LONG-SERVING LEEDS Rhinos forward Carl Ablett has announced his retirement.
Ablett has a year remaining on his contract, but has not played since suffering an ankle injury against Hull KR at Emerald Headingley on September 1 last year.
He was due to make a comeback away to Hull in March, but broke down in the warm-up and has suffered several setbacks since.
The decision to hang up his boots was confirmed at Rhinos’ annual awards ceremony on Monday evening.
Ablett, who holds the record for most Grand Final wins – seven – without tasting defeat, now plans to start his own plumbing and heating business.
“I am 33 now and I’ve not played all this year,” he said.
“I have had a few chats with Kev [Sinfield, Rhinos’ director of rugby] and the situation has arisen where the club have to look after themselves and I have to think about life after rugby and if I do get back, am I going to be at the level I want to be at?
“I’d hate to be playing on too long or when I can’t really contribute the way I’d like.
“There’s been some chats and I’ve decided this is probably the right time.”
Ablett insisted he has no interest in playing at semi-professional level.
“I’ve had a great career,” he reflected.
“I’ve had a few injuries, but at the moment I feel the best I have for a while.
“I’ve had a really good re-hab programme the last couple of months and the ankle’s the best it has felt.
“That’s the hardest thing to come to terms with, but the club have got a plan as well and I am at a point where I am really comfortable with my career and what I have done.
“I support the club and love the club and couldn’t really see myself playing for someone else.
“I am lucky I have put things in place so there’s going to be stuff after rugby and hopefully I can start that now and progress that.”
After several years of study in his spare time, Ablett now has a plumbing and heating qualification.
“Hopefully I can get that moving, it is something I am really looking forward to,” he said.
“It is a big transition going from a full-time sporting environment to the ‘real world’.
“With the size of the club I’m at and the contacts I have made, I’ve picked the brains of many business people and asked plenty of questions.
“It suits me at this time to go self-employed and build my own business.”
Ablett has coached in Leeds’ scholarship and said a return to Rhinos in a behind the scenes role is “potentially” an option at some stage.
He said: “I’ve spoken to Kev and Gary [Hetherington, Rhinos’ chief executive] about it.
“I have gained a lot of experience playing in big games and I’d love to pass that on at some point but, at the moment, I want to focus on the business and try to grow that.”
Ablett, who made his debut in 2004, has played 323 times for Rhinos, scoring 80 tries.
He appeared in five Challenge Cup finals, winning two, was twice a league leaders’ shield and World Club Challenge winner and earned six England caps.
He picked the 2012 Super League play-offs and Grand Final win as his career highlight, with the treble success three years later a close second.
“I’ve got many great memories,” he added.
“I’ve no regrets in my career.
“I’ve played with some great players and won a few things and had some great experiences.”