NRL Rd 11 - Titans v Panthers
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JULY 26: Malakai Watene-Zelezniak of the Panthers celebrates scoring a try during the round 11 NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the Penrith Panthers at Cbus Super Stadium on July 26, 2020 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Former Panthers and Tigers winger Malakai Watene-Zelezniak has announced his shock retirement from rugby league due to a health scare.

A sad diagnosis of kidney failure before Christmas has forced him to walk away from the game.

The 29-year old announced his retirement on Thursday night in an Instagram post, thanking all his teammates and support network.

“Where to begin...after a lot of thinking I have decided to hang the boots up,” he said.

“I got to fulfil a long life dream of mine to play in the NRL and to do it with my little bro will always be something special. I debuted alongside my bro when it all started and I will retire next to him, I couldn’t think of a better ending.

“I started training with Bulldogs before Christmas and wow what an awesome club and great squad. The week before Christmas I had a little health scare and was admitted to hospital for acute kidney failure.

“After 4 days of being in hospital the image of my kids crying as they left me each night worried, stuck with me and gave me a lot of time to think.

“I went back to training as I wanted to focus on the season ahead but unfortunately it ended up with further complications again which made me realise that my health and family is more important which led to this decision.

“I’m so grateful that the watch business is so successful that I can fall back on and transition into it full-time. I’m excited for the next chapter of my life and can’t wait to finally give it my full focus.

“I want to thank all the teammates and brothers I have met along the way, you have influenced and shaped a part of who I am today and I’ll always be thankful for it.”

Watene-Zelezniak played 31 NRL games for the Panthers and Tigers since making his first-grade debut in 2017.

He joined the Bulldogs this pre-season to play with brother Dallin in the hope of securing another contract.