Ex-NRL forward Kurt Baptiste has officially hung up the boots on his rugby league career.
The 30-year-old, who endured a luckless run with injuries across his time in the top flight, tallied 80 professional matches across stints with the Broncos, Raiders, Roosters, Cowboys and English club the Leigh Centurions.
Baptiste also represented Papua New Guinea on seven occasions, including four Tests in the 2017 World Cup.
Shoulder and knee surgeries continued to hamper Baptiste's career in the NRL, having only made double-digit appearances for Canberra, who he joined on two occasions.
The second stint saw the Brisbane-born forward unable to pull on the slime green after being signed for the 2020 season. Having been cut by the Raiders at the end of that year, Baptiste returned north to represent the Sunshine Coast Falcons in the Queensland Cup.
Baptiste took to social media on Saturday to officially call time on his career, expressing his pride and thanks in the opportunities those around him gave.
"Officially retired," Baptiste wrote in a post to Instagram. "I don’t even know where to begin.
"These past years have been one hell of a ride. I have taken this time to look back on it all, and although it was never easy, I feel incredibly proud of all that I’ve achieved.
"My career has had so many highs and lows. It all started at Broncos under 20’s, I then made my NRL debut at 19. This was also the start of an injury plagued journey. I had 2 shoulder surgeries before I was handed a lifeline from the Canberra Raiders.
"I will always be incredibly grateful to Ricky for this. Canberra was the start of something great. I worked so hard to earn my spot in the main squad, to only go down with another injury - my 3rd shoulder surgery in 4 years.
"I spent the next couple of years on a high in Canberra. We made the semi finals in 2016.
"I played international tests for PNG. I made friends for life. I got married. I came back and ruptured my achillies, in pre season on the back of one of my personal best years, it was shattering. I remember feeling completely broken, but worked so hard and came back in just over 5 months.
"I finished the year on another high with the Raiders, and played in World Cup for PNG. The next few years were a whirlwind! Roosters, then Cowboys, another test game with PNG which is where I did what would be my career ending injury - ACL.
"It’s not the way I ever wanted to go out, but you don’t get to choose your story. I’ve asked myself over the years “why me”, but I’ve also remembered all that I’ve achieved.
"The memories I have, on and off field. The friends I have made, real, honest friends - the ones you’ll cherish for life.
"I want to thank my wife who has been through this roller coaster, she’s sacrificed so much for me so that I could live out my dream. I couldn’t have done this without you and am always grateful for you.
"To my Mum, Dad and family thanks for always supporting me and travelling to my games - ever since I started playing, until my very last game. I’ve never taken for granted how lucky I am to have you all."
Baptiste played 17 games for the Falcons last season, adding to his QLD Cup career after previous campaigns with Northern Pride and the South Logan Magpies.
“I have taken this time to look back on it all, and although it was never easy, I feel incredibly proud of all that I’ve achieved.”
I find that such a depressing article. Maybe that is because of the way it was written, but I don’t think so.
Here we have a guy who played League professionally for ten or eleven seasons, but who – to judge from its glaring omission – never seemed to make the connection between repeated long-term injuries and the need to prepare for a career after professional sport.
No mention of what he’s going to do now (or has been doing for a quid since he was cut from the Raiders at the end of 2020).For every Cam Smith or Benji Marshall, who can walk out pf the game one week and take up a media career the next, there must be a hundred who have no skills and seemingly no ideas.
What sort of a message does that send to young kids who see themselves as the next Jonathan Thurston? It’s a million to one chance they will have the skills, the breaks, the good health and the personality to get to the top. How much better to see that for most players – even the best; the ones that actually make it to the NRL – the reality is a career of 40-80 matches then they disappear and end up as barmen, bouncers or builder’s labourers.
Kurt Baptiste could have done them all a favour by saying: “I spent my youth and my health playing league. I didn’t make a load of money. Now it’s all over, I’ll have to look around and find myself a proper job, and try and catch up with the guys who already have ten years experience.”
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