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Hornby quietly hangs up NRL boots
By Steve Jancetic
14:58 AEST Tue Aug 21 2012
Ben Hornby
St George Illawarra skipper Ben Hornby is to retire from the NRL at the end of the season.

It was almost fitting that on the day St George Illawarra's most loyal servant called it quits, the announcement barely had time to cause a ripple in NRL circles.

Ben Hornby, the man who captained the joint venture to its first premiership in 2010 and has donned the 'red v' more than any other in the game's history, said on Tuesday he'd had enough and would not return for the final year of his contract.

By any measure, it was a significant announcement, though dwarfed by news of a new $1 billion television rights deal for the game and the unveiling of Laurie Daley as the new NSW State of Origin coach.

No limelight, no fanfare - much the way Hornby had gone about his business throughout his 13-year, 271-game NRL career.

With a contract for 2013 in his keeping, it would have been easy for Hornby to eke out another year and take his pay cheque, but he just didn't have it in him.

"I've given all I can give - mentally, I just couldn't push myself through another pre-season," Hornby said.

"I'd been thinking about it for a fair while and I didn't really find too many reasons why I should need to play on at this stage."

Contributing to that mental toll has been a forgettable season for the Dragons, with Monday night's loss to North Queensland confirming they would miss the finals for the first time since 2007.

"It's obviously a very difficult season we've had this year for everyone and it's certainly taken its toll," he said.

"... when you're the captain and the halfback, you've got a little bit more responsibility than most.

"It (the losses) had an effect on me ... mentally, I'm a little bit worn out."

Speculation over Hornby's future had been mounting for some time, ever since the Dragons' failed attempt to lure Test halfback Cooper Cronk to the club earlier this year.

They have also been linked with Sydney Roosters and NSW Origin No.7 Mitchell Pearce, but both Hornby and coach Steve Price were quick to anoint utility Kyle Stanley as the heir apparent to form a halves combination with Jamie Soward in 2013.

And as Hornby looks back on his career, the drought-breaking premiership is an obvious highlight.

"That was obviously a great year for us," he said.

"We play a team sport and, for the team to be successful, that's what it's all about."