I had written something entirely different for this week’s blog, but with today’s announcement of Liam Fulton’s retirement I felt inclined to scratch the impending article to address the news at hand.
It came as no surprise that Liam announced his retirement today, after being stood down for the season a few weeks ago. After a series of head knocks leading to numerous stints on the sidelines this year, Fulton was told by specialists that another knock could lead to severe brian damage. Whatever you think of concussion rules, there is no doubt in my mind that the concussion rulings and application this year has meant that Liam Fulton will have a better quality of life in years to come. While there is no doubt that the NRL has a long way to go before they perfect safety rules, and application of appropriate suspensions around these rules, I am glad they exist.
And to me, we as spectators need to re-define what we call tough. Tough isn’t getting up from concussion to play the next week. Tough isn’t making 150 metres a game, or however many tackles you classify as a good number. To me, Liam is one of the Toughest Men to have worn the Wests Tigers jersey over the years. Every week that he played, you knew Liam would tough it out and play as well as he could. That he would apply himself and do the jersey proud. This to me, was no more evident than in 2013 when Wests Tigers had an enormously ordinary year. And yet nearly every week, I admired Liam’s work. Whatever the position (and he’s played a few over the years), Liam would show up and get stuck in.
The unfortunate thing is that you rarely read about it in the papers. It’s also a shame that in 20-25 years time, it’s unlikely people will be telling their grand kids about the Liam Fulton’s of the current era, and instead remember the Greg Inglis’s, Billy Slaters, Benji Marshall’s, etc. The cold, hard fact is that without the likes of Liam Fulton in league beside them, the aforementioned players wouldn’t be given half the opportunity to shine.
He may not have had the offload skills of Corey Parker, or the sheer metre rate of Aaron Woods. However his versitility, little spark with chip kicks, coverage of Benji Marshall’s reads in defense and work rate mean that it’s all but certain that in years to come, the Wests Tigers will miss him. The youth coming through assures me that we will be in good hands.
I won’t add much more, except to say that I am extremely thankful that Wests Tigers had Liam for as long as we did. I think most people forget we almost lost him in 2011, and yet here we are. Most teams have a player like Liam. Often unsung heros, who without their presence, league would be much poorer. Liam’s decision to retire would have been very tough, on one of league’s true tough men. You can tell from the comments from his team mates today that Liam was a player that everyone was glad to have around. A joker, but a true team mate, and team man, through thick and thin. Robbie Farah summed it up pretty well in his post on Instagram today.
“Always gave me confidence having you on the field next to me as I knew you would bust your ass for the team”.
From the bottom of my White, Black and Orange bleeding heart, for everything you’ve done, thank you Liam.