‘Best years of my life’: Keary adds to Roosters exodus

Scott Bailey |

Luke Keary has decided to bring an end to his NRL career with the Sydney Roosters.
Luke Keary has decided to bring an end to his NRL career with the Sydney Roosters.

The Sydney Roosters face the prospect of having to replace more than 1000 games in combined talent in 2025, after Luke Keary announced plans to retire from the NRL.

Weeks after signing a 12-month extension to play into next year, Keary shocked his Roosters teammates on Monday by telling them 2024 would be his last season.

The five-eighth will join Jared Waerea-Hagreaves (English Super League), Joey Manu and Joseph-Aukuso Suaallii (both rugby) in departing the club at the end of the year.

That quartet account for 969 NRL matches between them, and will tick over 1000 by year’s end.

Adding to the uncertainty, Angus Crichton (160 games) and Daniel Tupou (248) remain off contract, with Crichton in particular no guarantee to stay in the NRL.

Keary’s decision to finish up is not linked to the several concussions he has suffered throughout his career: the 32-year-old simply believed his time was up.

“After 12 seasons and 27 years playing the game I love, I have decided this will be my last and that I will be retiring at the end of the year,” an emotional Keary said.

“It’s a decision I have thought long and hard about and I know it’s the right one for me and my family.

“The 12 seasons have been the best years of my life.

“Whilst challenging, I have truly loved every bit of it. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without this great game.”

Keary exit is likely to leave Sandon Smith alongside Sam Walker in the Roosters halves next year.

Keary will bid to go out on a high by emulating his former halves partner Cooper Cronk, currently the only playmaker this century to win four premierships.

A rugby union prodigy as a teen, Keary debuted at South Sydney in 2013 and won his first title as the team’s five-eighth in his second season.

But after a falling out with the Rabbitohs’ co-owner Russell Crowe, Keary headed to the Roosters in 2017 – claiming back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019.

Luke Keary (left) with the 2018 grand final trophy.
Keary (left) won the Clive Churchill Medal for his performance in the 2018 grand final. (Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS)

“I can honestly say that I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by greatness my whole career,” Keary said.

“From my teammates at Souths in that 2014 team, to some of the greatest players I’ve ever played with at the Roosters.

“Especially all the boys (who were) part of the 2018 and 2019 teams, many I’m proud to call my closest friends.

“The admiration I have for you all will stay with me for life.”

Keary played a sole State of Origin match for NSW in 2020, to go with two Tests for Australia in 2018.

Luke Keary with the Kangaroos.
Keary won two caps with Australia in 2018. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

His performance in that year’s grand final remains one of the best by a playmaker in the modern era.

The five-eighth was rewarded with the Clive Churchill Medal after taking over the Roosters’ attack as Cronk took a secondary role as he battled a shoulder injury.

“I want you all to know that every time I put that Roosters jersey on, I gave every bit of myself to it,” Keary said in a lengthy video.

“Through the good and bad I hope I have been able to make you all proud.”