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Fa'aoso exit leaves Manly light up front
By James MacSmith
18:53 AEST Tue Feb 4 2014

Richie Fa'aoso's premature retirement due to a neck injury could leave perennial NRL finalists Manly vulnerable up front this NRL season.

After weeks of speculation Fa'aoso, 29, announced his retirement on Tuesday after suffering a fractured vertebrae during last year's finals series.

The veteran of 155 NRL games across six clubs, including Melbourne's 2012 grand final win, had wanted to play on but adhered to medical opinion.

With Brent Kite (Penrith), George Rose (Melbourne) and Joe Galuvao (retired) all moving on, Manly's forward stocks had thinned considerably even before Fa'aoso confirmed he had hung up his boots.

"It's very disappointing and unfortunate, but I feel blessed to have played with the people I have over so many years," Fa'aoso said.

"I've had many highs and lows in my career and I'm extremely grateful for the opportunities the game of rugby league has given me."

Much of the responsibility for Manly's go-forward in 2014 will fall upon captain Jason King, who played only four games last year before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, and 2013 breakout performer Brenton Lawrence.

The Sea Eagles are hopeful former Brisbane prop Dunamis Lui can provide able support and they have also signed former South Sydney forward Josh Starling.

But both players, as well as youngster Jake Trbojevic, are yet to fully prove themselves at NRL level.

Last week when asked about the prospect of losing Fa'aoso, Manly coach Geoff Toovey conceded his side had taken a hit in the forwards.

"It is a concern overall but it is what it is," he said.

"We have some great young players coming through and that doesn't negate the loss of experience from last year but those are the cards we have been dealt and we will do our best.

"We have a very good squad, a good squad of senior players and while we have lost a lot of experience in the front row we make up for that in other areas."

Upon confirmation of Fa'aoso's retirement Toovey paid tribute to the Tongan international.

"Richie was an integral part in our march to the grand final last year and it's upsetting to see him have his career ended in this way," Toovey said.

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