St George Illawarra Dragons Club Captain Ben Creagh announced on Thursday that he has decided to retire from rugby league, at season's end, after 270 first-grade games.
The local University of Wollongong junior sustained a complex knee injury in Round 3 against the South Sydney Rabbitohs at the Sydney Cricket Ground which has limited him to only three first-grade fixtures so far this season.
Creagh, 31, will retire as the second most-capped first-grade player in the Club's history, behind only previous Captain Ben Hornby (273).
“I have loved my time playing rugby league for the Dragons but unfortunately my hand has been forced with the knee injury getting worse over the course of this season,” said Creagh.
“It has been hard decision to make with my heart willing me on to continue playing first-grade for this great Club but deep down I know this is the right decision to make.
“I have been so lucky being a local junior to have represented the Dragons and will retire at the end of the season with a lot of fond memories.”
Creagh made his first-grade debut for the Dragons towards the end of the 2003 season against the New Zealand Warriors at UOW Jubilee Oval, Kogarah (Round 22).
The record four-time Dragons ‘Player of the Year’ (2007, 2009, 2010, 2014) has won many honours over his 14-season career including a Premiership (2010) and World Club Challenge (2011) with the Club.
Furthermore, Creagh has been capped twice for the Australia Kangaroos as well as representing the NSW Blues on 11 occasions (2009-12) and NSW Country Origin team seven times (2005-10, 2012).
“I have been so fortunate to accomplish so much with the pinnacle being the 2010 Premiership win which was done with a terrific group of players and a lot of hard work and determination,” said Creagh.
“I have also had the opportunity to represent both my country and state which is a dream for every young player as well as being entrusted to captain the Dragons these past four seasons which I have done so with great pride and honour.”
Creagh graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce from the University of Wollongong in 2013 having helped to found the Graduate of League (GOL) program a year earlier.
GOL was established to increase university entry, retention and completion rates of elite athletes and professional sports people which is something that the second-rower remains passionate about.
“Going to university has given me great peace of mind as I begin preparing for the next stage in my life with my growing family,” said Creagh.
“I am so proud to see how the Graduates of League program has grown since its inception four years ago and that it is helping players across the NRL remain in university and help prepare them too for life after football.”
Dragons CEO Peter Doust has praised the one-club player on his service to the Dragons both on and off the field, during a standout career.
“Ben has had a long and proud career here at the Dragons and is well regarded by everyone who knows him,” said Doust.
“Playing 14 seasons in the NRL is a respected accomplishment and to be able to do that for the same-club makes the achievement even more commendable.
“Ben has been a leader here at our Club and a valued contributor towards the overall game of rugby league through his capacity in co-founding the Graduates of League program.
"On behalf of everyone at the Dragons I thank Ben for his services and wish both he and his family the very best for their future.”
Dragons Head Coach Paul McGregor was similar in his sentiments towards Creagh.
“Ben has been a significant part of our football club for over a decade and a leader amongst the playing group,” said McGregor.
“He has led by example both on the field and off it so it is a shame that he has been forced to retire but his decision personifies his character in always wanting to put the Club first.
“The entire playing squad wish him all the very best and we thank him for his invaluable contribution to the Dragons.”