004 season.

The man they call ?The Raging Bull? said he had intended to play beyond this year but after aggravating a neck injury in a nasty looking tackle against the Dragons, knew his body could not tolerate another 12 months of NRL football.

Still, with his beloved Broncos heading into this year?s finals series nicely positioned in third place, the former Queensland and Australian captain is hoping for a fairytale Grand Final-winning finish.

"That would be a great way to go out," the 31-year-old said.

"I haven't held the premiership trophy up as captain and that would be the dream finish but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen.

"I've still had a great career. The game has been wonderful to me and I owe it everything."

Tallis said he had spoken to coach Wayne Bennett a week prior to the controversial spear tackle which looks to have ended his stellar career, and indicated he was keen to play another season.

However, after missing a month of football following the incident, a discussion with his family confirmed 2004 would bring a curtain down on the career of a man most consider the most damaging ball runner the game has seen.

"I landed on my head and after that I missed a few games because of my neck, and that was the first time since 2001 that I had missed a game because of it," he said.

"I lost a bit of confidence after that and I knew then this would be my last season. I want to make it clear I'm not whingeing, I've hardly been cut down in my prime ? I'm 31 and have had a great time in the game.

?After I missed four weeks with the neck injury I was at a bbq and my mum and my wife both told me they had stopped enjoying watching me play.

?They knew I wasn?t doing what I used to be able to do and it would be a pretty selfish decision to play on when the most important people around you don?t want you to.

?It?s been the hardest decision of my life to make, but it is the right one. I heard Cathy Freeman say elite sportsmen die twice, first when they retire and again when they get old. I know what she was talking about now.?

Tallis has battled neck problems since doctors discovered a problem near the top of his spinal column midway through the 2001 season. Many believed he would never return, however, in typical Tallis fashion he not only returned, but regained his place in the Queensland and Australian sides within 12 months.

Tallis will play his last game in Brisbane in the Broncos? first finals match at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday September 11 against either the Dragons or the Melbourne Storm.

Teammates and opponents alike paid tribute to Tallis after the announcement was made know, with former St George teammate Lance Thompson saying, "He will be remembered as one of the most damaging forwards to have ever played the game?.

Roosters champion Craig Fitzgibbon, who has taken Tallis mantle as the game?s best backrower, said: "Gorden has got a presence about him and he brings an aggressive attitude about him. Other players feel a hell of a lot better that he's on the field with them."