FORMER Leeds Rhinos, Wakefield Trinity and England full-back Richard Mathers has retired with “considerable regret and a degree of disillusion” after a six-month ban he still contests.
The London Broncos player was recently suspended until January 28 next year for breaching the rugby league’s rules relating to betting.
An independent tribunal found Mathers guilty of providing inside information on his club’s playing strengths and pre-match preparations, and of encouraging other people to bet on the outcome of a match using the social media messaging application WhatsApp.
The offences are related to London’s fixture against the Leigh Centurions in March but it is something the 31-year-old has strenuously denied.
However Mathers, who won the the 2004 Grand Final with hometown Leeds and World Club Challenge before moving to Gold Coast Titans in 2007, today released a statement announcing he is calling time on a glittering career that also included Challenge Cup final wins for Warrington Wolves in 2009 and 2010.
He had been sidelined since suffering a serious ankle injury against Sheffield Eagles in March, not long after he started playing with London and shortly before the alleged offence for which he was banned.
Leeds-born Mathers, who also played for Wigan Warriors and Castleford Tigers, said: “It is with considerable regret, and a degree of disillusion, that I have decided to call time on my rugby league playing career with immediate effect.
“The manner in which it has ended, battling off a potential career-threatening injury and defending that charge, has had a traumatic effect on me and my family.
“I strenuously maintain my innocence of all the issues, no evidence was found against me and I was convicted on the grounds of ‘comfortable satisfaction.’
“I was advised that a right of appeal against a finding comes with a dire warning of further risk of greater sanction and damage to my good name and career, and I had no wish to compromise or undermine the game.
“But I have subsequently found that, under ACAS regulations, this is not the case.”
Mathers continued: “I also hope to highlight to colleagues and professionals alike that they should take heed of the negative effects of social media, and the consequences that identity theft can have on your life.
“A growing number of companies are developing apps for smart phones and tablets, some of these are hard to trace, easy to manipulate, change and amend.
“Having ended my career, I would like to pay tribute to those who have selflessly helped me along the way.
“That’s from my junior days at East Leeds, Dad driving me everywhere no matter what and mum washing the team kit and running up the touch line cheering, through to a wonderful professional playing career both in the UK and NRL.
“That’s with some exceptional team-mates with memories and friendships to last a lifetime, also including a never to be forgotten Grand Final win with Leeds, a World Club Challenge win with Leeds and two Challenge Cup wins with Warrington along with proudly representing England.
“Last, by no means least, my wife and children’s support through the ups and downs has been unwavering which I’ll be forever grateful.
“I still hope that I can contribute to the sport further down the line.”